With a focus on intent and quality — as opposed to the size of the projects or the practice, Nithya Srinivasan and Kiran Venkatesh established InFORM Architects in Bengaluru, in 1997. A renovation project was followed by a house on a 60’x40’ site. Then came InCITE, their fine arts museum and gallery, and Indian Institute for Journalism and New Media. “All these projects came in quick succession, and the clients were very open to us leading the design process completely,” share the duo, both graduates from IIT Kharagpur.
While their portfolio grew, their approach to each of their projects didn’t change much. “Hard work, perfecting design by development and iteration, multiple modes of production [we now work with 3D renders, VR visualisations, physical models using CNC laser cutting and 3D printing, etc], use of technology in design delivery [our practice works on BIM, using REVIT as the primary tool] remain the key aspects of our modus operandi,” explains Venkatesh.
From working with individual clients to collaborating with developers and corporate clients (in 2007) — as well as winning several competitions for larger projects, their atelier has grown in size, from a 15 to 20-member team, to about 45 today. It has always been a design-driven studio, regardless of the scale and number of projects being handled. But now, systems, technology and approaches have been put in place to safeguard the smooth delivery of projects without compromising the creative environment in the studio. “Along the way, we have picked up several interests and newer projects/building types. Residential projects, especially affordable housing, is one of our core strengths. Now, we are [also] focused on healthcare projects,” discloses the architect.
The many years spent building the practice has taught them key lessons. Fot one, they strongly advise new architects against taking up projects without an appointment and an advance fee. They also warn about unprofessionally conducted competitions, where clients exploit younger practices to obtain free designs — “usually, the final decision in the competition is made on an ad-hoc basis and does not befit the competition submissions.” With your clients, communicate constantly, they suggest. “In a few cases where I lost touch with the client, though I was apprised of the work progress, there were always crises on the project/s. It is better to communicate constantly and stay in touch. Tackle issues head on; ignoring the elephant [or the ant] in the room helps no one,” advises Venkatesh.

Looking Back

The Tillany Fine Arts Museum & Gallery and KS Residence are projects that have greatly influenced the practice. Tillany set the tone for lofty design ambitions, whereas KS explored structural and construction techniques to develop precise details for cast-in-place concrete, including shuttering for corrugated concrete.

Looking forward

InFORM’s most challenging building type till date is an upcoming large hospital project, where the architects are learning to balance the deeply technical and demanding design services, with the need to create healing spaces that promote recovery, even as they keep an eye out for the total cost.

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