Four decades ago, Kamal Malik switched over from a major in structural engineering to architecture (SPA, Delhi) because of his quest to embrace science and the arts equally. “This tabula rasa between head and heart is where I finally found my calling,” he recalls. For his son Arjun Malik, the ability of this “paradoxical” profession to be a medium of commentary and self-expression was too captivating to ignore, leading him to acquire a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University, New York. The dynamic father-son duo, with their almost poetic approach to architecture, have made Malik Architecture more than an award-winning practice; it is a learning ground for excellence in design.
Established in 1976, the practice won two competitions at a fairly early stage of its existence — one for a housing complex in Delhi and the other, a medical centre expansion in Mumbai. The Delhi project provided Kamal with an opportunity to explore the realm of brick load-bearing architecture. A collaborative effort ensued between him and an engineer who had a Master’s in load-bearing structures, resulting in an exploratory and experimental work. This, Kamal states, set the tone for future projects while providing a sharp learning curve in the understanding of materiality as well as the aspect of precise detailing essential in exposed brick-work. “The fusion of the architect and engineer at an early stage in the design process was also an invaluable lesson that was an intrinsic part of the initial learning curve,” he adds.
Their learnings and overall holistic design sense are at work in a wide range of projects — private residences, institutional and corporate projects, research facilities, residential complexes, healthcare and educational projects, even hotels and museums. “Evolution is continuous, and is aptly described by the Sanskrit word ‘Manthan’ or the churning — which is the assimilation of factors, be it social, geopolitical, climate, technology, regional context, etc,” says Malik senior who identifies sustainability as a key issue that simply cannot be seen or addressed on a superficial plane. Use of local materials/artisans coupled with innovative and relevant technology, and a deeper, more sensitive understanding of real human needs — physical and emotional — are key issues that should form an intrinsic component of the design process, he explains.
To that effect, Kamal has cast away all dogmas, doctrines, theories and, to an extent, ‘philosophy’. “My journey, that began with the Himalayas as my cradle, the deep respect and reverence for nature, the need to discover a language for a deeper communion with nature and the grace of the sages (who made this journey possible), brought about an entire change in the very ‘gestalt’… I was introduced to the language of ‘silence’, which is an intrinsic aspect of ‘nature’. With the passage of time, my role has become that of a catalyst more than a doer.”

Looking Back

The Lupin Research Centre near Pune gave the Maliks an opportunity for interpretation and expression in the field of medical research through a built-form. “Here, abstract subjects like intuition and the metaphysical were added as layers to the design matrix,” explains Malik senior.

Looking forward

Malik Architectutre is thrilled to be working on the Matrubhumi complex in Kochi. “Even though it is a corporate office, we have opened up the entire site at the ground level to the public realm. This creation of civic spaces, we hope, will lead to other projects following this model,” says Kamal.

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