Q: Where are you from?
I am from Bombay, India (or Mumbai as they now call it!). After working out of there for a few years, I moved to Bangalore to work with this awesome studio. This was a fresh start into small scale architecture; refreshing different from the developer-driven architecture that dominates big cities like Bombay. Bangalore was great and I met my husband there.
After five years, we moved to Prague, Czech Republic. A vacation in Prague, made me realize how much I was looking for a change, to expanding my horizons as an architect. During this trip, we both fell in love with this enchanting city – that straddled the past and present with such ease. We decided to move. For three years in Prague, we explored many parts of East Europe, made a ton of new friends, learned a new language (Czech!). Immersed in the culture of these places, as a local – we gained a new appreciation for our own roots – something one tends to take for granted in one’s native habitat.
San Francisco happened in 2011. I was ready to dive back into active practice after this sabbatical and move back to an English-speaking country. I’ve always been drawn to cities by the water and friends who had lived in SF made a strong case for it. We took a leap of faith and moved here! Eight years later, this is the longest that we’ve been in one place.
Q: Where did you go to school?
I did my schooling at St. Judes, a convent in one of the suburbs of Bombay.. Education was a huge priority for middle-class families in India. It was affordable and of reasonable quality. My parents made sure me and my siblings had access to education and a professional career of our choice. I ended up choosing architecture and went to Sir J.J.College of Architecture, the oldest architecture school in India.
The five year degree course at JJ was a big departure from the STEM focused education system of India. The course was challenging for most of us as it tries to inculcate a sensitivity; develop a sense of inquiry to navigate design decisions and an appreciation for what is aesthetic, what is beauty, why is it beautiful… All a big departure from the prescriptive nature of our early education. The scope of the course was broad – ranging from abstract principles of art, design, to scientific principles of construction through the sweeping lens of historic precedents. It took us a really long time to join the dots and make sense of the seemingly disparate aspects of the program. I do believe it takes all of those five years to understand how architecture influences, shapes and transforms everyday living.
Q: Tell me about your family
I am the youngest of three siblings. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 14. My two elder brothers have been father figures in my life since. My mom lives with my eldest brother and his family in Bombay. He is a banker, and now an entrepreneur. My other brother lives in Upstate NY and is a research scientist. Having these two brilliant siblings as role models in my childhood was a huge motivation to excel like they did. We are a tightly knitted family and we try to get together at least once a year.
Suresh and I have been married for 13 years. We met through a common circle of friends in Bangalore. We’ve both grown through our travels away from home and family. He was one of those kids that knew they wanted to work with computers from a really young age. He is a software engineer and a musician.
Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?
After getting into architecture school, I think. Indian cities, in their chaos and density, can be overwhelming. They lack the overt picturesque, curated quality of cities in the developed world. The patterns are harder to see unless one looks hard. The energy in these spaces was always evident, but it was hard to understand what made them tick, what made one feel a certain way in a public space; a temple, a small park, or the sense of refuge behind the doors of one’s own home. Architecture school gave us the tools and the vocabulary to dissect, and articulate the experience of being in a particular space. Once one knew where to look, design was all around – manifest in forms small and big. I was mostly blind to it, prior to this formal training.
Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?
I tend to gravitate towards residential projects. Considering how I’ve been doing this for a long while and how I still enjoy it, it must say something about the satisfaction I get out of that typology. There is something truly gratifying about designing for a known set of people who will live out their lives in an environment that you create for them. It is this home that gives them solitude and shelter from the outside world. You nurture and sustain a relationship with the owners through the entire process. Residential design is the best kind of collaboration, – not just with consultants and the construction team but with the end users, more so than any other building typology.
Q: How long have you worked at FA?
I started here in October 2014 so I guess around 4 years and 4 months.
Q: What makes our office unique?
I really appreciate the diversity of people and personalities in the office. I also cherish the lack of hierarchy, for the most part, which nurtures a strong sense of collaboration and lets people have their own voice. That makes for a great variety of projects that are unique and non-templated.
Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?
Getting cracking on the list of items I’ve jotted down in my head for that day.
Q: Do you have a professional role model?
There is one person that I keep going back to, whenever I hit a roadblock and I try to imagine how he would tackle it. I worked with Edgar Demello for five years during my time in Bangalore. Edgar exemplified what it meant to be an architect- a renaissance man engaged in art, music, literature, politics – all with immense thoughtfulness, backed by a wry sense of humor. A small studio that did high quality work with a strong ethical backbone. We are best friends despite being generations apart. I aspire to be like Edgar – always engaged, always passionate.
Q: Are you a sunset or sunrise type person?
I think I’m a sunset type of person. Literally because I’m not a morning person. I still feel the possibilities at sunset even as you see the sun go down, the day doesn’t stop there.
Q: What’s your design process like?
If I had to choose a word – contemplative, tentative. It starts with a collage of early impressions… of the site, the clients, their aspirations… Words that linger or impressions that stay when I’m recalling the site. Visuals… doodles. There is a sense of ponderous excitement before one touches pen to paper. Furious iterations. Eventually, it leads to something more free flowing and lucid .
It’s an iterative process… zooming in and out… being really fuzzy; about letting yourself dream about what a project wants to be, darting going closer and getting excited about individual possibilities, and looking at them anew from a distance.
Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?
My Iphone. It’s my window the world. I really am not a gadget person so that is saying a lot. Being a consummate multitasker, the phone helps me stay on top of work and what’s happening outside of work, practice on the new language I am learning. I’m a power user. I used to read a lot more books before phones became prevalent, took notes the old-fashioned way. Now it’s all on my phone!