Principal Architect at his eponymously named design studio, Vipin Bakiwala believes in creating ‘soul shelters’ for his clients
What drew you to architecture?
I did my B.Arch from MBM College, Jodhpur in 2004. I wasn’t able to figure out anything about architecture till the second year, when my classmates and I got the chance to create a model of a Solar Passive building for our college. It took us about three months to complete the model and it got selected for the IIT Fair in Delhi. It was the very first time I was making a model and working on it was an outstanding experience; I felt as if I was actually making a building of my own. It was then the seed of architecture and design was really sown in me. Our team participated in many national and international competitions, and we even won many of them. Our growing enthusiasm also made us work with our professors on actual projects – studying by day while practicing at night was a complete rush.
Why do you believe ‘Architecture is music for a soul’?
It’s extraordinary to think that a simple vibration unseen by the human eye can do things that are beyond words to describe and leave us with timeless life experiences. I believe that architecture and music are correlated. The relation lies in the feeling with which they are composed and the feeling they provoke. For instance, when we close our eyes and listen to some melodies, we can identify the emotions the musician has tried to pour into it and we gradually experience the same. Similarly, architecture of a space attempts to deliver the emotion or reason it was created with; it persists through the colors, textures, rhythm and harmony. Just like a musician attempts to contribute all the right emotions to a mesmerizing tune, an architect does the same to create timeless spaces. And somewhere, like music, it makes us come across our souls, and feel entirely whole, healed and intact.
What led to the formation of Vipin Bakiwala Design Studio?
After graduation I Initially worked in alliance with my senior pals but we later parted ways – after all, architecture has a different meaning for all. I decided to start all over again and in 2006, I established my own firm in Jaipur, built a team and started working the way I had dreamt of. I struggled for a few years, but then finally found a grip and now we are one of the leading architecture firms in Rajasthan. Just like any other architectural firm, we started with a small platform, where we had few projects as well as clients, which grew with time. We are still growing with every project, and at every stage of it.
Which have been your most memorable projects?
One of our favorite projects is Riwaayat, a 3,100 sq. ft. space, built on the third floor of a production house. It was designed to facilitate a luxurious shopping and business experience for buyers from European brands, who visit the unit to choose from the season’s collection and place bulk orders. Being a Rajasthan native, I’m highly influenced by traditional art forms and constantly try to revive dying craft forms and modify them according to contemporary usage. Riwaayat is the most powerful and beautiful blend of the old and contemporary that we have executed till date. Its design language and vocabulary celebrates Rajasthani art, architecture and its many influences (mainly Mughal and Moroccan) through contemporary expressions.
Another project we are proud of is the 4,500 sq. ft. space for Radhika Jewels’ very first retail outlet. The bride-centric concept featured round-arched openings, round-edged mirrors and artworks, customized bamboo silk carpet floor and ethereal upholsteries. A primary retail area and special lounges for customers were designed to increase the level of intimate interactions. Subtle luxuries and classical elements helped in creating this special experience for brides-to be and their families. We faced a number of challenges but after many successful and failed experiments, we were able to create a space which is not only an ode to the rich Indian tradition but a language the brand now speaks.
What, in your opinion, does it take to capture the soul of a space?
As architects, it is our duty to induce emotions into a space and create an ambience that brings forth our hidden calm, positive and spiritual side. We strive to expand the brief given by the client and create a space that elevates and improves his life. We struggle to provide an environment which is an enhanced reflection of his thoughts. We call such places soul shelters. It is that space where the soul remains in its innate nature.
We believe that a space should be a reflection of the inhabitant. A design that evokes happiness and upliftment in thoughts is a successful design. We don’t believe in following trends blindly – we aim for soulful spaces which age gracefully.
What helps you understand what the client wants?
With every new soul (the client), we begin our search for his needs and requirements. We dig deep until we have enough of information about his background, occupation, family structure, temperament, likes and dislikes. We ask him about the objects, spaces, experiences, visuals which have propelled him in the past. At this point we educate them about our philosophy and style of working. Through these discussions we make an attempt to introduce the clients to their own souls. They are taught how to understand their feelings and emotions. We then create a story; the story of a shelter is the dialogue it should have with the inhabiting souls. We talk about the experience he will have while being and functioning in each and every corner of the space. We elaborate on which feelings and emotions the user should go through in the variety of spaces and at what time. This story revolves around the design of the spaces and the lifestyle the design demands.
Tell us about your foray into product design.
Just like architecture, product design is not just about the object created, but also about the way it makes us feel, think, or learn. We design products in cognizance with the concept and demand of the space. All our products, be it furniture, lights, or planters are customized as per the space.
According to us, in the creation of esthetically and functionally high standard products, every designer or innovator first requires a vision of what product he is going to design and a vision to see beyond the mere requirements that the product shall fulfill. This vision motivates the designer to work towards creating a unique product. After the design esthetics are definite and determined, the next step calls for team work. Hard work, productive support, insights and skills of the team members add to the value of the product. The product then enters its inspection stage which carries a complete series of examining and re-evaluating its performance while accordingly making changes to give it the final shape and the desired perfection.
For instance, one of our clients, Ms. Gaia Franchetti from Rome, expressed her desire for a piece of furniture which is deeply rooted in Indian traditions and is easy to disassemble and export. We developed the idea of an easy to disassemble and reassemble ‘khaat’, a cot that is an ubiquitous feature of households in Indian villages.
We used reclaimed wood from old furniture to create the four legs (payas) and the horizontal members of the khaat, which were joined together by tendon joints. Mesmerizing traditional details were carved on the payas’ by local craftsmen. The wood was finished with wax and oil. We obtained the waste of cotton textile industries in Jaipur and prepared around 3.5 kg of recycled thread, which was woven by a local craftsman into a chatai. Easy to disassemble and reassemble, the redefined khaat is sturdy, comfortable, versatile and economical.
What challenges do young architects in India face?
Lack of knowledge of Indian architecture, design, crafts and craftsmanship: It is important to know about our country and its architecture for a profound understanding of traditional design philosophies, patterns and ideologies. An architect must also learn to explore his traditional roots and assess their place in the esthetic and social life of the country, connect with them, take inspiration and thus create sustainable spaces.
Lack of compassion:Working with perfection requires a lot of patience and compassion, which seems lacking today. With compassion comes the emotional bond with the space.
Application of old as well as contemporary materials: Young architects often find it challenging to work with different kinds of materials, old or contemporary. Strength and longevity of a design is the key to its sustainability. It is thus advisable that before started working independently, architects should first gain at least three-four years of experience under a senior architect who engages in diverse projects.
Client handling: Understanding the client is the need of the hour – everyone has a different perception and an entirely different story. It is essential to study the client deeply before designing the space for him.
Team work: In a competitive scenario like today, team work is a necessary ingredient for an architecture practice and a major challenge for young architects.
How do you plan to expand over the next five years?
We have started many projects in the past few months. We shall soon be commencing a few residences, a community hall, and a hospital. We definitely look forward to a brighter tomorrow, by grooming our skills and designs each day. We wish to work on projects of national heritage and public welfare, and would love to be associated with architects who are experienced in those fields.
For the last two years we have been conducting a series of interactive sessions called DEPTH (Design Endeavor for Polishing Thoughts) in our studio. DEPTH aims at educating our fraternity about art, music and architecture. We invite artists, painters, poets, sculptors, literaturers, musicians, designers and other people from the art, craft and architecture fraternity to share their expertise and life experiences, and teach us small yet significant elements of art and design. Exploring more and more about the country has always been of great interest to us and we wish to encourage people to be a part of this wonderful initiative.
This article was originally published in POOL 105.
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