Tony Joseph-founded Stapati’s design philosophy is short and succinct: ‘Be sincere’— to the client, to the environment, to the end user and to the larger context. “Stapati’s architecture emerges from a sensitive understanding of the context,” says its founder, “one where the evolution of design is firmly rooted in the region’s traditional narratives, while interpreting the elements in a modern language.”
The architectural firm came into being in 1989, on Joseph’s return from the University of Texas, where he had enrolled for a Master’s in Design in the Charles Moore program. The debut was a residence in Calicut, in which the young architect, influenced by Laurie Baker, employed a lot of the icon’s techniques and language. “I think the biggest learning from that initial phase was about responding to the context and dealing with the nuances of the site,” says Joseph, who also admits to being influenced by (Charles) Moore’s views on regional architecture.
While the core philosophy is a common denominator between multifarious projects in a diverse range of locations across India and abroad, Stapati, with its never-ending quest for new directions in architecture, is an entity that is constantly evolving. “One always has to react to the ever evolving concerns of our built environment and the newer challenges that come up, to stay relevant,” opines Joseph. The structure of the practice itself underwent a change, when in 2007, it became a partnership with offices in Calicut, Kochi and Bengaluru, with Mohandas P, Devaraj M, Rajesh KA, George Seemon and Anupama as partners.
Now, the fourth prong of its ‘Be sincere’ mandate — the larger context — is something the award-winning firm is increasingly concerned about. “As a practice, we are…looking more at the larger picture and not seeing projects in isolation,” reveals the architect. “We feel that this is very important in the present scenario, where there is a lot of cosmopolitan thinking with increased exposure to global ideas. This is something our practice is responding to.”
However, with global exposure comes a glut of visual seduction. “Practitioners get…influenced by the imagery alone, without understanding the concepts behind the designs and the context it responds to,” says Joseph. “The challenge would be to ensure that all of us take inspiration from the underlying ideas and thought processes and not merely follow the imagery alone.”

Looking Back

The Kumarakom Lake Resort and the Vythiri resort were two projects which had a significant impact on the practice. Kumarakom Lake Resort was an attempt to showcase the splendour of traditional Kerala architecture. Vythiri resort, on the other hand, was a harbinger in developing Wayanad
as a tourist destination.

Looking forward

Stapati is working on the master-planning of townships as well as designing some interesting hospitality projects where they are able to explore new concepts and experiment with newer materials. They are also designing a boutique art hotel in Kochi in collaboration with artist Bose Krishnamachari.

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