Mat haroo. Never lose. An unrelenting spirit resides in his name (as his friends reinterpret his name, and his practice), multiple award-winning architect Gurjit Singh Matharoo tells us humorously. He would have needed a lot of that attitude when the very first project he and his team at the newly-minted Matharoo Associates (then operating from a 10’ x 10’ room with just two drawing boards) slaved over, was first enthusiastically approved by the client and then, within the course of a lunch, rejected on an off-hand comment made by the client’s friend during his ill-timed visit. That “friendly statement” brought in them an awakening: “So flimsy are the apparent grounds of our beloved profession, that any passerby can demolish our most sincere efforts and dampen the morale of the most spirited,” says the International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, only the third Indian to win this distinction after stalwarts Charles Correa and BV Doshi.
The firm’s work has gone on to win many national and international accolades — from the award for the massive Curtain Door made of thick Burma sections that are carved to incorporate, collectively, 160 pulleys, 80 ball bearings and a wire rope passing through all those, besides a moving counterweight; to another for the Net House, a weekend home that references childhood summer nights spent slumbering
al fresco under mosquito nets. “We take failure as a norm and success as an exception. Maybe that is what makes our work exceptional,” suggests Matharoo.
The two pillars that define Matharoo Associates’ fundamental philosophy are functionality of program and efficiency of services. Beyond that, innovation and wit are essential ingredients of their soulful creations. Materiality is expressed in its natural form. “With a harsh sun falling on wood, concrete, brick, stone or metal, we are able to get profound textures — much like carvings in a temple in tropical light,” says the architect who views design discipline as one without boundaries. “There has been a symbiotic relationship between structure and architecture ever since the firm’s inception. While our buildings remain embedded in nature, we approach them with extreme clarity and utmost restraint.”
The Studio Matharoo team confesses to having an inner urge to make buildings that elevate one from a normal plane of existence to a higher level; buildings with high emotive content that are meant to be discovered. “People often call us eccentric mavericks, and it is this mad way that allows us to get our seemingly wild ideas across to clients,” shares Matharoo. “We like to call ourselves romantics, people governed by emotion over calculation. Our off-the-mark trajectories are followed up by solid reason and research.”

Looking Back

At the turn of century, the much-feted Prathama Blood Centre, Ahmedabad, and Ashwinikumar Crematorium, Surat (both of which they won through competitions) marked Studio Matharoo’s foray into institutional projects. “We call them our life and death projects,” says Matharoo.

Looking forward

The studio is working on a beautiful home stay on the fringes of a tiger reserve in Ranthambore, meant for hardcore wildlife researchers who spend months tracking and filming the beasts. That a tiger has already been spotted on the site has made this project all the more exciting for the team.

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