The Street, Mathura
Architect Sanjay Puri has a CV anyone would envy - working on a vast array of architectural projects and receiving some pretty impressive national and international awards including the prestigious World Architecture Festival Award for his work ‘The Bridge’ in Rajasthan and multiple Architizer A+ Awards.
His architect practice Sanjay Puri Architects is one of the leading homegrown architect practice and has gained global recognition for its innovative design solutions and creating delightful fluid spaces while imbibing the intrinsic values of Indian heritage and culture. The architect has been known to delve into a range of creative projects while being sustainable, exploratory and contextual at the same time.
Though Sanjay emphasises on the design element, still environmental sustainability remains basis of all his architectural creations. He believes sustainable architecture is the need of the future and every architect's thrust should be towards creating sustainable environment. Splitting his time between Mumbai and rest of the world, we were lucky enough to take a moment of Sanjay’s time and chat about where he gets his inspiration from and what keeps him going.
The Reservoir, Rajasthan
Can you tell us a bit about your journey and how did you first get into architecture?
Reading Fountainhead at 16 made me want to be an architect. My first job began on my 18th birthday when I joined Hafeez Contractor who instilled in me the belief that one could achieve what one wants if one tries hard enough amongst all the other knowledge that he imparted to me.
I took admission in The Academy of Architecture, Mumbai after already having visited numerous sites & making all kinds of drawings from presentation to working drawings. I continued to work through all 5 years of college and was made an Associate at 23 even before my college results were declared.
I began my practice in 1992 when I was 27 working largely with real estate developers. Over a period of time a shift in focus emerged gradually and my office got commissions for hospitality & other kinds of projects.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced to become where you are now?
The biggest challenge is the convincing of clients to dare to create something different and unique. Other than this, India has numerous problems and challenges including the lack of skilled contractors, the lack of innovative structural designers, the indifference of clients towards design in general, the low fees paid for design and the lack of an active governing body for professional conduct and accountability.
Is there any particular architect, projects or architectural philosophy that influences your work and aesthetics?
Many structures have at some stage influenced me. Le Corbusier’s Chapel at Le Ronchamp, a restaurant called Woompjees at Rotterdam along the sea by Rem Koolhaas (one of his earliest works), The Cinema Hall at Dresden by Coop Himmelblau, The Ray & Maria Stata Center building at MIT by Frank O Gehry, the Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hannover by Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner are some of them.
What’s important for you in your work and which is your most prized creation?
Creating spaces that evolve in an explorative manner and transcend the way spaces have been perceived earlier. Creating architecture that is rooted in contextual terms and yet evolutionary in its experiences. Many projects have been path breaking for us. Ishatvam 9, a residential building in Ranchi, The Street in Mathura, The Courtyards and Origami houses are some of these.
The Courtyard House, Rajasthan
The biggest challenge is the convincing of clients to dare to create something different and unique.
What projects are you working on now?
Currently working on over 100 different projects in India.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work?
Each morning in office is spent doing sketches of plans, sections & views of new designs. For the first 2 to 3 hours of each day I do not take calls or have any meetings. This is my creative design time. Every project is designed with a series of initial sketches which are then passed on to the other architects in my office to develop and draw with software programmes.
Can buildings be better for the planet and do you think sustainability and aesthetics can be put in one building?
Yes, of course, this is what we try to achieve with most of our projects.
How do you spend your down time between work?
Reading, browsing and perusing design in different fields. Product design, fashion design, jewellery design are all very interesting .
Sustainability and aesthetics can be put in one building and this is what we try to achieve with most of our projects.
What is modern Indian architecture for you and where do you see the future of architecture in our country over the next few years?
While every Indian city is witnessing such unprecedented growth, the government has not created sufficient infrastructure to keep pace with it and as an outcome, there is traffic congestion, insufficient open spaces, lack of public housing & utilities and poor living conditions for many.
54% of Mumbai city’s population live in slums. While Indian cities have witnessed an urban explosion of a magnitude beyond most other countries, this is yet negligible as compared to what India will witness in the next 2 decades. On a conservative estimate the extent of what was built in the preceding 2 decades will be triplicated in the next 2 decades.
Bombay Arts Society, Mumbai
Where can we learn more about you and your projects?
I’m on Instagram @sanjay_puri_architects