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The Architect Couple’s Advice to Young Architects: Embrace a Holistic Approach to Design over Supermarket Selection

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

Viajay: But at the same time, compared to the size of the city, the open spaces are very limited. If you go to Bangalore, then you can notice the difference in green spaces versus concrete. So, I think Surat Corporation is very proactive. They have already planned for another 25 to 35 years. So, I think definitely they are thinking, and they definitely will do something. Even our Deputy Commissioner is also an architect, Dharmesh Mistry. Definitely, I wish they should do something for the city.

Ruby: So I’m not saying don’t be disheartened; go to Gopi Talav and feel good about it.

Vaishali: Of course, the language has to be created, or we say that the traditional art could be thought of in a holistic way so that whatever the developments or whatever the things that we create, it should conform to some form of some language. Yes, it should not be haphazard.

Ruby: Yes, so, very beautifully put. You said we have to include what is lost; we should retain what we are losing right now. And I don’t know about the language part because I’m not a qualified architect, but I understand what you are trying to say where the intent should be there that we should retain whatever we can in this crazy globalisation and crazy growth of the city, which is good economically but, of course, has its pros and cons.

Whenever we talk to architects, there are a few terms that keep coming up: sustainability, minimalistic, all those terms. They are very fancy terms, and everybody has a different take on that. So, Vijay, I’ll start with you. What is your take on sustainability, minimalistic approach to design and architecture, or is it just there is nothing minimalistic? You have to; we don’t believe in minimalistic Gujarati and Suratis. We don’t believe in minimalistic. Everything should be loud; everything is big and crazy. But what is your take on that?

Vijay: Yeah, you are absolutely right. As a Gujarati, we are not minimalistic because whenever we go anywhere, even for food, we used to take everything—khakhra, fefra, and everything—so we are not minimalistic. But of course, Gujarati people are traveling people; they are quite influenced by the abroad projects. Even that is, I think, the common mentality of Indian mentalities—they copy. See, they feel proud about it. So, I think minimalistic, of course, a minimalistic approach is not bad, but if you can do a fusion with a minimalistic approach in your design, in your interior, but at the same time, what we are doing, we are doing contemporary work, but always we used to see that it should have an Indian touch. So, we use art there, we use local artisans’ work there, even we design and develop certain installations. It’s, of course, fusion. But ultimately, you won’t feel this is an imported house from somewhere else.

Viashali: When it comes to sustainability, our majority, I would say, try to follow all the passive aspects of sustainability. When we design as an architect, the basic fundamentals are like it has to be well-ventilated; no space should be such where you actually need artificial light, nicely ventilated, and a space where it has to have a connection between them, connect being connected with people, and we should explore the spaces which we can enjoy the most. Right? So sustainability in terms of materials as well as in terms of the passive features of features, we try to incorporate in all our buildings. Even when it comes to the interior, we try to be true to material, more often natural material rather than synthetic materials that we would try to incorporate. And of course, we have done one of the projects recently, which is Savita Vadi. Vijay would like to elaborate more on that.

Vijay: Savita Vadi, located near Baroda, was our project for Mr. YS Trivedi, a very knowledgeable person who worked at L&T. He had a clear design brief. Being Gujarati, he wanted a house in the Chettinad style. We visited Chettinad to source all the columns, major materials, and style elements for the house. We designed it as a typical Indian courtyard house, using mostly local and recycled materials. While it’s not Green certified, I can say it is 100% natural—no use of synthetic materials at all. I would love to show you the house someday.

Ruby: You’ve mentioned involvement in art installations and designing them. What’s your perspective on art? Alternatively, what kind of art resonates with you the most, and how do you integrate art into your projects? If you could summarise this in one response.

Vijay: Mainly, we feel that art should reflect an Indian context, incorporating local artisans. We often persuade our clients to embrace this approach, sometimes even exercising our authority when needed. Once we decide on the amount of art for a project, we determine the budget, and in some cases, we request a specific budget allocation for art. In Surat, we face challenges due to the city’s strong influence from Mumbai and a limited appreciation for art. However, with the recent establishment of fine arts colleges, it will take time for the community to grasp the value of art. Nonetheless, I am optimistic that in a few years, we’ll see significant progress in this regard.

Ruby: I’m happy that you are doing your part. The people who are coming to your office are being exposed and aware of art, so I’m happy about that. You are doing great work by doing that. What’s your take on art? What kind of art do you appreciate, and why do you think art is important in a project?

Vaishali: We don’t see our projects without art. Art is an integral part of the projects that we have designed. It adds soul to the space and gives our identity a touch of artistic flair.

Ruby: Perfect! I’m very happy to hear this because I have closely worked with a lot of young artists, and I’m very happy to know that people like you, who are key designers on such a big scale, have this philosophy or belief system that you should use art in your projects. Like artists, there are a lot of young designers right now who must be studying or getting out of college, and I would like you to say or give some message to them. Also, I want to ask in between, it’s the time of Instagram and Pinterest, and the globalisation of the internet has made the world a small village. So, are you facing those problems where people come with photographs saying, ‘We need this kind of house,’ and then you have to retain your own identity while also convincing the client at the same time and giving them what they want? Do you think that’s a bit challenging these days? In fact, it is a big challenge. Nowadays, when clients come up with lots of photographs saying, ‘We want this, we want this, we want this,’ but they don’t know whether it will fit with their requirements, their decor. In fact, Vaishali and I were discussing a few months back that half of the time and half of the energies we are wasting in our day to convince the client that this is not for you. So, that is, in fact, a big challenge.

You don’t have the option, I think you have to listen to this. So yeah, in the time of Instagram and this new social media era, I think all the architects and designers are suffering from overly excited, overly aware clients. And then you have to tell them that this is not meant for you. It’s like a doctor’s job, right? This medicine is good, but not for you. I think you are giving the same medicine to your clients. So, just, you can… if you can say something for young designers, young architects who would like to have a practice like you. And maybe some message for them, Vaishali. You’ve been a teacher, and you also worked with senior architects. So maybe you can say something.

Vaishali: see Vijay has been a teacher for….

Ruby: I thought you only teach

Vaishali:   He says, “So, um, for young practitioners, I would say, be true to yourself. Okay, first of all, you should have your own ideology for working. And when you are working, it should be a holistic approach to the whole design, rather than a supermarket approach of picking up things from here and there. And it is, a person has come to you, a client has come to you for a place where he would enjoy himself, and he’s spending a lot of money for that particular, maybe it’s a dream house for him. So you have to be very sensitive while designing, and you have to have a place, of course, you have to give your best as a designer, but don’t get so much carried away with social media, and you should go back to your design fundamentals and work accordingly.

Vijay: I can say, “This is why we like this line of architecture and interior designing, because this is the only profession where the client comes to you happily. In all other professions, the client goes to that professional when they are in trouble. So, and we are happy to work for the upgradation of somebody’s life, of course. So one thing is that this is one of the best professions. Mhm, you come across with so many people, you learn from so many people, you can work with laborers, labor to the… So you have, you can get the exposure of all kinds of people, you can improve yourself. So there are so many positive things about this profession. So, don’t focus only on the money, that is one thing. Give your best and feel what we are like, what we say to our client can once they assigned us, then we used to say, ‘Now, this is my project, now this is our project. This is not your project.’ We will work as if it’s our project. So if you give that kind of work with complete dedication, then definitely success will be yours. And be patient because this is professional, this is not 1 + 1 equals two and you will earn within another two, three, four, five years. So..

Ruby: I thought you would say marry your classmate and be successful.

Vijay: It’s it’s more difficult to work with uh who’s your friend and a wife right is very difficult.

Ruby: II thought he would say, “The key to my success or the advice to young designers is to marry your classmate and just practice.”

Vijay: Of course! Today, uh, we are successful because we are like support for each other. She’s taking care of so many things, and in my portfolio, it’s the same project, my portfolio is different, and her portfolio is different. She’s mainly taking care of all the creative parts, I’m taking care of all the technical parts.

Ruby: Perfect. So, I think, uh, made for each other in practice and in life. And, uh, thank you so much for your time, Vaishali. It was wonderful talking to you. And I think the way you answered every question with such simplicity and humbleness, I think that’s beautiful. And thank you so much once again. Thank you.

Vijay: Of course, we are also very much thankful to you because we both are very simple people. I think you made us quite comfortable; that’s why we were able to deliver. Even we are blessed with twin daughters, and they are also architects

Ruby: Okay, so the future is already there. Okay. So, the family of architects. So let’s add the last question. So you have four architects in the house, there are four thinking brains and four beating hearts when it comes because architecture is about creativity. How do you manage to sit at a table and talk about design? Or do you fight?

Vijay: We fight, definitely. In fact, we fight every day, okay? But we fight for the betterment of that project. So the end result is positive.

Ruby: What are the names of your daughters?

Vaishali: Varisha and Vipasha, so we all V-four. And that’s how we Victory is us, we can say. We can combine and work. They are yet to join us as professionals; presently, they are working in different firms. But once they join us, we’re definitely looking forward to working together in a better way.

Ruby: So, V for Vijay, V for Vaishali, and V for girls, I think. I wish you all the best for our future endeavours and wish all the best to your girls as well, to have a, you know, great career like you people have. And, uh, thank you so much for giving us this time to talk so candidly with us. Thank you so much, Vijay and Vaishali.

Vijay: We are thankful to you, Ruby ji, as well as Abir Pothi and the entire team of Abir Pothi. At the same time, we are very much thankful to Jaquar for providing this platform and connecting architects and artists. It’s a very good platform.

Ruby: Thank you

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

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