Mausami and Uday Andhare: Romancing Architecture

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  April 10, 2015
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Architects: Mausami and Uday Andhare

Ahmedabad-based architectural design firm Indigo Architects is the brainchild of its principal architects Mausami and Uday Andhare. Established in 1998, the firm offers creative, environmentally conscious and contextually relevant design solutions, encompassing various kinds of building types. In conversation with ZingyHomes, the talented architect couple speaks about the ideology of the firm which emphasises on creating holistic designs, derived from an in-depth understanding of the environment, the social milieu and the use of appropriate building materials and techniques. In true sense, it's the marriage of strong foundation and building love through their common passion - work!

When did you realize architecture was your true calling?
We both completed our schooling in Ahmedabad. Our exposure to the city’s heritage and its various institutions has had a deep influence on us. I frequently visited the School of Architecture, CEPT during my school days, meeting and hanging out with my cousin who was studying to become an architect. The environment excited me and an urge to become part of it, grew slowly. I have fond memories of spending time playing table tennis with several budding architects in the school basement much before I joined CEPT. Later, as students there (1987-93), we fondly recall, the air filled with sounds emanating from a large black speaker on the ramp, playing compositions by Kumar Gandharva in the morning and the same transforming late into the night with Pink Floyd and Doors! It was a rich and diverse environment. We all thrived in it. I also recall an impromptu concert in our studio where we quickly cleared the desks for Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to sing at Prof. Doshi’s request. Such incidents are important in the life of an institution.

What is some of the best wisdom you received on your way to becoming an architect?
There were role

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all around us. Most of our teachers were academicians and practicing architects who brought, varied viewpoints and approaches to the learning environment. We were inspired by their deep honesty of approach. A building needs to be like a “Dhoti” and not a straight trouser (professor N.C Chhaya) still remains one of our favourite and most profound learnings! On a more serious note, personal and professional integrity must remain above all else. Don’t sell yourself for a fistful of rice! was another. We grew amidst “believers” and that left a huge impact on both of us.

What are the key ideas, influences and themes that set your work apart from others?
We seek thoughts that enable us to ground our process in something truthful. It is usually climate, water, thermal comfort, appropriate use of materials, frugality and such, always constantly seen against the backdrop of client needs and aspirations.

What is your design philosophy or signature style. Where do you get inspiration for the kind of structures that you make?
The search is for a contemporary rootedness in an ever-changing pluralistic milieu. Re-integration of traditional wisdom, respect for water and living traditions in the craft of construction, by identifying native genius, is

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to our work. We believe that an architecture rooted in these sensibilities can be distinct and expressive. Our work attempts to address the realities of where we build. We learn from everything around us. There is also a vast repertoire of experience through travels that becomes our guru!

Globally, there is a lot of talk and progression in the field of sustainable and eco friendly architecture. Is this a trend in India as well? How much attention do you pay to this?
Yes, there is a lot of talk and progress and we can all learn from it. Sadly, in many ways the push towards satisfying the laundry list of sustainable items on any given project has fuelled a new kind of capitalism. This is trending here too!
But how we sift through this glut of information and adapt what is meaningful will help us define our course. We see it as a great opportunity each time to redefine our approach with the palette that is available. As a culture, we have an innate way of figuring out what is appropriate, driven by concerns of function and frugality. We try to listen in to this keenly and seek direction. Smaller practices I believe have a better chance to adapt and set the ball in motion, by being better informed and challenge mindsets.

Your one project that you feel proud of also, please give a brief account of it?
The LLDC (Living & Learning Design Center) project located in Paddhar, Kutch, incorporates a complex program for a place for crafts persons/artisans to teach and learn. Set on a 10-acre campus, this project addresses several sustainable initiatives, at the programmatic and other levels. It is a cultural public space, both inside and out, for craft workshops, a museum/ resource center for the crafts, conservation cell, library and an auditorium. The buildings are a set of voluminous voids that protect the inner working spaces against the extreme climate. It is also expressive of the sustainable strategies employed in the design. Its construction and management of resources create a passively cooled operational museum building that uses stored rainwater to create a thermal heat sink which keeps the structure cool, hence requiring only dehumidification to create the required comfort within. Constructed at a cost of `22,000 per sq.m inclusive of all services, addressing all requirements for earthquake engineering in seismic zone V.

What does it feel like when a building/project is finished?
The process is as important as the final realization of a project but it’s an amazing feeling to complete a project well. Due diligence is essential for any practice.

Can we say architecture is about emotions? Have you ever felt emotional about any of the projects you worked on?
Yes it ought to be. Any engagement in our view must stem from a deep passion for what you do. An emotive and intellectual connect is inevitable if one wishes to elevate ones effort each time.

What are the challenges you have faced in this line of work?
It is a challenge to keep things simple. Simple is not cool enough..these days.

What advice do you have for young architects?
We are all part of an image driven world. There is an over emphasis on the picturesque which tends to obscure content. Being inspired is about understanding deeper structures and their meanings.

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