Indian architecture scene is sad, rues Aamby Valley architect
By Shilpa Raina for Thaindian.
He is the man who recreated the luxurious living experience of America’s Beverly Hills with the famous Aamby Valley project in Maharashtra. But Bobby Mukherji believes that post-independence Indian architecture has little to be proud of.
“We have shown people enough monuments and architecture from history, but what have we done after independence? Nothing! If you look around, we lure the West with monuments made in the Moghul era. After that it’s zilch,” Mukherji, who is in his 30s, told IANS.
“I would like to do something for today,” he said.
Perhaps he already has – by designing the master plan of Aamby Valley in Lonavala, Maharashtra, which is spread over 10,000 acres of land and offers all facets of luxury living. It took shape during 1998-2003.
“It was one of my most challenging assignments because the whole idea was to build a high-end residential area in a hilly and unexplored terrain. At that time we didn’t have Google earth to navigate, hence we had to take help from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to source satellite images,” said Mukherji in an interview.
“I still remember that we had to pay them Rs.40,000 for a picture and we took around eight pictures from them to finalise where to build houses, dams, lakes, etc.,” he added.
Based in Mumbai, he was in the capital on a business visit.
Mukherji started his design consultancy Bobby Mukherji and Associates (BMA) in 1993 and he has ever since been associated with many high-end luxury projects like Le Meridien hotel in Delhi and Lalit Group of hotels.
Talking about the Indian architecture industry, Mukherji said the scene is very “sad”.
“Unfortunately, the scene is very sad and one can blame the education system because the design courses that are offered in the country are not at all up to the mark. Also, they are very expensive courses and not everyone can afford it,” elaborates Mukherji who passed out of the Academy College of Architecture, Mumbai.
“To compete with international standards, one has to go out and explore. You can’t just make designs unless you have seen some great work. And the problem is that we don’t have such great work that would inspire young people to excel. We still have a long way to go,” he added.
Mukherji who has been in this business for over 15 years reveals that international architects still hold monopoly in the Indian market when it comes to major projects in the hotel industry.
“Today around 90 percent of big infrastructure projects are done by foreign architects because when someone is investing millions in a project, they want to get the returns as well. If the design aspect of their project is poor, they face losses. This has happened in the past; hence companies stay away from Indian architects,” Mukherji explained.
“These architects are mainly from Singapore, London, Los Angeles, New York. Even though it costs like crazy to communicate and coordinate with them as they are sitting miles away, for a major project you can’t take a chance,” he said.
Mukherji also emphasised that a client has to have trust in an architect’s work and design aesthetics.
“There are times when I give crazy ideas to my clients and they are skeptical about it. But they trust me blindly and when they see the final product, they are happy. Today I am here because my clients trusted me and gave me the freedom to experiment,” he said.
“They understood the designer’s language and that is what helps in building world-class projects,” he added.