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Bold and young start-ups

Split level design at Gayatri's residence  

Non-fussy designs

If Gayatri Gunjal had not found her calling in design and architecture, she would have been wielding a hockey stick or a badminton racquet. “In Class 10, I was a State-level badminton player and a National-level junior hockey player,” says Gunjal, who forfeited a career in sports and propelled by family concerns, pursued academics.

Keen on merging the arts and sciences, Gunjal opted for CEPT, Ahmedabad, to study architecture but later moved to NID to study industrial design. Later, while designing products for Kyocera in Bengaluru, Gunjal found the corporate approach cosmetic and aloof. “I wanted to get my hands messy and do something physically challenging and more personal.” She then moved to Domus, Milan, to study living design. Over there, she was exposed to diverse practitioners and imbibed the Italian predisposition for design. A chance to work with designer Ferragamo led to her collaborating on a successful hospitality endeavour.

Back in Chennai, after her first project for a neighbour’s home making playful accoutrements for a child’s room, Gunjal scored accolades for Old Madras Baking Company, jointly designed with two other architects. In 2013, she launched her own design firm — Yellow Sub — for architecture and interiors. Her design for the Indian Type Foundry office in Ahmedabad, garnered wide appreciation.

Not enamoured by overly opulent styles, Gunjan admires Chennai’s diverse culture. She says, “I like clean lines and materials without fussy embellishments.” Her home is the perfect showcase for her design philosophy. She transformed a run-down penthouse apartment into a cosy living space introducing a split-level mezzanine with a library loft. She extended a pergola over the terrace and opened up the windows of the living room for a wide view of the sea. Gunjal’s personalised style is evident in details of quirky shelving and a mirror resembling a pineapple wedge. Her passion for nature comes through in creating variegated textures as tiles interspersed with pebbles in the bathroom and generous use of wood and stone.

Driven by a love for the mountains and the outdoors, Gunjal is a resilient trekker. Her most recent trip was a 17,500 feet high climb to the Pin Parvati Pass. This need for challenge, meeting obstacles and setting directions has equally emerged in her designs.

Contemporary and minimal

“I was always interested in learning how designs on paper transform into living, breathing spaces”, says architect Suraksha Bhatia, the proud co-winner of an inventive hi-rise she designed with Sharan Sundar for the 2015 eVolo Skyscraper competition. The ‘Shanty-Scraper’ they designed aims to provide a unique solution for the fishermen of Nochikuppam, and addresses the issue of relocation of slums.

Bhatia has always been at the cusp of design trends, pushing the building envelope. While in her final year in the School of Architecture and Planning, Chennai, she found herself researching ecological architecture. “I wanted to understand the science behind sustainability and the engineering behind architecture. How is energy consumed and water used in a building so people don’t end up using air-conditioning more than necessary?”

Her postgraduate studies in Sustainable Environmental Design from the Architectural Association, School of Architecture, U.K. took her down this path, learning to quantify daylight, temperature and energy consumption, to actually rate these parameters with analytical tools. Her inspiration is architect Ken Yeang ‘father of tropical high-rise design’, who was instrumental in developing the bioclimatic skyscraper. After almost three years in Singapore with a start-up firm, Bhatia returned to practice in Chennai. Her apartment designed in a plush and contemporary style speaks for itself. Bhatia opened up smaller windows to get as much natural light in. Her care for durable material choices show in details as the black window sections imported from Belgium. For the living room and bedroom walls, she selected wallpaper with intriguing 2D designs that appear 3D. Most of the furniture is designed by her and custom-made at a specialised set-up at Bangalore. Imported classic Barcelona chairs add a signature touch. The third bedroom is converted to a home theatre with windows acoustically sealed; floors are laid with laminate composite panels, which are anti-termite. The red recliner couches were specially ordered through cinema-furniture fabricators.

The entire interior is contemporary and minimal with a light and airy feel to it. Bhatia is in the process of setting up her firm, Midori Architects. She aims to combine her expertise in environmental architectural with design. “With all these ideas ingrained, buildings can be designed robustly to perform well for 100 years. At the end of the day design is a powerful tool to express yourself,” she says.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 10:44:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/bold-and-young-startups/article8004343.ece

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