Interview with National award winning Architect S K Das, New Delhi
Your work tends to capture the cultural diversity of the community. Which of your projects, do you think, truly exemplifies this tenet?
All my projects celebrate diversity and pluralism. From the design of a house to the design of cities. I see buildings and inhabitants as a microcosm of a city, thus containing diverse aspirations and multiple sensibilities. In the design of a 5 sq km stretch bordering the walled city of Delhi and impacted by the Metro, we recast the idea of a single redevelopment proposal into multiple projects, programmes and activities to benefit diverse users while not deflecting from the idea of a broader transformation on the city. From benefiting the communities inhabiting the space, to making places of urban significance. We had to weave slum upgrading, reconstruction, tourism and heritage proposals, pedestrian flows, transportation and mobility and landscape interventions as well as property development as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in a seamless flow. This project was commissioned by DMRC, DUAC and DDA. In the case of Andrews Ganj housing for senior civil servants, our design was a reinterpretation and transformation of the morphology and built form of traditional cities and neighbourhoods of the hot, arid regions and dominated by shaded pedestrian movement. The landscape reflected a ‘public frame’ that accommodates post occupancy additions by the inhabitants. So, you have manicured lawns as well as seasonal vegetable patches coexisting. Here the client was Ministry of Urban Development and HUDCO.
Mass housing at Nerul, Navi Mumbai for approximately 900 odd families was an exercise in encouraging community formation among hither to unknown families. We relied on social scales in disaggregating the community for spatial ordering, to figure out scales that are appropriate for maintenance and management of shared resources. Day to day urban necessities, sharing of space and facilities formed the basis of self-managed territorial control. This was a case of celebration of diversity as well as inhabitants’ autonomy. The building design was a direct response to the moderately hot and humid coastal climate. I like to challenge myself to designs that are responsive to climate and culture and have a sociopolitical meaning.
Of the varied projects that you do, which kind of projects do you enjoy the most?
There was a time I could have said that I like projects with a number of buildings, mixed use and that have to deal with the larger context. Now I don’t have any such preference. I like projects that have a chance to be realised where the client is equally sincere about this and sympathetic to ‘receiving’ architecture. This fact notwithstanding, I would love to work together with others from arts and social sciences as well as communities to make un-gated public places that afford new identity to cities. Public spaces that are truly shared by all, which also brings about a positive confrontation between different social demographics which would bring a deeper mutual understanding. I’m also focusing on new housing typologies and institutional buildings with these ideals in mind.
Which has been your most challenging project?
I would say Andrews Ganj civil servants’ housing in Delhi. The project took almost a decade on the drawing board until the construction drawings were made. This gave us a chance to periodically revisit the project design even after clients’ approval, to improve upon the idea as well as the grains and textures. Then came the self-imposed responsibility to address the gamut of issues confronting housing including the philosophical, the theoretical, the political and the contextual.
Source: Zingy Homes