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Architecture is ultimately about people

“Today, architects in India fill the gap in the marketplace as our nation turns aspirational,” says Architect Sheila Sri Prakash, Founder and Chief Architect, Shilpa Architects Planners Designers Pvt. Ltd.
Year 2014 was filled with eventful and joyous moments for Architect Sheila Sri Prakash. Her firm marked its maiden commission in Africa, and she made her first documentary short film about the Tanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple and its magnificent architecture. In an exclusive interview with ACE Update, she talks about her influence and what helps her remain humbled and inspired.
Architecture and IndiaPost-independence India witnessed predominantly cost-centric construction. While the emphasis of architecture and design in India historically set the standard of the world, the post-independence mindset in India generally considered high-quality architecture as a “cost” as opposed to a “value multiplier”. It was an uphill battle for the profession in India in the past 60 years. Today, architects in India fill the gap in the marketplace as our nation turns aspirational. The acceptance of architecture in the next 5 years will depend heavily on the quality of execution and the business return on investment of architecture. The architecture profession needs to show the business community that good design is good business, which has been demonstrated undeniably in developed markets. To reach the potential for the profession in India and to evolve truly distinctive design philosophies, it is paramount that India raises the capacity, as well as the quality, of undergraduate and graduate level education.
Adding growthThe growth in the market has opened tremendous opportunity and complexities. Shilpa Architects Planners and Designers is looking at specific geographies as it consolidates its operations. Architecture is unfortunately a relatively non-scalable business. Its focus at the company is to improve efficiency in the design process through home-grown technologies, to enhance the output of its team without expanding its headcount. The growth in the marketplace in terms of scale of projects lends itself to such organisational scalability.
X-Factors Architecture is ultimately about people. Reciprocity remains a key X-Factor. Reciprocity is essentially a people-centric approach to architecture that is inclusive of a multitude of stakeholders. This is a process that will deliver solutions that are aligned with the long-term interest of our country and our world. Another X-Factor, that Architect Sheila Sri Prakash alluded to before, is a clear methodology of peer-reviewed case studies, to measure the business impact of architecture. This can help influencers and decision makers understand the ROI of good design.
Achievements in 2014 The previous year marked her firm’s maiden commission in Africa. The continent is the next frontier in terms of global infrastructure and fascinating from the perspective of its people, distinctive cultures, and rich natural resources. Architect Sheila is personally excited about the project that they are planning in Accra, Ghana. Year 2014 was also the year she made her first documentary short film about the Tanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple and its magnificent architecture. As she continues her restoration work on this UNESCO World Heritage Monument, she never ceases to remain humbled and inspired by the incredible prowess and intuitions of designers from ancient India.
Expectations in 2015In the year ahead, Shilpa Architects Planners Designers aims to enhance its portfolio of projects by strategically focusing its efforts on winning marquee commissions. There are considerable expectations among architects about opportunities available for Indian professionals to participate in the new urban initiatives proposed by the government. The investment in creating smart cities also raises the expectations for participation in the residential, commercial, hospitality and educational opportunities.

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