When Rajiv D’Silva began his first practice in 2001 — four years after graduating from Goa College of Architecture, his aspirations weren’t too high, he modestly admits. “Possibly they aren’t too high even today. I just wanted to design buildings that were simple and beautiful, enjoy the process of building them, and build a sustainable practice in the bargain,” he says. Through his early projects — largely private houses and a few larger public buildings, he learnt that people-management is key to successful implementation of one’s creative goals, and that a good architect must necessarily be a good manager.
Most of those early projects were design-and-build, and the immediacy and hands-on approach they required seemed very exciting at first. Gradually, he found the process too time-consuming and not scalable — and that better design can be achieved when one focused purely on the design. An ardent admirer of Laurie Baker, his aesthetics gravitated towards the vernacular (“most of our early projects catered to middle-class clients, and were built on tight budgets”). In its new avatar, his practice, Studio 1573, has evolved with a more contemporary bent, and responds to design cues that are more global.
“One principle that has remained a constant was inspired by Baker — use materials honestly,” says the architect. “What has changed, perhaps, is the specific way in which we juxtapose building material, which is hopefully more mature now.” With most of his projects located in Goa, the Goan landscape and social context has always been an important factor in how he approaches building design.
True to his Goan roots, he harbours no desire to “be a hugely successful mega-practice”. Instead, he continues doing work that makes his firm and clients happy − “and maybe build some buildings in the process, which my peers will also regard as good [design].” He advises young architects to not short-change themselves. “Only do work that you will enjoy doing, on your own terms. And maintain a work-life balance. Architecture is a beautiful profession, but there’s more to life than your profession. Don’t lose yourself in your work. Spend time with your family and friends. Happy architects design better buildings.”

Looking Back

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Chapel in Canacona, Goa, completed in 2006, was a breakthrough project for D’Silva. “I think we arrived at an aesthetic that was a departure from our earlier work, and one that we were excited by,” says the architect.

Looking forward

D’Silva says an upcoming house that they are designing in Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu, is the most exciting project for the atelier at the moment. “We are so rooted in Goa, that it is very interesting for us to be able to work in a completely new context,” he explains.

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