At 57, UCJ Architecture & Environment still hasn’t lost focus. The practice, which was established in 1961 by Uttam C Jain, still engages — as it did in the beginning — in educational, institutional and public projects, and has always aspired to produce contextually-rooted and people-centric work. “Architecture…touches the lives of one and all in such an intimate manner, that it is imperative for it to benefit and improve the quality of life. Our constant endeavour is toward this — be it the use of material, quality of spaces we create or technology we employ. Working with local craftsmen, regionally available materials, and a variety of clients – which varied from region to region — provided us with a great learning opportunity whilst making the work contextually relevant,” says Chirag Jain, who joined his father’s practice in 2000 along with wife Shona.
While the firm’s core principles and project focus remain constant, the scale of projects has certainly magnified, and the pace at which projects are expected to be delivered has increased. “Future developments in architecture and interior design shall be driven by the information technology age… Understanding and accepting these ever-changing scenarios, while interpreting them toward a better design without losing sight of the context — be it architectural, climatic, social or cultural — will determine how successful we are,” says the post-graduate from Architectural Association, London.
However, although the practice does depend on technological tools and resources to accelerate timelines and provide a sustainable response, “at the centre of our efforts is a thrust to handcraft the projects we build,” says Shona, a Master of Architecture in Architectural Design (Distinction) from The Bartlett School of Architecture.
UCJ Architecture & Environment’s recent projects have been located across geographically and culturally diverse territories – Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, in addition to continued projects in western and central India. And although these may be unified by sustainability and the use of technology, “these are not ends in themselves,” exhorts the duo. “The experience one provides to the end user needs to be at the core of how we shape the built-environment.”

Looking Back

The University of Jodhpur, with a number of buildings built over a span of 30-odd years, continues to be a constant reference point for the practice, for its enduring relevance to the work they seek to produce and a truly sustainable built-form (that did not need modern gadgets in order to prop it up).

Looking forward

The IIT campus in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, on which team UCJ Architecture & Environment has been working on for the last six years, is now in its final phase of construction, much to their delight. The complexities of the programme itself, the hilly terrain and logistics of accessibility have all contributed to the learning curve.

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