For a man who never imagined himself as an architect, let alone one of India’s top architects, Prem Nath is aware that life can leave you surprised. His vernacular education and humble start as a blueprinting boy in an engineering firm did not prevent him from graduating with honours from Sir JJ School of Architecture, Mumbai. His drive to learn more meant he spent most of his time sightseeing and socialising, which led to a chance encounter with influential people, such as actor Dharmendra and the MD of Britannia Biscuit Company. He eventually designed projects for them soon after graduation. “This was a life-changing experience and [inspired me to] start my own firm, Prem Nath and Associates (PNA), in 1967,” says Nath, adding that he was eager to make a mark in the world of architecture, while embracing new challenges and opportunities.
What started off as a firm designing celebrity homes, private villas and offices, made way for a practice that experimented with newer concepts in architecture in India, including the first revolving restaurant for Ambassador hotel. “The technology we used was different from any conventional structure. It made me realise that, as an architect, one has to stay ahead of time, think out-of-the-box, and be open to all kinds of projects,” discloses Nath who, in his initial years, worked nearly 18 to 20 hours a day.
Today, PNA is adept at handling versatile projects, encompassing different typologies. Currently, the practice is investing its time and creativity in smart developments, including the Smart Tower for GIFT City, Gujarat. In his 50 years of “glorious practice,” Nath has maintained a design philosophy that is focused on “staying ahead of time” and “keeping work simple and non-acrobatic.”
His idea of design is rooted in functionality, and he strongly believes that design that displays a lot of “acrobatics” always fails the test of time — while simple design and forms are always liked by people. Within this simple approach, he makes it a point to reinvent himself. “Architecture is getting smarter. I can foresee 3D printing architecture in the coming years,” he says. He advises young designers to persevere and stay focused. “Who knows what great developments (will change) our future, so we keep up the pace and ensure we are up-to-date.”

Looking Back

The country’s first fast-track IT building designed for Morgan Stanley at Mindspace, Mumbai, proved to be a significant one for PNA. The entire project was completed in a record time of eight months. “Innovative techniques of construction were applied. Latest path-breaking technologies were put into place,” says Nath.

Looking forward

Nath is excited about The Smart Tower at GIFT City in Gujarat, an intelligent building he intends to build using sustainable technologies. Apart from intelligent solutions and building automation, the Smart Tower will focus on clean energy generation using rooftop solar panels.

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