When Santha Gour and Kalhan Mattoo recall their early days in the profession, they talk about how the learning process involved getting their hands dirty — an idiom that best describes the genesis of Planet 3 Studios. Set up in 1998, they specialise in design-build projects, handling a small 600sq-ft office space to start with, and moving on to offices for clients such as Rio Tinto Diamonds, Steel Age, RPG Group, and Godrej, among others. “We started with interior [projects], built up our experience and expertise, and finally stepped into architecture. We aspired to do work that would make us happy at the end of the day, work we would be proud of,” says Gour.
Besides being a fantastic experience for the alumni of Sir JJ College of Architecture, Mumbai, the design-build model encapsulated the practical side of design — from costing to dealing with limited time frames. “We learnt the business side of the profession, and how to retain and have a repeat clientele. Most importantly, we learnt there is no perfect client, nor project or budget. We have to make it perfect in the given parameters,” shares Gour, who strongly believes that no two clients/projects should be treated in a similar fashion. Pursue every project with a beginner’s mind and always share new ideas with the client, she adds.
Creating “honest and brave” work has been their strength, and they recognise evolution is key to one’s survival. Each project enjoys its own distinct flair because it is in keeping with a client’s needs, an approach that has kept the practice fresh and exciting. “We have also made continuous attempts to refine our presentation skills through newer software adaptations that helped us present our ideas more clearly. We also tried to evolve skills of not only our professional employees in office, but even the contractual labourers. We have slowly tried to [put in] systems to ensure safety and security for people on site,” notes the architect.
Gour and Mattoo believe that one person with one idea can transform an entire civilisation, but they admit it is quite an enormous expectation from a practice to contribute to the larger good. Instead, they are committed to working with intensity and honesty, delivering designs to the best of their abilities, and growing personally and professionally. These efforts, they hope, will eventually culminate in a better design environment for the future. They wish to place themselves firmly on the international design map. For a profession that needs constant evolution and complete surrender, their advice is succinct: “No half hearted efforts are going to win the game.”

Looking Back

Gour believes that not only has every  project added value to their practice, “every person, every day has been significant.” But one past project that got them due recognition is the Vidyalankar Institute of Technology in Mumbai. “It made us who we are today,” she acknowledges.

Looking forward

The Mumbai International Cruise Terminal, the first of its kind for the country, is quite an overwhelming experience, admit the architects. But it’s a project to watch out for. A Nursing College in Jammu, another exciting project, is just as challenging because of its location on a hilly terrain in a seismically active zone.

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