Over the two decades that Amit Khanna has invested in the profession, he has been a student, an intern, an employee, a consultant, a professor and a manager (eventually becoming a husband and a father, too). Growth has been the only constant. But the defining change came about when he forgo a salaried job to independently design a private residence as a consultant. “It was a difficult process of adjusting to working for oneself, being accountable for decisions, trying to develop a vocabulary (or handwriting, as I like to call it), but eventually rewarding, as one project led to another,” recalls the Delhi-based architect.
From then on it was all about designing “whatever clients were brave enough to let us design.” Office interiors, a restaurant, few houses… to eventually designing large commercial spaces. Through it all, the quest was to maintain “a design-centric approach to the business of architecture, rather than giving up and letting the economics of projects dictate the terms.” Since its inception in 2004, Amit Khanna Design Associates has been solving complex, layered problems through a design philosophy that revolves around efficiency, craftsmanship and longevity.
“When we design a building, we are much more concerned about how the building will perform, how much energy it will consume, whether the materials will last for the lifetime of the building, whether the maintenance required will be minimal…,” says the alumnus of School of Planning and Architecture (New Delhi). Addressing the global crisis of energy consumption, waste management and wealth inequality is paramount, else Khanna believes, “If we are still talking about personal expression or random inspiration… then we are dinosaurs.”
Through his work, the goal is to head a motivated team that is committed to architecture that is deeply rooted in country’s regional vernacular, its craftsmanship and spatial traditions. He hopes to identify key construction issues and project a strong statement — in the form of his work — in answer to those issues. “We need to build to address the materiality of place and the concerns of liveability, but most importantly, we need a building to be sustainable,” says the architect who sees travelling to observe culture, climate and architecture as important to one’s growth. “There is immense diversity and plurality in the world today. (Also) younger people should be willing to work in rural areas, be able to engage with stakeholders at all levels and learn many methods of creating spaces. There are no mistakes, only potential for learning,” he concludes.

Looking Back

We designed a warehouse, a non air-conditioned building in Delhi. We had to go back to basics, relearn the jaali, and develop a double skin facade that kept the heat and glare at bay, while allowing light in. This building was good, because the brief demanded we think about a problem more than what was normally accepted.

Looking forward

Our ambition as a practice is to design a net-zero building, one that produces as much energy as it consumes, effectively having no negative impact on the environment it inhabits. We hope to build one such building in this decade and that will certainly be our favourite.

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