Crafted to Perfection - Rooshad Shroff

Young Turks Dated:  Jan. 6, 2015
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Rooshad Shroff

With a career graph as impressive as his, architect and product designer Rooshad Shroff is truly a young talent to watch out for. In conversation with ZingyHomes, he talks about his love for architecture, his interest in traditional craftsmanship and his prestigious projects.

Rooshad Shroff, 32, knew he loved architecture from an early age. And not much time passed before he saw himself completely engulfed in it as a full time career. At an age when most young adults are wrapping up with their graduation, Shroff was busy honing his skills at the internationally acclaimed offices of Zaha Hadid Architects in London and OMA/REX in NYC, to name a few. With the successful completion of his new Jaipur Modern project, Shroff feels that with the growing avenues and unlimited talent pool in India, architecture is not just about constructing buildings anymore. While describing his experience about Jaipur Modern, he says, "I would call this "my kind"of a project- a holistic one," he chirps with enthusiasm in his voice. "It was totally different than what I'd been doing of late. Actually, the client gave us a brief to restore one of those 1940s old bungalows in Jaipur and redo it into a retail space where there was a restaurant and a multi brand store under the same roof," explains Shroff.

The young architect believes that he really has evolved with this project as it gave him a chance to do some out-of-the-box thinking and move out of his comfort zone of doing contemporary furniture pieces or planning interiors. He adds, "For exteriors we have used locally available stone and marble and the entrance has an intricate marble inlay work- very typical of Jaipur character but then it's inspired by Louise Bourgeois print. While for interiors and display furniture at retail side and table tops on restaurant side, marble inlay continues. Though I toiled hard for nine months, the experience I would say is beyond words. I was more than an architect as apart from designing and redoing the space, we did the branding, logo and packaging for them too."

Flashing back to his childhood memories, Shroff says while growing up too "the art of architecture" was always on his mind. He says while sitting together during meals, the whole family used to get fully engrossed in endless discussions on buildings and their structures and the sense of aesthetics. Probably, that is what goes in the making of a refined architect.  "Definitely, I would blame it on my genes," he laughs. "My love affair with architecture started at a very young age. Actually I come from a family of architects, starting with my great-grandfather down to my father, brother and sister-in-law. My mother too is an interior designer, so exposure and attraction to the design field was inevitable and I believe architecture always had an unconscious influence on me," he says.

Born in Mumbai, Shroff received his undergraduate degree in Architecture at Cornell University and a Masters at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Definitely, the young turk has an impressive career graph for someone his age and the credit totally goes to him for making some of the wise decisions - be it about his education or zeroing in on projects coming his way. "Of course, we can't deny the legacy of these elite universities.  And the beauty of enrolling in the best educational institutes is that the world famous architects are accessible to you. Also, they not only put a strong emphasis on design aspect, but also encourage students to take creative courses beyond the architectural field. Whereas in India, education is more technical and dry, without a lot of focus on the importance of design," he says.

For someone like him who has explored the subject with so much of keenness and passion, architecture is surely more than just constructing buildings or laying foundations. In fact, with every new project, Shroff loves to be experimentative in terms of new designs, concept, materials and crafts used. In fact, in 2011, when he started his own design firm, Rooshad Shroff Architecture + Design studio, he had a clear vision of not restricting it to be just an architectural firm. "I call it a multi disciplinary design and research studio. And that's clearly because I focus on research and development in terms of materials used and processes involved. Primarily, I am an architect but we do take projects in interior design, product design and furniture. One thing that's important to me is the excellence in craft finish and my main emphasis is on handmade techniques. To me the final product has to be customised to a level of perfection,"he quips, adding "though there's no denial that a project's success depends on the combination of good contractors, design layout and your relationship with the client," he maintains.

Shroff has done a couple of projects that helped him explore his creativity. In fact, in 2011 when he moved back to India, he was not too sure about his future here, but soon in 2012, he bagged a prestigious project for the French designer Christian Louboutin's store in Mumbai. "And that was the turning point in my life," he quips. "It gave a push to my career  and I really worked hard to get good results, he reminisces adding, "I was the local architect for their Mumbai store. But for their store in Bangkok, I was appointed as the design architect."

Combining traditional craftsmanship with contemporary designs remains to be his USP as Shroff finds the experience of re-discovering and knowing different crafts joyful. Like, in one of his initial works, he experimented the fascinating concept of embroidery in wood and since then it has become one of his trademark concepts. "Even at Jaipur modern, in their restaurant area we have done a wall which is entirely constructed from 400 wooden bricks, each carefully hand embroidered in a degrade of colours. The entire wall took nearly 1500 human hours to hand embroider," he adds.

For now, Shroff is content with the opportunities coming his way. He has a couple of projects lined up for this year, which includes, a project on Ski mountain resort in Japan, a residential project among many more. But despite sailing a smooth ride at work, he often gets stuck with challenging situations which he calls as his biggest "nightmare". "There's no dearth of talent or opportunities or craftsmen in India but to get things done perfectly on time is the biggest challenge. If the actual design part takes barely 10 per cent of my time, the rest 90 per cent goes in following-up and running after or chasing people," he explains.

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