A much-awaited day-long knowledge and networking forum, the 7th iGen Design Forum was an unqualified success

Rafiq Azam being felicitated by Mohit Hajela (group head – Business Development, Jaquar Group) after he delivered his poetic keynote address called ‘Only heart can touch the sky’.

Being counted as one of the 50 young and dynamic professionals who are trailblazers in the field is certainly a matter of pride. However, the recognition of a title like iGen means a responsibility too – for a greater journey has now begun, one that invites the best efforts and design intentions. Of course, these young architects and designers are not alone in their quest for meaningful work. This was amply evident at the the iGen Design Forum 2018, organised by Architect and Interiors India and ITP Media at Hotel Sahara Star, Mumbai, on June 22nd. The fresh crop of talent found themselves among notable architects (role models to many of them) in an environment that celebrated innovation and ingenuity.
The forum was truly an enriching event, where the iGens got to interact with architects like Sanjay Puri, iconic Bangladeshi architect Rafiq Azam, Yatin Pandya, Christopher Charles Benninger, Conrad Gonsalves, Tony Joseph, London-based designer Claudia Danelon, and a host of other well-known architects and designers. A fertile ground for discussion about ideas, professional struggles and even healthy debate, the event once again opened our minds to new concepts, effective design approaches, and ideals on which practices can build their future. Every architect who graced the stage shared a common denominator: they are truly passionate about architecture and motivated to pursue good design at all costs.
Passion and motivation were the exact themes on which Puri and Azam (founder & architect, Shatotto Architecture for Green Living) began the event when they came together on stage for an illuminating tête-à-tête. Puri enquired about Azam’s professional journey, his thoughts on the state of education, and how one can best respond to the unique challenges we face in the subcontinent. In response, Azam began by admitting that he wanted to be an artist initially. However, family pressure made him choose architecture as a substitute, and he almost quit architecture school because of poor grades. But when his family house was about to be rebuilt, it was his mother who opened his eyes to the impact of architecture in people’s lives.

Speakers and delegates had much to absorb during the day-long event.

When the architects of their family home submitted a new plan that didn’t include their old courtyard and garden, his mom felt it was akin to robbing her of many fond family memories associated with the space. “I came to architecture for the sake of my mother’s memories. I wanted to design the house and capture all the memories we had,” recalled Azam. This emotional motivation was all he needed to excel. While school taught him the functional requirements of a space, the real essence of architecture (“the poetry, humanity, memories”) was learnt from his mother.
Modern education barely impacts you like real-life circumstances do, to push the boundaries and excel, agreed Puri and led the discussion towards the quality of education. Admitting he is concerned about young architects and students in the subcontinent, Azam pointed out that we have a diverse culture, different climates, topographical varieties – but do we respond to this richness adequately? Globalisation brings with it some benefits, but it also imposes on us certain trends that are alien to us. That’s why, Azam believes, as much as the issue of right education is important, “unlearning is also important. Learning can sometimes corrupt us, you have to unlearn and correct yourself.”

pecial guest speaker Sanjay Puri (SPA) being felicitated by Sunil Khatwani (LG) and Indrajeet Saoji (ITP Media).

There are colleges who teach well, admitted Puri, but the world outside stands in contrast to the idealism one imbibes at the institution level. The pace of construction has increased monumentally, projects are being built in a shorter time span, most projects are also privately owned and built solely for commercial gain. Market and private clients dictate the quality of work at the end of the day. Azam agreed that schools have to follow certain ideology/philosophy, as they serve as guidelines – but that also creates a tunnel vision. If that view is widened, it remains just a wider tunnel. “Life is basically a balance; you walk on a rope across the line of humanity, and you need something to hold – that’s your ideology.” Different schools imbibe different philosophies and, when we come together, we have a panoramic view, highlighted the architect.
Azam then went on to explain that architects are supposed to be heroes who create something worthwhile in society, but nowadays they are heroes at face value while the real work is done by others. The profession isn’t solely meant to provide clients with good ROI, but it must also contribute to the well-being of society in the process. Poor designs have a significant consequence. A bad book can be ignored, but a bad built design damages the ecosystem (“birds, butterflies are gone”), said Azam; it alters human behaviour and the quality of life.
Many young architects/students do want to live by such noble aspirations, pointed out Puri, but in the end clients are not supportive of such endeavours. “The answer is to fight for it. Yes, it’s a losing battle, but it’s better to do one good job than to do 100 bad jobs.” To which Azam agreed that there is indeed a dearth of good opportunities, but the young generation may use this as an excuse to pursue something less than ideal. His advice to them was to have patience, passion and persistently create good designs so that they can be real heroes.
Talking about global participation, Puri mentioned how there is no Indian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2018; overall, participation of Indian architects on international platforms and competitions is rather minimal. Azam opined that the diversity in the country – whether it is languages, culture, or even architecture – probably makes it difficult for Indian architects to go outside of themselves. Diversity, however, shouldn’t limit us. According to him, Rabrindranath Tagore is a perfect example to emulate; he was a national figure whose art celebrated local ethos and culture – and yet, he was loved all over the world.

(L-R) Panel 1 members: Premal Zaveri, Pavitra Sriprakash, Zubin Zainuddin, Prem Nath, Anubhav Gupta, Barun Chowdhury, Sachin Goregaoker, Darshan Medhi and Abhishek Mathur.

An Exchange of Culture and Ideas
Right after this discussion, the Bangladeshi architect presented his notable projects in his keynote address titled ‘Only heart can touch the sky’. It was a treat following Azam’s conceptual thoughts and learning about the social impact of his designs. Starting with the project that led him back to architecture, he not only honoured his mother’s desire for a nature-centric home, but also ended up designing the first home in Bangladesh to have a fully-functional garden on the first floor. This inspired other architects in the region to include green spaces at floor level.
Culture and local ethos are central to Azam’s design process, which make him question the meaning of globalisation. When the concept just entered developing nations, he said, “We thought globalisation is something beautiful…it is going to globalise trust, respect, economic growth, humanity… make the world a beautiful place. But immediately, we realised we globalised war, disrespect, distrust… gradually, we have seen the death of humanity.” Instead of making us more civilised, we lost humanity. Architects are in a unique position to address this reality, but for that they need to understand what architecture really is. “One of my favourite artists was looking at my watercolour paintings and said: ‘Rafiq, architecture is something like this, the quality of this painting is its transparency… you put all the colours one after another, you see layers of colours and, finally, you see the paper. In architecture, you must see the layers of the country and, finally, you must see the land. If you’ve lost the land and its landscape, that is no longer architecture’.”
Each project exemplified how Azam lives by this definition now. His work is influenced by Bangladesh’s natural beauty, its water networks and how it affects the landscape of the country over different seasons. He is a big believer of ‘localised global ideas’. When his client asked for a terrace swimming pool, he designed a swimming “pond” instead, complete with stepped levels and trees growing over the edge. This residential project looked completely one with nature, despite being located in a city with limited space. The façade, in particular, stands out because it “doesn’t scream: ‘I am rich’…but, instead, that it is natural.” Azam presents an interesting idea here. He calls terraced garden spaces anger reduction rooms, and believes it’s a must in all houses and cities as places to unwind.

Panelist Prem Nath of Prem Nath & Associates being felicitated by Khatwani of LG.

This project was well received, but Azam was challenged when someone said such designs are possible for a rich man – but can’t be replicated in a poor neighbourhood in Dhaka. Bothered by this remark, the architect took a proactive stance and approached an old building in Dhaka that was in need of repairs, and offered to refurbish the space with minimum to no structural changes, and free of cost. The three-storeyed building with multiple tenants stood on a narrow space, but Azam says “small house doesn’t mean small hope,” and his design gave every house the benefit of a green space on each floor.
Azam also shared a fascinating take on boundary walls and what it communicates to society, and about society. He recalled growing up in old Dhaka, where houses didn’t have boundaries – but a raised plinth and steps where one could sit and kids could play. It was inviting and it communicated the level of trust people shared with each other. Today, we have high walls, further fortified with barbed wire, guard dogs, sometimes even guns to keep it secure. Yet, people are insecure and unhappy. The architect suggested making boundary walls “vulnerable” and inviting. For instance, a large glass and concrete boundary wall in one of his projects provides the much-needed security, but it also shares the green landscape with the street. Similarly, stepped levels and greenery in a residential project ensure privacy while eliminating any need for an imposing barricade. “You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself and you can change your design,” Azam concluded.

Birth of a design
The Red Dot award is one of the most coveted awards, and the audience at the 7th iGen

L-R) Panel 2 members: Yatin Pandya, Dilip Parmar, Vivek Gupta, Qutub Mandviwala, Kalhan Mattoo, Vikram Choubal and Shabbir Kanchwala.

Design Forum had a unique opportunity to learn how one of the winning products was conceptualised and executed. ’Designing Emotions − A journey from concept to design award’ presented by Claudia Danelon, founder, Danelon Meroni Design Studio, gave a behind-the-scenes account of the making of Artize’s Tailwater faucet. Danelon started by saying that, as Italian designers working in London, they “believe creativity unifies the world.” When they approach a project, they are respectful of the brand and the client and put the company’s product design before their own identities as designers. “The product…has to represent the company before it represents us and our taste.”
When Jaquar Group commissioned them to come up with a faucet design like no other for their luxury brand Artize, they knew the answer was in unlocking the form-function relationship of the fairly traditional object to trigger some emotional impact. “Function isn’t enough anymore, and a project that is beautiful is not enough either. We needed something else.” Functionality still holds the first priority, she clarified.
Their initial inspirations came from water, its fluidity and curves, and the liquid nature of metal before it becomes a faucet. “We didn’t want to design just a beautiful abstract sculpture. We wanted a deep connection. We looked at nature. I am pleased to be speaking after Rafiq, who pointed out how nature is important. When we are in nature, we feel connected. We feel well. How could we take that beauty of nature and how it makes us feel into an industrial piece of design? The answer came while we sketched flowing shapes, experimenting free forms. Suddenly, this resemblance appeared in our sketches. We could see a bird! We didn’t really want to have a direct reproduction, of course – but a hint, so resemblance was the answer… [it clicks] something in you when you see it.”

Christopher Charles Benninger of CCBA Designs being felicitated by Hajela and Amin (Jaquar Group) with Saoji (ITP Media).

Immediately, the design team began exploring the practicality of the form. As product designers, they understand the complexity of a faucet well and began to divide the function within the free-flowing form. “The tail becomes the lever and the cartridge is housed in the bottom part. The mechanism is very intuitive, the tail shape is inviting to the touch and the mechanism is simple: forward, left and right. There is no learning process, it is natural to use this product.
“Innovation in product design, sometimes, especially when we talk about technology, brings complexities. We didn’t want any complexity, but wanted it to be natural.” Every line, edge, detail and surface was then engineered so that it is as perfect in real-life – Jaquar’s technical team worked closely with the designers from here on. The sketch was refined, starting with 3D modelling, card models, clay prototype, 3D printing and, finally, a working prototype out of aluminium.
Danelon walked us through the entire manufacturing process, from the transition of liquid metal into the tailwater form, surface polishing and addition of internal mechanisms. “Each faucet is tested because it will end up in somebody’s house, so it has to work perfectly. The final result is a jewel, a masterpiece that is perfectly aligned with Artize’s brand vision.”
Providing a complete brand experience is their forte, which is why they designed the entire flagship retail showroom for the brand around the world, mainly in Singapore, Dubai, as well as the upcoming outlets in Milan and London. “We are in a journey with Jaquar to make the brand global.” Coming to the Red Dot award, she said, “The reason we won this award is because it is a perfectly engineered piece of industrial design, and also because I believe it was somehow able to surprise, trigger emotions in the jury, like we hope it will with the public.”

Yatin Patel of DSP Design Associates was felicitated by Bibhor Srivastava, Maria Louis
and Indrajeet Saoji of ITP Media India for completing 30 years in the profession.

What makes today’s products successful both commercially and as a design piece, according to the designer, is realising that form and function are not enough anymore. “We have to work at a deeper level; create a product that intrigues, communicates, has meaning, and triggers emotions. It should make us feel better when we use it. We are pleased to apply this philosophy to all our projects, because we know our products will be used every day by people. If we give a little joy or smile when you wake up in the morning and use your tap, that will be amazing for us.” Danelon’s presentation left the audience both impressed and inspired by what they had witnessed.

Guest speakers along with the audience enjoy an icebreaker during the event.

Power of Collaboration
There’s nothing like a good lively discussion and debate to keep the momentum. The first panel discussion – Battle Royale or Team Work? – has been a crowd favourite over the years. Moderator Premal Zaveri began the discussion by inviting Prem Nath to highlight the dynamics of working with a large team and the changes he has witnessed over the years. There are many stakeholders in a projects these days and most developers are looking for one-stop solutions, shared Nath. “They want a single person responsible for the whole thing. The architect has an entire team of his own, so that he can be responsible completely. If this demand persists, what happens to specialised companies?” On the flipside, certain developers approach construction agencies with design-and-build projects. “Developers are engaging large agencies to design and build, including financing – and that means the architect might become a subordinate person. An architect now has to be resourceful enough to have his team of consultants, but also needs to have resources to generate funds…arrange everything for the developer.”
Given her past international work experience, Pavitra Sriprakash mentioned, “What I have seen in other countries, predominantly in the USA as well as a little bit in the Asian market, is that there has been a kind of push towards working with several specialists. Like now, how Nath mentioned, the architect is becoming the one-stop shop, whereas there the idea of having larger teams working towards a cohesive project was something that already existed. The management of these projects would come under either the developer or the project manager. But very often, we’ve also got the construction companies on board so as to make sure we are working with the right building technology. The onus is not on the architect alone, but it’s more of a team-driven approach where you have really large brands of expertise on board.”
She shared how in their upcoming large-scale projects in Chennai and Dubai, a new concept of ‘master developer’ has emerged – one where a fairly large site is broken down and handed to different developers. The master developer is then responsible for the project’s cohesive vision. Working with a bigger team definitely creates a ‘battle royale’ situation, she agreed. “In the end, if you want a good product, it only comes through some amount of conflict. As long as everyone in the team is there to empower…there will always be some way to work these things out.“
One of the most recurrent themes in this discussion was brought up by Barun Chowdhury, along with a solution. “At stage one what has been visualised and at the end of the project what has been delivered, there is a huge gap – because we have been trying to put everything as a stop-gap solution. From day one, the communication was poor, so the design brief never incorporated all the aspects that need to go in delivering a project. First and foremost, the developer or master planner has to be more proactive and interactive with other stakeholders.”
One-stop solution can be an approach, but it should be led by somebody who is in the position to make decisions, he added. “Usually in the USA, a project is led by an architect, PMC or contractor – but here it is led by nobody.” Additionally, he highlighted that technology and timeframe are two aspects that are important for a successful project. Responding to these two aspects from the beginning should eliminate most of the battle. “Instead of battle royale through the lifecycle of the construction, it becomes a battle of coordination rather than a battle of principles. A ‘bible’ has been created at stage one where the systems, services, construction methods, the design, cost, all have been taken care of and, whenever there are some changes, you actually get back to stage one, question the change. Then you can take a decision if you should go for it or not.”
It’s not a battle, but a supply-demand issue, was Anubhav Gupta’s consistent input in the discussion. He brought to light a new challenge developers are grappling with. “Suddenly, the accounting rules have changed – whereby developers would recognise profits based on construction milestones. Earlier, at 25% [completion of the project], we would recognise profit of sold real estate. Now, it’s on OC (occupation certificate), which essentially means developers will now have to design and deliver buildings quicker.” Solving this issue brings its own chaos and conflict. On the design front, standardisation becomes a hot topic, whereas the construction side is plagued with poor labour and lack of technological solutions.
Sharing another example, Gupta mentioned, “The government has come up with a scheme for affordable housing where they are giving a tax break. Developers are thinking: how do I make these small units − 30sq-m in Mumbai and 60sq-m in the outskirts? Firstly, no one has questioned if it’s functional. It’s expensive for a developer to make a smaller unit, because it makes for inefficiency in a building. Now you are doing the math between the tax break and the building, and a lot of times the architect may not be empathetic to that situation.
“These are real problems and both sides are needed. It’s a supply and demand issue. The quicker we adapt, the better the value chain will work.” For Godrej Properties, having an in-house design studio who work with architects or planners to produce intellectual properties, has helped created a better work relationship. “Architects and designers are now on all sides. They work with developers, architects, contractors – and the idea is that you have to find win-win solutions. It needs to be a collaborative effort.”
For an industry that is constantly evolving and adapting, Darshan Medhi believes, “Rather than looking at it as a battle, we (should) look at it as an opportunity…Unless we win this battle together, we will not be able to move on to the next stage of work.” The demand for an innovative design still rests on the architect, and Medhi is optimistic that Indian architects will deliver impressive affordable housing projects in the coming years. However, that process will indeed be fraught with several small battles. Different procurement methods are just ways to make the new change adaptable to society, he maintained, adding that all the stakeholders have to remember that innovation is the key.
Going back to Chowdhury’s point, Abhishek Mathur reiterated, “The clearer the brief is at the start of the project, the better it is to design. We try to write a manifesto about what the project is about – and that has to permeate through our branding, marketing of the project, (identifying) the key demographic we have to cater to…” Be clear about the objectives from the beginning, he stressed. And instead of rushing to find solutions, spend time to draft a well-thought-out brief. Also, inputs from architects are beneficial from the beginning, because “creative people need to have a stake at the table when decisions are made.”
Talking about design processes, Sachin Goregaoker pointed out that changes in a team mid-way in a project could result in unnecessary road blocks. He suggested, “There should be a sign-off stage when (one part of) the work is done and that stage is over, you sign-off and move on. You cannot just keep going back and forth, you have to move ahead.” Building the right team, therefore, becomes key, said Zubin Zainuddin. “You cannot expect the client alone to develop a good brief, you have to step in,” he added. “Every stakeholder must recognise that the objective is common – to succeed and create a good project. Instead of different collaborative teams working in isolation and only for their sole goal, it helps to work towards a common goal.”
In the end, Gupta made a valid concluding point: “The real estate industry is fraught with some level of fluidity and change, whether it is approvals or market. These are realities of life. One can sit and complain about it, but [we should instead] try and do the best that is possible.”

Christopher Benninger, Tony Joseph, Vivek Gupta and Yatin Patel.

Probing Sustainability
Expect Yatin Pandya, an architect brimming with ideas and thoughts, to set the right tone for a discussion. For the topic ‘Design to sustain or scale: Designing for diversified India’, Pandya began with a brief presentation highlighting how architecture is about living life as well as translating life. ”The most basic level of education is information. When information is understood, it becomes knowledge; and when knowledge has the ability to discern between appropriate and inappropriate, it becomes wisdom; and when wisdom is (approached) with values, it becomes intuitive – then it becomes sanskar.” He strongly believes that design is not about finding one answer to one question. it is about finding many questions and many answers, then picking one answer that best responds to most of the questions. In doing so, don’t just imitate Corbusier, Kahn, Zaha Hadid and be their clones. Instead, he recommended five principles to adhere to: timeless aesthetics, social context/appropriateness, resource management, economic affordability and structural strength.
Pandya invited the panel members on stage and began by asking what is sustainability according to them. Dilip Parmar replied that sustainability is about “people first”, wherein individuals must take responsibility to reduce their negative impact on the environment. The issues plaguing the planet, particularly energy consumption, should be addressed next, then comes profit – we ought to make green useful and beneficial for all. Architect Vivek Gupta acknowledged that architects are, in fact, “the biggest blunderers of resources,” considering building construction leads to most emissions. “We are hungry for new material, not realising that materials that already exist are sustainable,” he added. Sustainability should be in-built in an architect, no matter what the scale of projects. His advice to the younger generation of architects is not to limit themselves, especially with labels such as activist architect, chic urban architect or architect for masses. Within a single practice, they can create design solutions for a gamut of projects.
Continuing on the definition of sustainability, Qutub Mandviwala felt mapping things back to history helps. “Sustainability will last with time, and history is best indicator of those practices. It will lead you forward.” While agreeing with this thought, Kalhan Mattoo offered some fresh perspective on the topic. “I always say that the Vitruvian principles of beauty always fails in comparison with the Indian principle Satyam Shivam Sundaram – which has an element of morality to it.” But disagreeing with Gupta, he said architects carried too much burden when it comes to following Green principles. In many ways, it is a Western concept. Sustainability, according to him, is fundamentally taking care of ourselves – something that Indians have done diligently with minimum resources. To the point that he believes it is “arrogant” to think that we, as individuals, are completely responsible for how the world ought to be. Instead, he suggests, keep your own practices sustainable – such that you can pay your bills – and within this framework build good designs.
Admitting that the word sustainability has been beaten to death, Gupta highlighted that the role of an architect is to bring in efficiency in the structures they build. Making the designs economically viable, is where sustainability comes into play. “Like Chowdhury said earlier, it is all about quality at the end of the day, that is what translates into sustainability. You maintain the standard…”

iGens being sporting during the icebreaker.

As a developer, Shabbir Kanchwala approaches sustainability with an end goal in mind. “Sustainability, for us, is when an IT employee working in a Green office has reduced absenteeism” because of a healthier work environment. Besides ensuring that the buildings they create have better energy and water management systems, and are economically profitable, the well-being of the people is crucial – no matter the scale, location or if it’s a new or a retrofit project.
Leading the discussion to a new realm, Pandya remarked, “Sustainability has many shades…but one often neglects the cultural sustainability, the social appropriateness or the individual value. How do architects account for individual dreams within design?” Naturally, this led to an intense discussion with differing views. Mattoo, who has built his practice by creating unconventional designs, feels creativity cannot be restricted and one should be allowed to explore new design languages even if they are in departure to prevailing understanding or norms. Gupta, however, stressed that architecture remains a social art, it cannot be about someone’s ‘signature’. He is sceptical about trends within the industry, where a building can be identified based on its designer. He strongly objected to it, saying, “isms are over!”

Sanjay Puri, Kalhan Mattoo, Dilip Parmar, Vivek Gupta and Yatin Pandya enjoy a candid conversation at the start of the forum.

Innovation and Technology
“Innovation cannot happen without technology,” was moderator Jimmy Mistry’s first statement when he led the panel for ‘Design, Innovation & Technology: Trinity of Success’. The challenge, he noted, is how does one leverage design innovation and technology in an Indian project within the prevalent fee structure. Vivek Bhole has made technology an ally in his design. He has learnt coding over the years, which has helped him deliver accurate designs quickly – all with the help of algorithms and new software. Nandini Sampat agreed that educating oneself every single day is crucial, because technology has to be applied across projects, be it high-tech campuses or an earthquake rehabilitation project.

pecial guests at the forum enriched the event with their presence and valuable inputs.

For Yatin Patel, having the right data could be a game changer. “We have a research cell within the firm that studies global workplace strategies and we use technology to feed data to us, which is the primary requirement to start any design.” With this information at hand, they guide clients in coming up with a workable, practical design brief. “We use technology to determine how your space is utilised in a particular fashion in this particular time, and for so much amount of time by so many people. In doing that, we are able to get accurate data which will help us design appropriate spaces.”
Working at Hafeez Contractor’s office, Karl Wadia has seen the transition to a technology-enabled practice and, more prominently, he has seen it impact the scale of projects. Because of technology, projects are getting bigger and better, besides making it possible to build more unconventional designs. However, “the basic methods of designing involving sketching hasn’t changed,” noted Wadia. “We use technology to a great extent to speed up our work…Technology is more widely used in architecture and building construction, but it needs to be used across disciplines.”
In his experience, Rohit Suraj has seen that “what we are up against most of the time, is time itself.” Design, he said, is developed as a response to the brief; innovation comes in when you are looking for new solutions in place of existing models – and in all this “technology, really, is the enabler.” It helps one to achieve scale and gather information in an organised manner, he declared.
Dev Malhotra from Jaquar couldn’t agree more. As a brand that is growing internationally, adoption of technology is necessary, and they look globally for the best possible solution. “We are reaching 40+ countries and we are learning. The idea of bringing in good technology, innovation and design is to offer a very good product, a very good solution.”

. This group of iGens and design students were thrilled to interact with Christopher Benninger in person.

As pioneers in innovative design, Talati and Panthaky are definitely not shying away from technology. Jay Shah informed, “We are fascinated by 3D printing. It can save costs and labour by 50%.” Conventional methods can be restrictive; it determines one way way to build, and it may not be able to go beyond its set parameters. “Technology gives an architect the possibility to execute [varied] forms. That is the future of building technology.” In fact, the practice recently delivered a 3D printing prototype in Dubai. It was a 3,500 sq-ft functional office, which was executed by one person on site. Later, the finishing contractors completed the interior aspects. Even with this major exploration in new technology, the architects “haven’t left the habit of sketching.”
At LG, innovation is intrinsically tied to Green thinking. Sunil Khatwani spoke about their new philosophy called Greenovation – Green innovation, which has enabled the company to create environment-friendly solutions. While doing so, they are also addressing other concerns: ACs that don’t affect the ceiling height, less noisy systems, and reduced power bills. The efforts have been rewarding. “In 2017, we took a call that all our split air conditioners will be inverter based and Green. We took a big risk – but today, we hold almost 59% market share in that segment.”
Technology should definitely be more accessible. To strengthen that view, Jimmy Mistry recounted, “About ten years back, I visited Thomas Heatherwick’s office in London. He took me around the office…he not only had the printing facilities, but also the CNC routers and other machines. They were playing with form and function, and that is the reason why every single product or project from their studio is unique and outstandingly different. This doesn’t happen by default. They physically make the model…go on to prototyping stage one, stage two and then deliver the results. This what is missing in our Indian firms.”
As an architect who explores computational design on a regular basis, [last year’s iGen] Sushant Verma agreed that there’s a huge opportunity in prototyping in India. “What our organisation does is work on collaborative projects where we use design technologies that help (architects) reach their vision.” But he has observed that most designers, unfortunately, hate technology (because it makes them feel outdated) and end up using it at a base level; 80% of Indian firms are still in 2D drafting phase, and globally only 5% of architects are using the best and latest technology. “We don’t have the means to use these technologies, but there are also myths associated with them. We associate computation and parametric designs as crazy forms and twisting geometries, but there’s more to it.”
Amidst this discussion, Sampat made an interesting observation – one that is a fitting conclusion and worthy of reflection. There are many exciting things out there, she pointed out, but we have to adapt to the world we live in. Modern technology must also take into account the knowledge and skill of our carpenters and labourers. Technology should benefit and work with our cultural set-up, only then it can be holistic and design can make the most of it. It’s a positive affirmation that designers have within their reach the best ideas and the means to build on them. The opportunity is to take these inspirations back home and make the most of it, she believes.
We are confident that our iGens will take all the learning – and unlearning – from this event, and continue to produce exemplary designs. Meanwhile, it was time to celebrate their idealism, inspirations and innovations by applauding them as they were felicitated on stage and congratulating them as they networked with their peers, seniors and the sponsors.

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