Interview with Architect Ranjeet Mukherjee of The Vrindavan Project

Young Turks Dated:  Nov. 3, 2015
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Architect Ranjeet Mukherjee

Architect Ranjeet Mukherjee, an alumnus of The Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, worked in Auroville for nearly 5 years before he founded the Gurgaon-based design studio 'The Vrindavan Project' in 2012. He prefers to call it a “project' rather than studio as he believes his design practice is an evolving process which grows organically and adapts to each task with complete flexibility thus the overall resultant continuum is a “project” itself – “as the studio is not to be static or set in any particular form”.

The Vrindavan Project is a design practice that involves exploring of techniques which are ecologically sensitive and contextually appropriate. He and his wife and Professional partner Shreenu, an established interior designer, aim and work together to create timeless, experiential spaces that offer a sense of intimacy to its clients that are in symbiosis with natural habits.

Read the interview below to know more Ar.Ranjeet and 'The Vrindavan Project'

Lets start with the person behind the architect...

My father's career took us to diverse contexts through our childhood. We lived in Bahrain, England, Spain and the Canary Islands. This variety of international exposure shaped many formative experiences, as my parents were avid travelers and would make a point of visiting every historic site, museum, monument etc they possible could. At ten years of age I joined the Doon School in Dehradun; so as to reconnect with cultural roots, while traveling back and forth from abroad for the holidays. It was at this boarding school where my first  explorations into the arts and crafts flourished; among a whole host of encouraged extracurricular, sporting and social service activities.

Porch Design - Bhatia Farm Residence

How did you decide to be an architect? Who were the people/ places/ incidents that influenced your decision?

While we lived in Madrid, my parents would attend dinner parties at an office colleague's beautiful downtown apartment. This gentleman's son was about fifteen years older than me, and was studying to be an architect at the time. Though I never actually met him on these occasions, I would sneak into his room/studio with childish curiosity. It was the most amazing space for me at the time, complete with a Nintendo, hi-fi stereo, drafting table, half made models of buildings, a guitar in the corner and dumbbells to trip over as soon as you walked in. Just like that, being an architect was the only way to go from then on.

What role did the Auroville stint play in shaping you as an architect?

After studying Architecture at CEPT, I joined TU Delft’s International Masters program to study Urban Design. Soon I realized that this standard academic path was not for me, and returned home to take some time off and introspect. During this awakening period, I was blessed with the opportunity to chance upon some writings by Sri Aurobindo. The spiritual impact of his work inspired me to become a member of the Auroville community. Working as an architect while there, taught me everything necessary to build appropriately; but was secondary to spiritual reasons for being there. After four years of practice, I met my wife at this place.

From Auroville to the urban jungle in Gurgaon... what prompted the move and how has the change been?

My father in law suggested at one point, that we explore our own design language, by building a home for the family; at their rural farm land near Mumbai. We were to live on site acting as design, project management and contracting agencies all at once, just the two of us... (with very poor Hindi and no Marathi language skills). This opportunity turned out to become our first published work, and set the stage for all ongoing projects. Thereafter we chose to shift context, by taking stewardship of an unused family asset in Gurgaon. This urban jungle has been quite the contrast to rural workplaces of our past, but a welcome one. Running an office without assured access to basic systems and services would prove tiresome, while living at remote idyllic locations. It is easier to get things done these days.

What kind of projects have you been working on?

Since the farm residence, we have built and published a commercial interior project, Crunch patisserie; located at a shopping mall in Gurgaon. This was a completely different site context, when compared to what we had dealt with before, but great fun to orchestrate. Another farm residence is coming up at Nainitaal, where rammed earth walls have again been successfully executed. Some residential building proposals in the Greater Noida area are currently in design stages as well.

Cafeteria - Crunch Patisserie

What's the biggest challenge you have faced so far in the projects you have worked on?

Dealing with unnecessary, persistent, imaginary paranoia at various levels

Tell us about your approach to projects...

We try to be as exclusive with our work as possible, so as to make sure we only take on projects that we feel passionate about. This is why we have consciously maintained a small scale operation; so as to have an intimate relationship with each project, while giving every design detail our personal undivided attention.

What kind of projects would you like to work on... the dream list..?

Fortunately my dream works are already underway. Hopefully, in time these dreams will evolve.

What inspires you?

Love inspires me. Anything done with love, for love, in love or about love will always be beautiful.

Any anecdote from your CEPT days?

While on campus drinking tea at the canteen on an ordinary day, I was randomly approached by a talent scout who offered me a job after a brief chat. This led to me working as a radio jockey for ‘radio mirchi’ for a whole year (before FM turned Hindi), while simultaneously undertaking my architecture office training semester during the day.

Where do you see "The Vrindavan Project" 10 years hence?

God only knows ;-)

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