“My aspiration was to make it a large practice that would gain recognition. I also wanted to be rich!” Alfaz Miller has no qualms about speaking his mind. And so he began his journey with a seemingly lofty goal back in 1972, in partnership with a colleague and a two-people staff (an architect and a peon) and couple of interior design projects that paid the bills (“also paid for my first motorcycle!”) He spent those intial years unlearning what he studied in architecture school. “Real projects needed technical and management skills,” he found.
As the practice evolved slowly to cater to larger and more complex interior design projects (mainly banks and their branches located all over India), with fewer and smaller building design jobs, his philosophy to create innovative yet functional design that are well detailed and executed, strengthened. “The firm had fewer but satisfied clients,” adds Miller, an alumnus of Sir JJ College of Architecture. “The aspects which have remained constant over the years is the design and the detailing quality, and the support to the execution process to ensure that our design is built well, in time and within the budget.”
Ten years ago the work was predominantly interior design, but now it has expanded to include buildings. His work can be best described as being sensible, contextual and relevant to the time and purpose for which it was designed. This is the firm’s contribution to the design environment in India, a portfolio of projects that are “consistently good aesthetically, always keeping the user experience and safety paramount”.
Miller is also deeply invested in mentoring — mainly his daughters (also architects) and his associates, so that together they can produce good design but also run the firm efficiently and ethically. “What direction the firm takes in terms of type and the scale of projects will frankly depend on the younger designers, who I am grooming to take over the day-to-day running of the firm. Personally, I would like to design few projects and review them all; and get enough time to play 18 holes every day!” he quips. His advice to fellow architects is as constructive as it is illuminating. “Based on my experience, I would urge young architects who want to build large practices to go to management schools. For the others, follow your heart. If you want to make lots of money, become a financial professional or a world-class sportsman.”

Looking Back

Two past projects that significantly impacted ABM were: Grindlays Bank, Mumbai, in 1989 (won ABM its first design award); and ABN Amro Bank in Baroda, which involved restoration of an 80-year-old house, and construction of an annex building. These projects gave design recognition to the firm and also the confidence to handle larger, complex projects.

Looking forward

Among his upcoming projects, Miller nominates Baroda Crossways, a high-street shopping and commercial complex that will be part of the palace estate of the Maharaja of Baroda. “The plot is located on the main palace road, opposite an old market. The architecture style is contemporary, with nuances of the old public buildings in the area,” he explains.

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