Stairway to Success - Ar. Sanjay Puri

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  Feb. 2, 2015
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Architect: Sanjay Puri

Books have the ability to turn you around, inspire you and even change your life completely. Much similar to the way it laid firm foundation of a dream in a 16-year-old school boy's life. One book and a few motivational quotes is what helped him decide his true calling. And the young lad was none other than India's ace new-age and internationally acclaimed architect Sanjay Puri.

Perhaps at a tender age when boys love spending time either on football fields or playing electric guitars, Puri found solace in reading. "It was while reading 'The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand at the age of 16 which gave me first insight into the world of architecture," says Puri, founder, Sanjay Puri Architects.

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The making of an architect
A graduate of Mayo College, Puri confesses he was always interested in art and pursued his dream of being an architect at Mumbai's Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture where he not just chased his passion but also worked hard to fulfill it. "I often thought of pursuing art professionally, but the decision of becoming an architect was firmly made up by the time I finished reading the book. The book, literally, instilled the need to evolve design solutions that are meaningful and explore new territories of design, in me," he reveals.

A PavilionA Pavilion Office Space Design

Puri, whose contribution to the architectural world has been immense, began his career by working under aegis of master-architect Hafeez Contractor when he had just started his office. In fact, Puri was the fourth person to be recruited by his office. According to Puri the journey would take many pages to describe his experience at Contractor's architectural firm. Infact, he still gets nostalgic as he walks down

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memory lane. "Definitely, it has been eventful journey and a learning experience all along. Surprisingly, when I joined Hafeez Contractor, I had just finished my class 12 exams and had not yet applied to an architecture college. I took it up as part of a summer internship with no prior experience," he recounts. “And by the time I went for my architecture college interview, I had visited every construction site in south Bombay and I knew all kinds of drawings,” he adds.

While studying architecture, Puri spent his spare time working in Contractor’s office. After graduating, he joined Contractor full-time and worked for him for another four years. "Even before my 5th year results were announced, I was made an Associate Architect and that was another landmark event," he says.

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Winning Kudos
Following his stint at the master architect's office, Puri started his own firm in 1992 with a vision to create innovative design solutions that are contextual and sustainable thereby, creating spaces that are exhilarating to experience while being functional at the same time. Standing tall on an extremely small 1,300 sq mt plot, Bombay Arts Society

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is one of his many iconic works that has got him into limelight. To make the space seem larger than its tiny plot, Puri designed an entirely fluid building. While explaining the layout he adds, "Fluid spaces across the three lower levels, house the art gallery and their allied functions with walls flowing into roofs homogeneously. The fluidity of form seen externally, with a concrete skin encapsulating spaces while undulating in both the horizontal and vertical planes, makes the entire experience as that of moving through a sculpture. A separate entrance lobby at the rear corner leads one up vertically into a four level office space that continues the building’s fluid form." Thus within this small 1300 sq mt plot two distinct set of spaces are created, each with its own discernible identity and yet enmeshed together to create a uniquely sculptural building.

The Courtyard HouseThe Courtyard House Design at Beawar in Rajasthan

Be it about the funky looking building called Terasa 153 in Montenegro or the award winning courtyard house at Beawar in Rajasthan, there's something unique about the way Puri creates each of his works. The contemporary architect firmly maintains that he doesn't create "unique" buildings just to be "different", rather he enjoys experimenting with sculptural spaces and forms. "The ideas can emanate from innumerable things and places and typologies. For instance, seeing disarranged metal pipes in a truck gave the idea of an office building where the floors move in and out creating terraces. Similarly, seeing and experiencing the stepped well at Adalaj in Gujarat gave an idea of a typology for a residential building," he says.

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Creating energy efficient buildings
Puri believes each project teaches one something new. And one gains an important insight and the way space is perceived through their personal experiences. This discovery of the nuances of space is an ongoing process. Though Puri emphasises on the design element, still environmental sustainability remains basis of all his architectural creations. He believes sustainable architecture is the need of the future and every architect's thrust should be towards creating sustainable environment. "There are a lot of ways to act responsible, like, one can plan according to the climate of the place, for instance, using more glass on northern sides and reducing glass on southern sides, creating spaces that facilitate natural ventilation, creating large open spaces within the development, harnessing solar power, recycling water and using eco friendly materials," he suggests.

If architecture gives him freedom to design and bring his sketches alive, it comes with certain challenges too. "The development rules, the specific budget and the restricted thinking in terms of creativity by most clients are a few disadvantages that you have to get used to being an architect. But one has to work one’s way around each challenge which can be fast in some cases or extremely slow as in most cases," he concludes.

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Best is yet to come
Currently, his Sanjay Puri architectural firm is involved in designing several residential, hospitality and office building projects. Their ongoing projects include many hotels, some schools, office buildings and residential projects (the largest residential project in Mumbai, the Global City with 15000 apartments is being designed by them). "In the future we have several projects outside India too. And I am hopeful that best is yet to come," he says with modesty in his voice.

Sanjay Puri has won over 30 international awards and accolades including the MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Awards in France. Besides this he has won numerous national awards too. Now, this is what a "firm foundation" is all about!

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