Starting his career with meagre earnings, PK Das established his practice in 1980, nurturing it as a forerunner in the world of architectural and social design. An alumnus of Sir JJ College of Architecture, Das had an “abundance of ambitions” that he wanted to address. “On one hand, it was an aspiration that was hammered into me through formal education and examples of successful architectural works. On the other hand, it was the complex situation in Mumbai where the poor and the working class lived miserably.”
Since earnings were limited, which did not dampen his enthusiasm, he took on all kinds of projects such as kitchen interiors, a multi-purpose unit, a tailoring shop, and residential interiors of diamond traders. “Fortunately, the nature of jobs and clients evolved. I was able to move on from diamond merchants as my clients, to corporates,” mentions Das.
Over time, establishing a close relationship between architecture and people, placing a strong emphasis on participatory planning from the very beginning and at every stage, became the keynotes of the firm’s approach.
Das believes that the democratisation of urban planning and design would be a significant step towards the achievement of just and equal cities, and he strives to bring about much-needed socio-environmental change. The activist architect reiterates the need to develop Indian cities in their entirety, and not by following fragmented goals of exclusivity and competitive construction turnovers and delivery time.
“A process, whereby a design evolves as a result of people’s participation, is extremely important. Architects ought to be activists if they understand the relevance of architecture to social, cultural and environmental ethos,” advocates Das.

Looking Back

Driven by varied aspirations, PK Das & Associates has grown in an exponential manner, rather than linearly. Of note are their efforts and achievements in reclaiming the seafronts of Mumbai, the rehabilitation and redevelopment of slums, and the expanding of public spaces.

Looking forward

The Open Mumbai Exhibition, curated by Das, presented mapping of open spaces and the natural areas of the city that account for approximately 50% of Mumbai city. “My idea is to integrate vital assets [of the exhibition] into the development plan of the city. In short, democratise public spaces and the city,” explains the architect.

 

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