The musical, wonderful, narrative qualities of architecture drew Seema Puri and Zarir Mullan to this profession. After graduating from Mumbai’s Academy of Architecture, with stints at well-regarded architectural firms, they embarked on an independent career with their practice, Seema Puri & Zarir Mullan Architects & Interior Designers, in 1995. “We started by doing architecture as well as interiors for bungalows – and we realised that no project was too small, and that there was something to learn from every job, every work. These projects taught us patience; they taught us how to deal with all kinds of people; they taught us to respect clients because, without them, we were nothing,” they say.
Thei duo’s trajectory changed when they got recommended to a new builder, who gave them three days to come up with a proposal for a commercial building in Bandra, Mumbai. “We competed with a few other architects,” reveals Puri. “Naturally, we were both thrilled and anxious, but we also knew in our hearts that it was now or never. Thankfully, we made the cut.” Since then, though it has been an eventful journey, they say the quest for design that would stretch their imagination is never-ending.
The architects consider each project as a dialogue between art and architecture. “Each project is finally like an art installation,” say the founders. “It is important not to doubt that architecture is art. It is art because there is a need to go beyond function. It’s about provocation, emotion and sensitivity.” They work with space, light, materiality and elements such as shadows and wind, to construct spaces that people have to spend their lives in. “Nothing could be more important than that,” they declare.
The two of them would like to contribute to creating a better design environment by abolishing “extreme compartmentalisation, increasingly referenced with contemporary yearnings and demands. Today, more fluid and integrated spaces that allow greater coexistence between residents and their visitors are desired, and we would like to believe that we try and achieve this more often than not,” say the architects, who like to fuse the vernacular with the contemporary in their work. Their advice to fellow-architects? “If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign that you are not doing anything very innovative. Don’t be afraid to go where no one has [been] before.”

Looking Back

The commercial and award-winning building, Notan Heights in Bandra, was a turning point in Puri and Mullan’s career. “We dared to be different and it paid off,” they say. The Leed-certified project caught the eye of almost everyone passing by, people appreciated it and the architects’ popularity grew.

Looking forward

The duo is working on a vocational training institute, still in the planning stage. “Our aim is to create a dynamic yet protected community for student trainees,” they say. “By segregating main uses into different blocks, and creating transitional pathways throughout, we tried to create a sense of society.”

 

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