Chennai-based husband and wife architect-duo Oscar and Ponni Concessao proclaim they are “together by design”. They established Oscar & Ponni Architects in 1996, on their return from the USA where they had individually pursued a Master’s degree — Oscar studied urban design at the University of Oklahoma, while Ponni opted for architecture from Cornell University. “We were fortunate enough to work on large-scale educational campuses, IT parks, hotels, resorts and townships quite early in our practice. As principal architects, the key learnings revolved around coping with the day-to-day demands of projects, contractors, clients and staff. Most importantly, we gained experience in business management,” recalls Oscar.
In fact, he cautions, a financial and business approach to projects is the need of the hour so that Indian architects can effectively compete in a global market and work with financially savvy mega-consultancies. “In addition to financial literacy, client-savvy architects must be able to see beyond ‘building a building’ and offer a service that embraces the client’s broader aims,” add the duo.
Oscar and Ponni have always believed in a three-pronged approach to design: the community, site and program should seamlessly integrate in a compelling building, with equal emphasis paid to both design and function. “A timeless design is built on intangible factors such as dreams and inspiration,” says Ponni. “Truly great architecture is not controlled by catchphrases of the times. It transcends time and space.”
Their design philosophy —a blend of timelessness, simplicity and functionality — has remained unchanged over the past 20 years, and the firm considers ‘less is more’ to be its guiding principle. “Design excellence and problem solving are at the heart of everything we do. We promote creativity with a disciplined design process,” say the principals of a studio that has won over 91 awards. The architects see an increased engagement with sustainable design. “We must minimise the use of energy- and-carbon-intensive technologies, and revive low-tech solutions such as passive ventilation. Technology’s role ought to grow in some areas, given recent advances in building design, analysis, materials, systems, construction, and operations that help mitigate climate change,” they say.

Looking Back

The 256-room Le Meridien hotel at Coimbatore has significantly impacted Oscar & Ponni Architects’ trajectory. It was a huge learning experience and involved working with several international consultants, global branding teams, the operator chain and other collaborators.

Looking forward

Sandy Waves Resort on Andaman’s Havelock island is an interesting project in the making. The resort uses timber for flooring, interior and exterior cladding . The challenge is to ensure that the architecture blends in with the environment and caters to every guest’s functional needs.

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