Akshat Bhatt, principal architect of New Delhi-based Architecture Discipline tells us how he got involved in architecture, his love for music and more…
When in your life did this passion for architecture engulf you?
I was 13 when I saw an architect’s drawing board for the first time — it fascinated me, as an apparition, with tools, tackles and really cool coloured stationery. It was that and my engagement with progressive rock that led me to explore ‘individual’ expression across the world. Music was more accessible than architecture. But for a formal education I chose architecture. Studio guides at architecture school encouraged my exploration with regional expression and allowed me to cross reference. A homogenous-universal aesthetic never appealed to me it was too ‘1984-Orwell-comes true’. What did interest me was technique and bold expression. My first encounter with such powerful architecture was the Roof Top Extension by Coop Himmelblau, this eventually directed me to the works of Archigram, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and even the Eames’. Later, working with Jeff Kahane in London showed me LeCorbusier’s work in a whole different light. Around that time (2000), the Tate Modern had been opened to public, the Millennium Bridge was swaying and the British Museum had just received Fosters glass roof, architecture was everyday-tube-station conversation. I think that’s what got me hooked.
Architecture, urban design, product design… Architecture Discipline deals in these three segments, which one is closer to your heart and why?
In a loose sense, urban design can’t be realized without architectural manifestation. At our studio, product design usually addresses tactile contiguity. Architecture may choose to respond or ignore urban inputs and it dictates the tactile quality. Since I have to, I’ll pick architecture as it is the discipline that dictates our response.
Tell us about the team at Architecture Discipline… does your collaborative energies come together to form the firm’s design philosophy? And what would your philosophy be?
We are an equal opportunities practice in every sense, so each individual is free to comment and contribute beyond their assignments. This energy drives change so the answer to your question is ‘yes in essence’. We believe in evolution, regional expression and progressive construction practices to create positive environments for human habitat.
What are the projects that are keeping you busy these days?
A large residential school and township in a small town called Dharbhanga in Bihar. We’re doing an urban art project over 23 acres in the national capital region. A set of modular moveable structures spread over 40 acres in Delhi. We’ve also designed the 12,500 sq ft India pavilion for the 2015 Hannover Messe.
What’s your take on the state of architecture and design in India today?
There is no critical thought in the mainstream as a result it is not progressive. Professional practice has been commoditized and most are happy to ape the west, practice of judge with second hand information. Design has been reduced to embellishment. The state of design education is abysmal. This in a country that is full of opportunity for genuine contribution. It is important to understand we’re not activists, we’re professionals, but our actions are responsible for 70 per cent of the resource consumption in the world and equally responsible for enhancing or diluting the identity of our built environment.
On a lighter note…
Your quirkiest design inspiration?
Given a choice… the country you would shift base to? And why?
Possibly a small village in Switzerland. It’s peaceful and a short drive from Basel, Bern and Ronchamp. The infrastructure is state-of-the-art, yet people are connected with nature… they find time for everything.
If you would be any character in fiction… who would you be and why?
Nigel Tufnel, the fictional guitar player from the rock mockumentary The Spinal Tap. I don’t goof around much and I’d also love to have an alternative existence as a rock guitar god!
The one thing you would save if your house was on fire?
It would be a tough call between my first guitar which is 21 years older than me, and my newest amplifier that was born in 1968.
The funniest moment in your design career?
None that I can remember in my professional career, we’re very serious people!