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Architect Couple Advocates for Thoughtfully Designed Public Spaces in Surat to Improve Enjoyment of ‘Maujila Rangilas’ (Part-2)

Welcome to Samvaad, where art meets conversation, and inspiration knows no bounds. Here we engage in insightful conversations with eminent personalities from the art fraternity. Through Samvaad, Abir Pothi aims to create a platform for thought-provoking discussions, providing readers with an exclusive glimpse into the creative processes, inspirations, and experiences of these creative individuals. From curating groundbreaking exhibitions to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression, our interviews shed light on the diverse perspectives and contributions of these art luminaries. Samvaad is your ticket to connect with the visionaries who breathe life into the art world, offering unique insights and behind-the-scenes glimpses into their fascinating journeys.

Together, Ar. Vijay and Vaishali Chauhan represent a formidable team in the fields of interior design and architecture, with a combined career spanning more than 25 years. Their love of design and dedication to quality have been perfectly combined with their roles as seasoned professionals and life partners. The founders of the prestigious firm “Crest Architects & Interior Designers,” their synergistic collaboration has produced outstanding projects that are marked by creativity and painstaking attention to detail.

Since their inception in 1995, Vijay and Vaishali have not only crafted stunning architectural marvels but have also nurtured a family legacy within the industry. Their twin daughters, Varisha and Vipasha, stand as shining examples of their dedication, having emerged as exceptional architects in their own right. Graduating with Gold Medals from the prestigious CEPT University in Ahmedabad, the twins embody the next generation of visionary designers, poised to leave an indelible mark on the profession.

In an exclusive interview conducted by Ruby Jagrut, the Chauhan couple reflects on their collective journey, offering insights into their collaborative approach, unwavering dedication, and passion for their craft i.e., Architecture and Design

Ruby: Perfect. Vaishali, since you both studied together and are both architects, you are two individuals with your own thinking processes, working with the same client on the same project. What is your role, and how do you differ from Vijay? Also, what is your approach to design and architecture, especially from your perspective as a woman architect? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Vaishali: Yes, I’ve been clear from day one that I wanted to focus on architecture and interior design that is true to nature, unique, and infused with creativity. This philosophy is shared by both Vijay and me, but I’m particularly inclined towards art as well. We strive to experiment and create new languages in our designs, rather than adhering to specific styles. Our goal is to be innovative and create diverse environments for our clients.

As a woman architect, I’ve faced additional challenges. I have twins, and raising them has been a significant responsibility. My mother played a crucial role in supporting me and helping to raise my children while balancing my work commitments. Vijay has also been incredibly supportive, managing both the household and office responsibilities. Without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to function effectively.

Ruby: Yes, she gave credit to me before I even had a chance to ask a second question. So, your philosophy is about unique and different designs. Can you elaborate on your process when someone approaches you with a design proposal? Architecture is often referred to as the mother of all art forms, but it’s not purely art. As an artist, if I put a red dot on a canvas, it becomes a painting. But architects have to consider functionality, end-users, and many other factors while still infusing their own expression into the design. So, what is your process? Do you and Vijay sit together, or do you have different approaches? How do you take a project from paper to the finished product?

Vijay: Normally, we don’t have to work hard to acquire clients because we approach our work with positivity and dedication, which often leads to referrals. We haven’t had to engage in marketing efforts to date.

Once we secure a project, we follow a structured process. We start with an initial meeting with the client, where we invite them along with their family or anyone else involved in the project. During this meeting, we ask detailed questions to understand their requirements thoroughly. We also take the opportunity to learn about their preferences, culture, and lifestyle by showing them past projects and discussing what they liked and disliked about them.

Through this process and our experience, we gain insight into the client’s tastes and requirements. While our personal preferences may differ, we understand that each client comes from a unique background with their own cultural influences, social norms, and lifestyle choices. Therefore, we tailor our designs to meet their specific needs and preferences rather than imposing our own ideologies on them. This approach ensures that all our clients are satisfied with the final outcome.

Ruby: So, if I can ask, what kind of questionnaire is this? Because this is the first time architects have mentioned questions. So, what kind of general questions do you ask?

Vijay: See, it starts with asking how many family members will be residing in the house. For a residential project, understanding the dynamics of the family is crucial. We inquire about the age groups of the family members and their individual preferences. Each city has its own unique culture and lifestyle, so we tailor our approach accordingly. For instance, the design brief from a client in Surat will be different from that of a client in Ahmedabad or Baroda. Sometimes, clients simply base their design brief on what their neighbors have done. To extract the right design brief, we need to ask these types of questions. Vaishali can elaborate further on this.

Viashali: Yes, when clients first approach us, it’s crucial for us to work closely with them to understand their lifestyle, culture, religion, and family dynamics. We take into account the ages of family members, their hobbies, preferences, and interests. Our goal is to ensure that the clients feel comfortable and at ease in the new environment we design for them. It’s also our moral responsibility to enhance their lifestyle and provide them with the best-suited design that aligns with their temperament and preferences.

During our frequent meetings with the clients, we strive to understand their likes and dislikes, gradually forming a clear picture of what they would appreciate in the design. Our design process begins with sketching and then progresses to 3D visualisations. Throughout this process, we remain open to their suggestions while ensuring that we maintain control over the aesthetics. Our aim is to create a visually appealing space that satisfies their needs and preferences while also being enjoyable and timeless in its design. Ultimately, we believe that architecture and interior design should enhance the quality of life for our clients and provide them with enduring enjoyment.

Ruby: Of course, so this is like a custom-crafted, client-based solution you offer, right? If I sum it up in one line.

Vijay: So, even for the detailed requirements, such as the type of kitchen layout preferred (regular platform or low-height sitting), wardrobe storage needs, space required for shoe storage, and specifics about washing machines (existing or new, front-loaded or top-loaded), we gather all such detailed information. Once we have these details, we visit the site to take measurements. Then, we sit together to discuss and decide on the concept. Vaishali primarily handles the design aspect. She works on the initial sketches, which we then discuss together. After finalizing the concept, we hand it over to our staff for drafting.

Ruby: Okay, so see, it is a very personalized expression when you design a house. But when you were mentioning a large-scale project, which is for community living, you said around a 12-tower project, right? It’s for the community. And when you say when you’re designing for a house or an individual family, it is a very limited requirement and as per their family culture, religion, whatever you just mentioned. But when you’re designing a community, we don’t know who’s going to occupy the house eventually. So, what is your, how, what changes in that, you know, how, what is the difference between designing a community living and a residential project if you can talk? Vaishali first because he said you are the one who starts designing and then being involved himself, so you tell me.

Viashali: When we’re working on a community project or larger-scale projects, the purpose of that particular building is very different. There, we have to include some philosophies keeping in mind the maintenance and the harmony between the spaces that we have created. So, there are other aspects to consider when we talk about larger-scale projects rather than individual choices, yes, right? And then, when we come to the Vastu Luxuria project, that’s one of the projects we have done where we’re talking about the landscape and the finishing items of the whole area. So, there, the criteria are different, and we start looking into the details which are repetitive and the details which are more convenient. That’s how the design starts developing.

Ruby: So, mostly, the maintenance-free building, mostly easy flow, mostly where people can get together, because I saw that quickly when you showed me that brochure, I mean the book. I could see the spaces where people can come and sit together and swim together, so I think it is about public space, you know, for that community. But then public space, and we are lacking behind when it comes to public spaces. We all travel and we see abroad, and their gardens and their public spaces are so beautifully designed. Surat, being a huge city now, we don’t see those public spaces around. So, what is your take on that, and how do we see architects like you, who are aware and a little sensitive around it, they would create their own communities living, and they would create their own public space, but that is confined to those people who are occupying those buildings. But when it comes to a larger user-like society by large, when I say like people who are living in the city who probably cannot afford a very fancy building, so what are we doing for that? And what do you think we should be doing? And what is your take on public spaces in India, and especially Surat specific if I, the question is Surat specific because I didn’t see any space where I could see public gathering or they could sit together. I remember as a child when I used to come to Surat, there is a road which goes to Dumas, I think yes, and there would be like a mela, you know, lots of food joints and lots of people eating there. And there would be a camel cart, and I remember very vividly as a child that the moment you get out of people, or there is some fair happening there, and there are a lot of people, and there’s somebody’s music program is happening in the corner, and some magician also would be there. That’s my memory of Surat, and by the time you reach the seashore, you know, it’s beautiful, it’s different, the journey itself is different. Then there was a temple in the middle of the city, where I think it’s still there, but there was also a small garden where people used to sit outside footpath inside the temple, you know courtyard. And so those are, I don’t see it that anymore. So what is your take on it?

Vaishali: See, Surat, of course, earlier, was a small city and it really has expanded quite a lot. Of course, because of the development that we have, it has both positive and negative aspects. I would say a city is always like a reflection of the people who stay there. It should be that people get connected to the city; they have that memory, like you just explained, you know, of the city that they travel to and then where they live also. So, they do carry those public spaces and the aesthetics of that public space into their mind and it remains as a memory. So, of course, Surat, one of the aspects is that they are cool people, “Maujila Rangila.” They would like, they can enjoy anywhere, even on the footpath. But designed spaces would definitely give them a better way to enjoy, of course. So, people are working on it, there are good projects happening. Okay, there is development, even on the, if you see, Vesu Canal Road development when nice joggers park and things like that are being created. Even Dumas, good art pieces have been installed and it has been developed in a way now that the sea has gone far but these spaces have been developed in a way that people can go there, enjoy, and create memories for them. So, eventually, I’m saying that there are things happening, so let’s not lose hope, that’s what I’m saying. Things are happening, even Gopi Talav has been developed in a nice way which is a place which was like not there before, okay? And it has been restored and developed, reconstructed, and the surrounding has been beautifully done. So, like, it’s happening, yes, it is happening, I would say.

Vijay: It’s happening, and that Gopi Talav project was done by Aangan Architects. As a team together, it has come out fantastically well, okay? And even people are using it, but…

Ruby: So if I go to Gopi Talav I’ll not be that disheartened right?

To be continued….

Dynamic Duo: Introduction to Ar. Vijay and Vaishali Chauhan’s Legacy of Design Excellence Spanning 25 Years (Part-1)

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