In conversation with Nischal Abhaykumar and Jesal Pathak, Founders of M9 Design Studio

Young Turks Dated:  May 31, 2017
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Ar. Nischal Abhaykumar and Jesal Pathak

Our Young Turks this week are Ar. Nischal  Abhaykumar and Ar.Jesal Pathak , the founders of M9 Design Studio

Jesal, who is also the principal architect at M9, is an alumnus of the prestigious Domus Academy, Milan and has the distinction of having worked with highly revered architecture firms like Ajay Shah Design Studio, Mumbai before moving to Bangalore and joining M9 Design Studio.She received her Bachelors from Institute of Environmental Design in Vallabh Vidhyanagar, Gujarat.
Apart from this she has recently ventured into product design and manufacturing through the brand – One Or The Other. It is all about design posters and graphic printed furniture elements. It is a brand aimed to bring you the unique products for modern homes and interiors all over the world. They take custom orders which include design and manufacturing of furniture and graphic elements as per the brief given by the client.

Nischal Abhaykumar has received a Master of Art & Architecture Design from Städelschule Architecture Class (SAC)in Frankfurt, Germany and a Bachelor of Architecture from R.V. School of Architecture in Bangalore, India. He has worked in the office of InFORM Architects before going for the Masters program in Germany. He has also worked with renowned architecture studios in Frankfurt, Stuttgart and London before returning to India in early 2009.

M9 Design Studio: workplace

When did you start M9 Design Studio and how has the journey been so far?

M9 Design Studio was founded in 2009 by Nischal Abhaykumar. In March 2014, Jesal Pathak joined as Creative lead in the firm.
Our journey so far has been very very exciting. Lots of ups and downs, constant trials and experiments - learning from mistakes and few happy surprises - Everyday is a new day!

Could you elaborate your design philosophy and how it reflects in the key work M9 Design Studio has done?

We strive to impact people through spaces. No matter what project we’re designing, we always aim to make a difference in the city’s landscape. 
We envision spaces that will inspire people, help them connect with one another, and enrich the human experience. We do this by embracing the life, love, and diversity of the city. Recognizing that every great design is the result of a combination of ideas, we’re inspired by the dynamism of urban life.

You seem to have a varied portfolio catering to residential, recreational and so on, what inspires you to go into that zone?

Nischal - More than category or size, what largely draws us towards a project is its nature. Its the idea to go beyond the obvious.

Jesal - More variety is always better. Keeps us at our creative best all the time.

What kind of projects challenge you? Which would be your dream project?

Nischal - More than a dream project - something that really irks me is the quality of public spaces in our cities. They lack a lot in terms of design thinking and that is why they are poorly utilized. There are so many successful examples of a very well designed and utilized public space (city square, park, etc) across the globe. It would be fun (and a real challenge) to have one in our context.

Jesal - I will be happy to do urban furniture elements for that public space. An ideal bus stop is what I really wish to do some day - the ones we have are so shabby right?!

M9 Design Studio: workstation

You've done the residences, over challenging sites only. What draws you to those commissions?

Nischal - Again as mentioned earlier, its the idea to go beyond the obvious. The brief for a residence design pretty much remains finite - living spaces, private rooms and utility areas. When we have a site which is narrow, tapered, skewed or contoured it helps us bring in variety and uniqueness to the design.

Jesal - Also what really good about these odd site projects is that the client also widens his perspective and is open to ideas which are not conventional.

Were there any particular influences early in your career?

Nischal - Ben Van Berkle (UN Studio) was the dean at SAC. His design ideologies to some extent continue to influence me even today.

Jesal - Modernism as an era in the design history draws me the most. Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, products by Braun - I think they have answers to all design problems which are relevant even today.

Which architectural greats do you admire the most?

Nischal - So many people are doing good work - Saana, Herzog & de Meuron, Jürgen Mayer

Jesal - Its more about good projects - good concept and great execution for me. But to name a few - Thomas Hatherwick, Form us with love, Raw Color.

How big is your team? Which cities do you provide your services in?

We are a team of 8. So far we have done projects in Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Mysore and Badami. However we are open to working anywhere as long as the project interests us.

In major of your projects you seem to emphasize over the treatment of spaces focusing more on materials and colors. What brings you to make it your forte?

Nischal - I find myself very comfortable in spaces which stimulate senses of see, touch, feel and smell (Yes smell too - the aroma diffuser from Muji is my favorite and most recommended product). These senses are pretty much the basics of human behavior. I try to bring some of these qualities to the spaces we design.

Jesal - Its pretty much about creating the right mood. So when I start working on the mood sheet for a project - samples of different materials is what comes first. It just adds a nice texture and depth to the space.

Which has been your most enjoyable project so far?

Nischal - The CMRU Admin and Academic block has been most fun to work on. Its also because I am drawn to steel constructions more as they are very precise with minimum room for error and its fast. We finished that building in 5 months.

Academic block

Jesal - Its 40X4X0. Narrow site, low budget - there was so much to do. We were constantly on our toes trying to get the proportions right.


What core competencies do you and your partner Nischal, bring to the firm?

Jesal - Nischal is more aware of the advance architecture design levels where softwares help in deriving forms which are then overlapped with service elements to make them inhabitable or usable. He specializes in dealing with these complexities which eventually make the building look amazingly simple.
I, on the other hand, like to work over the smaller details. The grooves have to be perfectly aligned, the doors have to be fixed on right type and size of hinge, etc. The furniture elements and color compositions are my forte.

On a lighter note, what could one find you doing during your free time?

Nischal - Going on long drives with Lucky (our pet - lab) who BTW is significant part of our design studio too.

Jesal - Reading newspapers and magazines from other countries, Netflix.

Lucky (our pet - lab) at Office

One architecture mantra you would give out to the students of architecture.

We have two:

1. Learn to unlearn.
Sometimes students tend to be highly fixated towards early academic influences which really holds them back from exploring the design in its true sense. A certain amount of unlearning is always necessary.

2. Never love your design.
Its very important to be critical about oneself to improve.

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