Britta Knobel & Amit Gupta of Studio Symbiosis

Young Turks Dated:  July 18, 2014
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Architects: Amit Gupta & Britta Knobel

Today we bring you the insights of the Principals of Studio Symbiosis, Ar. Amit Gupta and Ar. Britta Knobel. These young, charming and creative architects believe strongly in creating timeless spaces that are in perfect harmony with the surroundings. They have been involved in several prestigious and high end projects like Hilton Ahmedabad, Trans Ganga Master plan 1200 acres, Kanpur Riverfront Redevelopment,  Allahabad Master plan 2300 Acres, Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, Taj Ahmedabad, Taj Jodhpur, Mundra Hotel, Punjab Kesari Headquarters, ID Headquarters Lucknow to name just a few. Read on to know more about the awe-inspiring duo:

Lets start with something about yourselves...
We both come from diverse backgrounds till a certain point in time, and it was during and after our Graduation studies at Architectural Association School of Architecture London that converged our careers and thinking. Both of us worked at Zaha Hadid Architects for a period of around 5 years. During this time we were involved in a number of award winning designs at the office. 

The diversity of thinking is still there given that one of us comes from India and the other from Germany, which gives our practice a unique outlook on designs. 

We both love travelling, nature and technology.

When did you first start your practice and what kind of projects have you been doing?
Studio Symbiosis was founded in 2010 by Founding Partners Amit Gupta, Britta Knobel Gupta and Dr. Vandana Sehgal (Honorary Partner).

Our office is involved in projects of various scales and sectors, ranging from Master plans, Hospitality, Mixed use development, Offices, Housing and Villas. The key projects we are working on are Ahmedabad Hotel, Mundra hotel and service apartments, Taj Ahmedabad, Mixed use development Kherwada, Lucknow Hotel, Punjab Kesari Headquarters, ID Headquarters Lucknow, Trans Ganga Masterplan 1200 acres, Allahabad Master plan 2300 Acres, Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, to name a few.

Tell us something about your approach to your projects
At Studio Symbiosis the focus is on creating spaces that exist in equilibrium with their surroundings. Elements of program, site, context, landscape and climate are studied and interfaced, thereby resulting in the amalgamation of these design considerations in one coherent design and resonating the term “symbiosis” in the design.

The outlook towards the projects we are doing is to create a unified design language as an outcome of the design parameters and to push the boundaries of the conventional design in terms of efficiency, design language and execution techniques.

What defines your style?
We don’t believe in style based architecture but rather let the design parameters drive the project. By not trying to force the design into a certain criteria of design language the outcome is a synthesis of the design parameters with the outcome taking its own form. we are interested in sustainable design informing the design process in early stage and incorporating natural ways e.g. ventilation or shading as an integral part of the design and form.

This analytical and iterative approach leads to an efficient and robust design, where by the various elements of design are in harmony.

Which kind of projects do you enjoy the most?
We enjoy projects which have a vision. There must be a driving force for the design which is followed through and becomes the main design element. 

The projects in our office are all coming from a background where they have a very strong sense of design as they are based on one system which is followed through and drives the project.

Which has been your most favorite project?
Every project we have done in the office is special to us. It is very difficult to single out one. From the inception of the projects we take an iconoclastic approach towards design. It is a process of going to the basics of the design and not trying to fit the design in the preconceived image of the given typology. It is this process of dissolution of existing ideas that leads to meaningful spaces and thereby creates Iconic and elegant architecture.

We are working on four projects currently - Kanpur Riverfront Development, Athletic RipplesAhmedabad Hotel and Aqua Villa.

Who/what inspires you and your works?
The inspiration comes from understanding the process driving the various phenomenon of nature. We believe in a research based approach to the practice whereby systems are studied, tested and developed and translated from elements of nature to an expression of architectural design. Nature has developed and tested the various elements over a period of billions of years making elements very efficient; anything that is not required is taken away from the system hereby making it an elegant system. It is this research of natural phenomenon that interests our practice. 

Do you feel architects and designers should be concerned about environmental sustainability?
An underlying approach for our designs is to address the issue of Sustainable design. We have been working on sustainable design solution in various projects of varying scales. Trans Ganga Master plan, Allahabad Master plan, Aqua villa, Mundra hotel, Kanpur riverfront development are some examples of the projects that have sustainability deeply embedded as an integral part of the design.

Real life phenomenon such as sun path diagrams, wind patterns, topographical levels, etc are studied both digitally and physically to instigate a design process where the overall form presents an optimum solution.  This is an inherent part of the design process whereby a feedback loop is established that constantly updates the formal language of the project thereby embedding environmental sustainability in the form itself. India faces the extremes of climates in most places and for this reason it is important to utilize these natural resources by making them work alongside the design.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge is to create meaningful architectural spaces in India with the existing construction techniques and the developer driven market where the design value of architecture has no significance. Keeping in mind the end user is very important and architecture should be about the experience and perception of the user. One other challenge we are facing is that architectural offices take projects here for a ridiculous low fee and this setup doesn't allow to work with highly qualified consultants which you need being part of the team.
 
What challenges do you continue to face and what is your strategy to tackle them?
The challenges of design in India are in terms of construction techniques and pushing meaningful architectural forms and spaces are seen by us as design parameters. These constraints are embedded in the design from the inception itself where by computational tools and the iterative design process helps us in using these challenges as design drivers. 

Digital tools along with local construction knowledge are embedded in the design. With most of the projects based in India it is very critical to understand the local construction techniques which enables us to deliver a robust final project.

What drives you?
Creating spaces and built forms that are elegant, timeless and in harmony drives us. The feeling to see our designs being executed and to see them once finished gives a feeling parallel to none. 

Any words of wisdom for youngsters starting out today.
We at Studio Symbiosis have extended our research unit in the office also into academics in terms of workshops and symposiums. It is important for the youngsters to have a very clear focus and looking over the boundaries into parallel fields like product, interior, movie and fashion industry. Our profession might be a very slow one but it is worth every second.

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