New Architecture in Making
Rajinder Kumar Associates (RKA) was established in early 1970s by Architect Rajinder Kumar, now led by his son Architect Rahul Kumar. Meeting ShubhraSaini at his simplistically stylish white office, Rahul talks about his journey and the changing face of architecture.
Architect Rahul Kumar’s architectural style plays on simple aesthetic sensibilities. His contemporary architectural style is visible in scores of buildings designed by his frim across the country.
Talking about his formative years, Rahul said, “My father renowned architect Rajinder Kumar started his firm RKA in 1970, so the exposure to architecture, design, art and culture began at a very young age. This gave a positive start to my design journey of graduating in architecture from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi and then completing Masters in architecture from University of Philadelphia, USA. I came back to India in mid-1990 and that was the time when Indian economy was opening up to foreign companies & businesses as also the global architectural and influences.”
After completing his graduation, Rahul worked on projects like Great Eastern Shippingoffice building, Mumbai, ngs then ITC Rajputanaluxury hotel in Jaipur and master planning for Subic Bay in Philippines which were a great learning experiences for the young architect and got him interest in urban design & planning. His focus area for Master education thus became mater planning for large parcels of land. Rahul did further studies in real estate from Wharton school, USA to get an understanding of the business of real estate.
Talking about the advantages of global education Rahul said,“Wharton real estate program gives case studies for the students to put their combined synergies and apply fresh business analysis. This gave me a as an architect a business perspective to my designing. It’s imperative to combine the of design & business knowledge to make the projects functional. Furthermore, the international firms foraying in India at that time needed international quality workplaces, so my experience of studying and working in US gave me the confidence to deal with the international clients. Later on working on overseas projects broadened the horizons of RKA and we were able to capitalize on the IT boom, working on IT Parks and SEZs.”
RKA across two generations
Rahul has been part of RKA for more than 20 years now and at the end of the conversation, it was but apt to ask him of his own design projects and the evolution of the firm. Talking about his work, Rahul said, “The firm is working on development projects ranging from 2.0 acres to 25,000 for both the developers as well as the end-users. Residential market is unique and challenging as each housing segment, location and client has different architectural design needs. Thus, a neighbouring residential project in a same city and vicinity may completely differ in its requirements and design details. Some of our interesting projects include technology parks in Noida for HCL, a public sector bank headquarter in Dwarka, NCR being designed as a Net Zero building and Apollo Hospital in Chennai, for Proton therapy Cancer treatment.”
Concluding with elaborating on RKA’s journey till now, Rahul said, “Architect Rajinder Kumar’s foray into the tourism industry commenced in the late 1960’s with his designing of tourist accommodation in Punjab using local stones and woods, followed by some contemporary style log huts, small hotels and other interesting spaces in Kullu-Manali and Lahaul-Spiti. Over the years, RKA has designed hotels across the country, and abroad, in every category, from Budget hotels to 7-Star Luxury Hotels, for virtually every major hotel developer in the country, for practically every major Indian and International Brand that exists. It was more than a decade back, the firm started specializing in design & development of IT industry projects and master planning of mixed-use complexes, campus architecture, office parks, shopping malls, corporate design and healthcare.”
Managed together by architect Rahul Kumar and his father architect Rajendra Kumar, RKA is recognized for energy-efficient designsand distinctive use of space. They continually promote simplicity and indigenous quality in all their buildings with special emphasis on designs that are cost-conscious, that encourage utilization of local resources and local participation at every level in the development of the project.
The changing realm of architecture
Rahul feels, the amount of respect architects get oversees is lot more than what it is in India. In India, the developers market their projects by engaging celebrity designers or international ‘Starchitects’. But at the end of the day, efficient design & planning will only attract a customer and make project a success. Today’s buyers are smart; they wouldn’t want to live in a badly designed condominium just because it is endorsed by some by a celebrity owner, designer or a highly acclaimed architectural firm.
Likewise Rahul is sceptical of the over dependence of architects on technology. “Technology can’t be ignored but one has to be cautious of what is relevant for a particular project. Choosing the right technology is a daunting task especially today, when everyday a new technology is getting introduced. Right technology applied in the right context will add value to the project.”
RKA was one of the first firms in India to design a USGBC Platinum rated building in India, which was ITC centre in Gurgaon. In fact most of their projects are Green certified building/projects. Rahul believes that while Green certifications add credibility to the project’s sustainable features, as designers their aim is not achieve ratings but to design a project using passive architecture strategies for minimal impact of environment and maximum cost savings. “The buildings should be sustainable, practical and frugal in consuming funds and resources. Ratings don’t matter much. An architect can get a Platinum green rating for a glass skyscraper in the middle of Dessert of Gulf but is it the right design?”
However, the increasing complexity of projects has now taken the sole responsibility of design & planning from an architect to various specialized consultants involved in the development. Rahul feels that this is a disadvantage in some ways. “Traditionally the architect was the team leader and all the other departments used to be under him. But now with things becoming so specialised, one has to coordinate with the different stakeholders involved from client’s external consultants to specialized domain experts and other consulting firms. Each come with their own vision of the project and it becomes difficult for an architect to synchronize all the different teams. As a result, often only 70-75 percent of the project design concept materializes as a final product. If we can achieve more in this domain then we can expect better performing buildings.”
A positive development according to Rahul has been the standardization that has come in many aspects of real estate development. As he puts it, “Standardized processes applied at every stage of building construction enable a certain protocol to be followed by everyone and streamline the project design and execution.”