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An interview with Ayn Rand’s modern day architect: Sanjay Puri
His biggest inspiration and something that he turns to even today is ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand. This novel that is one of the greatest books of our times revolves around the life of the protagonist, an architect who is so driven that he would rather struggle than compromise on his artistic vision. This is the mantra that Sanjay follows till today...
Vishwakarma was architect to the gods. He was the one who had made Krishna’s Dwarka and the Pandava’s Maya Sabha, amongst other fabulous creations. But that was a long, long time ago. However, in today’s day and age also there are creations that draw gasps of admiration from onlookers. We are here today to talk about one of the best architects in India, Sanjay Puri, who creates modern day masterpieces.
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A graduate of Mayo College, Sanjay Puri went on to pursue his dream of becoming an architect and studied from the Academy of Architecture, Mumbai.
His biggest inspiration and something that he turns to even today is ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand.
This novel that is one of the greatest books of our times revolves around the life of the protagonist, an architect who is so driven that he would rather struggle than compromise on his artistic vision. This is the mantra that Sanjay follows till today.
Sanjay began his career by working under the master architect of his time: Hafeez Contractor, who as Sanjay says taught him a lot of what he knows on the subject.
Following this he went on to establish his own firm and in 1992 Sanjay Puri Architects was born.
Currently they are involved in designing over 100 projects in 40 cities across India as well as projects in Montenegro, Spain, U.A.E and Mauritius.
He is the only architect worldwide to win awards in 3 categories at the latest MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Awards in France. Besides this he has won over 30 international awards and numerous national awards.
We talk to him about his latest projects, his favourite creations and tips he has to offer for aspiring architects.
Why did you decide to become an architect?
While deciding between fine arts and advertising, I happened to read the Fountainhead at the age of 16 and my mind was firmly made up to become an architect.
Where do you get the inspiration for the kind of structures that you make?
The client’s brief is understood and then relegated to the back of the mind. The context of the site, its location and its surroundings too are assimilated and stay in the background of the mind and then a free thought process is initiated and processed bringing back the project brief and contextual response towards the end to create a cohesive design solution.
What does your design for the Bombay Arts Society signify?
Fluid forms enmeshed together in parts emerging from each other in parts constitute this small building.
Within an extremely small plot measuring only 1300 sq. mts, a mixed use building programme based on the client’s needs had to be adhered to.
Art gallery spaces, an auditorium, a cafeteria and artists rooms had to be planned within 1,000 sq. mt and another 1000 square metres of office spaces were to be provided for, each with separate entrances. Fluid spaces across the three lower levels, house the art gallery spaces and their allied functions with walls flowing into roofs homogenously.
The fluidity of form seen externally, with a concrete skin encapsulating spaces while undulating in both the horizontal and vertical planes, is carried through to the interior volumes making the entire experience as that of moving through a sculpture.
A separate entrance lobby at the rear corner leads one up vertically into a four level office space that is angled to allow the offices unrestricted views of the ocean in the distance.
The office spaces are encapsulated in a concrete skin punctuated volume with floor to ceiling glass panels in the direction of the sea.
Thus within this small 1300 square metres plot two distinct set of spaces are created, each with its own discernible identity and yet enmeshed together to create a uniquely sculptural building.
Which are your 3 favourite creations? And why?
The Courtyards House in Rajasthan- integrates the traditional Indian courtyard within the house and yet the spaces are very different in the way they are experienced with each room opening into different directions as a separate entity with its own scale while being woven together with the house in an organic layout. This house has won acclaim worldwide for its unique design.
72 Screens in Jaipur- is an interesting building where we have imbibed local tradition in the form of jalis that sheath the building , reducing heat gain and increasing energy efficiency, The jalis although traditional are used in an abstract composition of folded planes that render the building sculptural.
Chrome Hotel in Kolkata – This was our first hotel building and completely redefined experience in terms of spaces.
Who according to you is the best architect of all time? And why?
There is no role model. However, there are many projects that are inspiring.
In Montenegro for instance, I was inspired by a 600 year old village that is converted into a hotel with minimal intervention as well as two 400 year old small towns that are in use today as city centres with shopping and restaurants and residences and are completely vehicle free. These projects are examples of long term sustainability with beautiful internal spaces within them.
Any tips for aspiring architects?
To create meaningful, contextual, responsive architecture and not merely follow trends.