A Chat with Amita Kulkarni and Vikrant Tike, Founders of SAV Architecture + Design

Young Turks Dated:  April 28, 2016
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Ar. Amita and Ar. Vikrant

Our Young Turks this week are Architect Amita Kulkarni and Ar.Vikrant Tike, the founders of SAV Architecture + Design. Amita, who is also the principal architect at SAV, is an alumnus of the prestigious AA School of Architecture, London and has the distinction of having worked with legends like Zaha Hadid, Hawkins / Brown. She now uses her rich experience gained from working on several RIBA award winning projects during her stint in the UK, to ensure highly original and multidisciplinary work comes out of SAV.

Vikrant Tike, who completed his architectural studies at London Metropolitan and the AA School of Architecture, has worked for prestigious architectural practices like Conran + Partners and Foster and Partners. He has worked on various large-scale, international projects ranging from high rise towers to masterplan designs across countries including UK, Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Morocco and more.

Master PlanIndapur Masterplan

Both Ar.Amita and Ar.Vikrant have taught for the Vertical Design Studio at Welsh School of Architecture as well as the BSSA School in Mumbai. They have also been invited for talks to showcase their works across UK, Europe and India and have exhibited and created art installations at numerous galleries in London such as the Aram Gallery, The corridor as well as the Selfridges and The Barbican. 

How did the idea of setting up your own multidisciplinary practice in India come about?

Amita: Our time at the AA has been a strong influencer to see our architectural studio more as an initiator and a platform rather than an office. Our projects are more about our interests and curiosities in numerous things, shaping the idea of a multi-disciplinary practice. The studio is as much to do with building as to do with constant learning. A lot of the processes that we apply in the studio come from my post graduate training at the AADRL. The focus on generating complex geometries, through parametric modeling and the application of new analytical tools with respect to both aesthetic and environment shape our concepts and designs.  

Vikrant: Having studied fashion design and then sound engineering, I have always pursued multiple interests. It’s all about learning, initiating and applying. As Amita says, our time at the AA has been an important training for all the skills we have but most importantly to realise that it’s important to understand your paths and develop your own interests and improve on them on a day to day basis.

One of my first projects that I did there and which I still refer to is a stand for a stone. This project was important in two directions, one to understand the process of building at a micro scale through focus on joinery and materiality, and the other of the narrative and the physiology of things, for example; what is the history of the stone, what shores it has touched and so on and what stories do I choose to tell from this stand. Since then I realized that architecture is about  an investigation at all levels and being a hyper curious person allowed me to base my practice as it is now.  

Living RoomLiving Room - Khandala Flying House

What was it like working at Zaha Hadid and Foster +Partners? What were the major learning? Could you share your experience?

Amita:  Working with both these offices, however big they maybe, was more like extension of the AA school. We were also fortunate to work on some large, international, complex and prestigious projects alongside a motivated and competent team which forms a large part of our professional network even today. It gave us an immense insight on how large projects are delivered across continents, the critical issues that one faces as well as the tools and resources to manage delivering these complex designs.    

Vikrant: Along with that both practices have a very different design style and organizational structures, but both place great importance on designing to the last detail with a constant involvement in research and innovation, something which has been the foundation to our studio as well and shaped the growth of our studio across UK and India.

What is your vision for SAV?

Amita: It’s the same vision that we would like for the world. To be creative, to constantly learn, to be resourceful and to bring some wonderful and interesting things that we can enjoy in our short life on this planet.

Vikrant: I see SAV as a process more than an end.  it’s a curator for our plethora of ideas, a laboratory to test and innovate, a platform to apply and manifest our creative interests.

What core competencies do you and your partner Vikrant bring to the firm?

Amita: Both of our interests are diverse but complementary to each other. This makes the studio competent in many aspects as well as enables us to realize our unique, challenging and complex projects at a variety of scales.  My personal interests lie within the narratives of urban, landscape and civic architecture. I see architecture as key driver to bring a socio-economic change while producing some beautiful poetic narratives to create evocative spaces.  I am equally interested within the structural and inherent nature of materials and using them to their maximum potential.

Vikrant: Having always being interested on how things come together I am greatly interested in the details of objects, the joinery within craftsmanship and the innovative use of materials. My tutors at the AA focused a lot on joinery systems something which I follow till date. Personally I love to work directly with craftsman in all sorts of workshops like wood and metal while being equally skilled in the new digital methods of fabrication and prototyping thus tying the old age crafts with modern manufacturing. Along with that I am equally interested in the Hedjukian thought processes, combing memory, narrative and storytelling as the core to create extraordinary spaces and moments within architecture. . 

Exterior ViewExterior View - Alibaug Masterplan and Villas

What prompted the relocation from London to Goa?

Vikrant: Until last year we had lived most of our adult and professional life in London which we feel is one of the most global, dynamic and multicultural places for art and design. It gave us a tremendous platform to gain knowledge and skills in advanced technology and construction design. Our network through the AA and past offices like Zaha and Foster allowed us to build a highly creative and motivated team for our studio and gave us opportunities to do teaching and workshops at different places and universities across the world.  Goa is a dramatically different place to London but we see it as an equally important and perhaps a more introspective phase of our lives that will enhance our architectural thought processes and methodology in creating in our future designs.

Amita: One of the initial reasons was that our work in India is expanding and we are gaining large projects here. But the other and probably more important reason of our recent move to Goa gives us an opportunity to chart a different path in understanding the outdoors and tropical climate, with local materiality and hands on craftsmanship. It also allows us greater and flexible space and time enabling us to engage in longer self-initiated projects as well as a greater focus on combining design and making.

What is SAV’s design philosophy? 

Vikrant: Our designs are very much inspired from natural systems which have evolved over so many generations. Their combination of ordinary beauty, elegant tactility, experiential sublimity and meticulous efficiency shapes our work.

Amita: Adding to that we think our industrial growth has led us to move away from nature with cities and habitats losing their humane feel. We want to use technology and craftsmanship to bring architecture closer to nature both in its construction as well as in its experiential qualities while ensuring we are making cost effective and more importantly projects that reduce waste, energy and resources of this planet. And since the studio is truly about the process of making architecture and design, research and craftsmanship form the core of the studio philosophy. 

Living Room ViewLiving Room View - Sioul Boutique Villas

Architectural Practice, Art Installations, Teaching...what's your first love?

Amita: For us, it’s all a continuous and seamless flow of things we are involved in.  

Vikrant: Our practice reflects our desire to learn, what we teach reflects our methodology and our practice, our art installations are quick experiments to further our research and curiosities and our buildings or any projects are culmination of all these different routes.

Which has been your most enjoyable project so far?

Vikrant: Since each project is unique with fresh ideas and concepts we are always excited about all the work we do, however small or large it may be. This is because our focus is more on the process of the design and making rather than only the final result. 

Amita: Even though architecture is a slow moving profession than other art or design disciplines, like the Eames, we do take our pleasures seriously, enjoying the methodology of our everyday life in our practice. 

And the most challenging one?

Amita: All projects have been challenging at SAV as we innovate within each and every project, at every stage and any other opportunity we may get. Sometimes the challenges are more design related like the asymmetrical shell structure we had proposed for the meditation center in South India or it can be fabrication ones, like the Sopanbaug high-rise, wherein it was important to break the free flowing branching geometry into a series of 3M by 3M modules that could be easily pre-fabricated and assembled on site.

Sopan Baug ApartmentsLobby View - Sopan Baug Apartments

Vikrant: I think there are equal and probably more important mental challenges to break through the conventional idea of architecture worldwide but especially more in India, where it’s all about creating iconic image based buildings rather than understanding the process of design and its value that needs to brought to every aspect of the project. However this is changing for the better in India and we think that the Indian end user has become more aware of the importance of design and the life changing quality it can bring to our everyday. We are certain that this user demand for good design will be at scales bringing a better urban environment for all of us across India. 

What would your dream project be like?

Amita:  Any new project is a dream for us since we get to explore something that we haven’t done before. Having said that we can say we are currently working on building a visionary fabrication workshop for furniture and fit-out called Assemble Workshop that will combine new digital tools with exquisite craftsmanship. I can safely say that this a dream project for mainly Vikrant since he this forms his core interest as well as his expertise. 

Vikrant: The Assemble project is a real unique initiative, its a specialist collaboration between different disciplines to bring the best of our knowledge and expertise within new methods of fabrication and assembling unique furniture and interior elements. The workshop will be one of a kind since it will have a major interest in research within design, tying with the best of architecture and design schools and institutions worldwide while ensuring a high level of craftsmanship, quality and sophistication in the final product. We not only want to make in India, we want to ‘Make the Best in India’. 

How would you want the world to know you?

Amita & Vikrant: Simply through our work. 

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