During the first phase of SJK Architects, which began with liberalisation in 1990, Shimul Javeri Kadri immersed herself in creating design that was “crafted, earthy and climatically sensitive.” In the next phase, the practice matured, as did the marketplace, with new materials and technologies coming in. “We experimented with form and hardware. The Leaf House at Alibaug and the Nirvana Films office were watershed projects,” says the alumnus of Academy of Architecture, Mumbai. From then on, Kadri and her team began to take contemporary design and ‘craft’ to another level, most notably in projects like Tirupati Hotel and the Mahindra Design Studio.
An inspiration to many architects, especially women architects, Kadri has worked across the length and breadth of India, making sure local culture, climate and history are imbibed in each design. “Projects in the office look very different, depending on where and what they are doing. We are working on a hotel in Bodhgaya for a client, for whom we have designed another hotel in Tirupati. The difference in the expression of both projects is remarkable. In Bodhgaya, gentle Buddhist practices, as well as the brick building traditions of the area provided the impetus for design. In Tirupati, a strong orthogonal geometry that came from temple architecture drove the design. However, what could be common to both projects is the desire to connect with nature at every point,” explains the architect.
Infusing each project with natural elements — be it covered walkways, water bodies, courtyards — is key to the practice, which recognises the ability of skylights and light-wells to modulate not just light but also emotions. These simple elements are symbiotic to civilisations, and have been for a long time. “Our practice draws from Indian historical elements at all times. As with music, one may know the notes, but the stringing together of the notes is critical to good music. The pauses, the rhythm, the high points – all well-timed — create a classic,” says Kadri.
The realisation of good design requires not only a thought-out approach, but also collaborative effort, and SJK Architects functions on these principles. The architect explains, “We believe that thought generates a project of sublime beauty. The clarity of an idea is what holds a project together — not materials or money or twists and turns of form. This clarity of purpose is also what generates and holds together a large collaborative team needed to create an architecture that endures — both physically and spiritually.”

Looking Back

Of the several projects they have built across the country, SJK’s work for a school and college in Warangal and a factory in Karur were important in the way the naturally-ventilated spaces interpreted the vernacular idiom.

Looking forward

“Clarity of thought and contemporary well-detailed expressions derived from historical wisdom,” are guiding Kadri’s current projects: a museum for Jainism in Ahmedabad, an Agricultural Training and Research Centre in Latur, a hotel in Bodhgaya and a hospital in Alibaug.

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