How did you come up with the name of your studio?
After graduating from SPA in 2002, and working in the profession for a couple of years, I came across a sports complex design competition floated by HUDA. Vishal and I, classmates from SPA, decided to collaborate for this competition. The competition was a success, and we were among the top three finalists. However, the project was shelved after that. Nevertheless, the journey of working together was an enjoyable experience for us and thus, came in the idea to partner for practice. We progressed from friends to eventual partners, thus cementing the partnership further to form ‘Envisage’.
‘Envisage’ means to visualise, contemplate or conceive. That is precisely what we try and enable – visualising and creating dream spaces for our clients. The idea behind the name was to signify what we are capable of and the essence of what we do. We do not deal with one particular typology, but our main forte is to envision our client’s needs and preferences that they cannot perceive. This is what our studio name stems from.
What determined your passion for design? Tell us about the moment when you decided this is the way to go.
One of the best things about being an architect or a designer is to see your creations come to life. It might be a long process, but the satisfaction we get during the process fuels our passion to do more. Working as an architect also helps us build connections with people, and gives shape to our imagination based on what our clients have in their minds. Since our profession builds something tangible and permanent, it impacts and affects every common person. The built environment plays a crucial role in our experiences, and the feedback we receive from our clients years later after the project is completed makes the effort worth it.
What kind of projects were you doing when you first started as a designer?
We set up our formal operations out of Delhi in 2006. The first project that came our way was an office at Connaught Place. The project was given to us to treat it as a turnkey operation since the client did not have the bandwidth to deal with multiple parties. Similar requests came forth quite often in our next couple of endeavours as well.
Thus, we began our journey of doing design and build projects. The USP of our duo has been our distinct individual approaches and forte in architectural projects. My (Meena’s) strength lies in the design and quick solutions for any given situation, while Vishal’s forte lies in cost control and highly effective planning and implementation. This has worked well for us, and soon we started implementing a sizable number of turnkey residences and offices both. Doing residences meant establishing a personal rapport with most of our clients who eventually have kept returning to us with more significant projects and have given us a great word of mouth publicity.
Thus, we landed our first institutional project at Una, Himachal Pradesh, in 2007. This was a milestone year as we started embarking on large-scale projects, set up our first office in South Delhi, and got back to the SPA to teach design. In 2013, Envisage established its Chennai presence and delved into hospitality interiors execution with Holiday Inn express at Mahindra World City and OMR. In 2019, we shifted from the Delhi base to our current address in Gurugram.
What field of design are you most interested in?
Each design field has its own beauty. For us, it is the architectural and interior design which interests us the most. In interior design, you get to see the projects come up in shorter duration, which gives us the satisfaction and the motivation to keep experimenting. In architectural design, it is the scale of the project, which creates interest. It portrays our capability to put something big together.
What is your favourite book/magazine on design? How about your favourite site?
My favourite design magazine is Architectural Digest, and the site is Archdaily. Both these platforms are consistent in the content they put out and surely worth reading.
What is your Signature Style?
I would categorise it as a part of me that is continuously evolving. It would be a disappointment to look back ten years from today and see myself still having a similar approach to projects. Today, the materials are evolving, clients ask for unique and fresh perspectives, then why not us? Our designs result from a collaborative approach towards the client’s style preference and aesthetic interpretation.
Another important aspect of our designs is the inclusion of natural light and ventilation. We give this the highest priority in each of our projects and use it to the fullest potential, whether exterior or interior. As architects, we can mould spaces to utilise the resources to our best advantage. For instance, at an upcoming residence in Mayur Vihar, we have tried to incorporate this by replacing the old windows, repositioning the doors and keeping the number of colours limited, thus ensuring that the light comes into the heart of the house.
What inspires you to thrive in this industry? Which piece of architecture inspires you the most.
Frank Gehry’s work has been a constant inspiration to us. His buildings show there is no end to learning, and what we have learnt today is the tip of the iceberg. Using expression and emotion to enrich his buildings, his philosophy has always forced us to ask ‘Why not’. We look up to his work in terms of complexity and details and also to BV Doshi on how simple architecture can be. Both the extremities are inspiring and motivate us to do better.
From your point of view, is design an art or a science?
Design cannot be explained as anyone domain; it combines both art and science and is interlinked together. Design is a solution that thrives because it takes inspiration from both the head and soul. To have empathy in design, it is important to think from the heart, but the practical solution must come from the head. Weaker the boundaries between the two domains, better it will be for the profession.
If you had no limits (money, resources), what would you create?
Our profession is one of the significant contributors to environmental pollution and largely responsible for its destruction. Usually, we tend to find the cheapest materials and resources for construction, not caring about its impact on the environment. If there was no dearth of resources or money, I would try and create the least intrusive architectural building typologies to live in using alternative materials that help merge the buildings with nature and are environmentally friendly.
What advice do you have for young designers or architects reading this interview?
My advice to the young designers and professionals would be to see design as a passion, and not a 9 to 5 job. It is an extension of you and a constant companion. If you want to get into this field or are in it, accept it wholeheartedly. Stay deeply committed and passionate towards it and strive to learn more every day. Design is a field in which we are students all our lives. Keep looking for things to learn and incorporate in your practice, and keep your observation skills at an all-time high.
Firm/Studio Name – Envisage
Spokespersons – Meena Murthy Kakkar, Design Head and Partner, Envisage ;
Vishal Kakkar, Business Head and Partner, Envisage