Architect and designer Krithika Subrahmanian whose diverse portfolio ranges from hotels, spas, villas and apartments to retail showrooms, corporate offices and hospitals, talks about aesthetics and architecture, as well as blending Eastern and Western sensibilities.
What is your design mantra?
In architecture, there is no ‘formula’. We offer a unique, individual design for each site, aiming for elegance and timeless appeal in forms and spaces. I don’t believe in a stereotypical style, because then you're only copying yourself, and the chances are you will get comfortable replicating it. In all our designs, the end user or client is the most important, and the one common thread (in the homes we’ve designed) is a Zen-like spiritual calm.
What’s your take on glass, concrete and Western sensibilities in the midst of Indian architecture?
It is possible to blend glass and concrete with edgy Indian or Asian aesthetics; I do it all the time. If I’m asked to design what I like – and I’m asked to quite often – it will be contemporary Indian/Asian aesthetics. We use local material, crafts and craftsmanship; stone inlay, stone relief work, wood jaalis. When they are used as accessories, to highlight and finish a contemporary building, the result is stunning.
Would you ever compromise on aesthetics in architecture, say, to keepcosts down?
Spending more is not necessarily doing it better. We have been able to deliver extremely aesthetic buildings at low costs; we simply had to think things through and design with sensitivity. I think it’s also very important not to compromise functionality because unless you engineer aesthetics to go with functionality, you won’t make a product that serves a purpose. And what’s the point in it looking good if it is of no use?
What has been your most satisfying project?
The archival museum for Baghwan Sri Ramana Maharishi at Sri Ramanasramam Tiruvannamalai is to date one of my most spiritually satisfying work experiences. I have worked with my team on over 1100 completed projects and yet that work makes me smile. The other was recreating a Thanjavur-style village for a resort near Kumbakonam. It was hard but satisfying work, set in a coconut grove with 580 trees. We cut less than 50 trees and put up 1 lakh sq. ft of space, dispersed over 12 acres, thereby retaining the entire natural landscaping. From day one, the project looked natural, and there is not a single non-indigenous plant there.
What trends do you foresee in Chennai residential spaces?
Indians are now frequently travelling all over the world, and would like the same products and accessories used in Singapore, UK or the US. We, therefore, source material from across the globe, and I believe there is no difference in quality between a home and a 5-star hotel anymore. It’s also good to see that we’ve now become very sensitive about maintaining spaces, we’re slowly becoming ‘space proud’.