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Architecture is at crossroad

“A great architect can be measured in the kind of legacy he or she leaves behind,” remarks Ar. Kalhan Mattoo, Planet 3 Studios Architecture
Ar. Kalhan Mattoo is a savant-like when it comes to value designing. He wants to work in such projects where architecture isn’t measured in extreme efficiency in terms of sq. feet or in terms of how much volume one can build. His vision is to stand out and follow his instinct when it comes to design which is not necessarily dictated by the privileged. In an exclusive interview with ACE Update, he shares his architecture philosophy and what separates a great architect from a good architect.
India and architectureThe profession of architecture in India is at crossroad. Earlier, an architect used to be the only person who handled the entire project from its design to construction to completion. Now, as the profession is growing, there is lot more specialisation. Now, more specific skills are required in the industry. For various reasons, an architect has diversified into various segments of design and construction.
A general architect, who would be able to do all kinds of typologies, is also giving advice on project management and selection of contractors. The same architect used to make submissions to the municipal corporation. Earlier, an architect was a one and all kind of entity; now it’s no longer the same. The profession is at crossroads because a lot of the traditional spaces of the architect have been claimed by project management agencies and specialised design houses. The whole relationship an architect had with the approving authorities has completely changed now. It is now mediated by specialised architects. With an increase in competition, changes in technology and client expectations, the profession is at a very interesting point.
Adding value to growthThere are certain challenges, and Planet 3 Studios believes that architects have to be generalist so that they can work on different kinds of formats and typologies to keep the creative sense alive in the studio. Over the time, Ar. Mattoo and his studio have understood what kind of space people not want to be in — this has been a kind of important learning for them. Planet 3 Studios doesn’t want to be in the co-modified office design. It really don’t want to be in the mark projects where architecture is merely measured in extreme efficiency in terms of sq. feet or in terms of how much volume one can build.
Planet 3 Studios is looking for projects that are of certain quality and have certain design mandate given by the client. Which also offers a certain design challenge, and Ar. Mattoo is getting enough projects like that. Lately, he has delivered a hotel in Agra. He has also finished the first phase of 1.5-million-sq.-feet residential development in Pune for which he won an award for the best architect of the year. He then finished the auditorium for which he received the best auditorium award and other such similar projects. These are all exciting projects that have a clear design and mandate of the project. He would probably look at his studio becoming a sophisticated firm.
X-FactorsOne thing that has worked for Planet 3 Studios is the open mindedness to look at different types of projects and clients. It doesn’t come with too much of package when it comes to such projects. The studio just wants to look at how the value designing can add to a project. With that kind of open mindset, the studio has done every project. It calls it the beginner’s mind which has a fresh prospective. The studio keeps on gently question everything that comes its way. While it does that, it does with a sense of empathy to the end users. Planet 3 Studios tries to create solutions which do things differently for its clients.
Great architect vs good architectIt depends on how great can be measured in the quality of work which one does. It can be measured in the kind of legacy one leaves behind. It can also be measured in the kind of influence on work while you are practising your profession. The architects who stand out and are known for their works have certain courage of conviction and ability to follow their instincts when it comes to designs which are not necessarily dictated by the privileged. They are led by greater understanding of the profession. They see the potential of a design to create something which is transcendent and not necessarily transactional. Kalhan Mattoo thinks a lot of good architects get stuck in the whole transactional part of the profession which is approving process, budget and so forth.
Achievements in 2014It has been a very interesting year for Kalhan Mattoo and his studio. Planet 3 Studios finished a four-star hotel and auditorium. He is also working on a 60-acre residential community in Indore. Within the community, there will be organic farming. Then OVO in Pune, where he won the best residential architect award, is also a very contextual project but understands the local context very well by using steel and facades systems. Then he finished the Clarient headquarter which is a 1-lakh-sq.-feet facility in Airoli, Mumbai. The headquarter is a sort of technologically complex project and an exciting edition for his portfolio.
It’s been a year of variety of construction for Ar. Mattoo who has also created a prototype as an urban intervention. It is basically a bus stop which has been thought as an urban intervention. The bus stop has a lot of things added to it. They are thinking of doing a test operation somewhere either in Bangalore. Across various scales and experimenting, he has created a new kind of work station for a CEO which has the facility of audio-visual. From a 60-acre design to projects like this, Ar. Mattoo has done all kinds of project in 2014.
Expectation from Planet 3 StudiosThere is a hotel project which Ar. Mattoo has started in Daman. It is a kind of project that echoes the local context in terms of the fishing community around the place, and the history of the place is a mixture of Portuguese and India heritage. He is very excited about this project and wants to see it complete in a year or two. He is also looking forward to the 60-acre project in Indore. There are also several other projects which he is working on. Like the one in Kerala where he is echoing the traditional architecture in a contemporary way.
He is also experimenting more and more with parametrical tools to achieve the desired designs. Last year, he delivered a pool of business which was his third building in Mumbai. This year, he wants to look at adding 3-4 more buildings in Mumbai. He is currently onsite with such more interesting projects as well. These buildings are interesting for him because of the restricted nature of the development control regulation. He is trying to push the envelope when it comes to designing with excessive controls. Ar. Mattoo also is working on a 70,000-sq.-feet-single family residential project in Nagpur which is something he looks forward to.


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