Vaishali Jain Solanki: Director HSAAV Partner. She completed her B.Arch from L.S. Raheja School of Architecture. After graduation, she has worked as a Senior Associate at a renowned architectural firm for about 11 years, designing and managing a wide spectrum of projects from shopping malls, commercial complexes, hotels, institutions and residential towers which enhanced her design thinking concepts and enhanced her aesthetic sensibility.
Aashna Parmar: In your opinion, what is the meaning of architecture?
Vaishali Solanki: For me architecture is where I can make my imagination come true. It is my playground to experiment, create new ideas and forms. It is the art and science for setting the stage for our lives. Architecture is much more than designing pretty facades or expressive sculptures. It’s about creating man-made eco systems where we channel not only the flow of people but also the utilization of resources through our cities and buildings towards better living and sustainable lifestyles.
AP: How has your journey been and helped your career evolve? What opportunities came your way and what made you take up architecture?
VS: Since childhood I was interested in space planning. I tended to associate myself with the space structure and planning of any place I visited. As I grew up, I learned about a profession called Architecture, where I could bring my skillsets in drawing alive and I knew it was the right path for me. I worked hard to accomplish a challenging task and put in my 100%. I believe that opportunities came to me at the right time and I was able to acquire the correct exposure by working on large-scale projects and managing them efficiently. I always remained focused towards my goal of doing better and openings came along getting me closer to my goal each time.
AP: Do you think a master’s degree is necessary in today’s time or is work experience enough? What kind of courses would you recommend?
VS: A master’s degree is important as it provides one with more exposure, refines your skills and updates your knowledge bank with the new technologies. Along with personal development, it adds immense value to your portfolio as a creative personality and professional. It initiates a renewed perspective in observing things around you and broadens one’s thinking. It provides an individual with a confident orientation within this service-based system. A good balance between education and work experience is very important. Having said that, I always encourage myself and my entire team to learn new software’s to enhance their design skills digitally as well. I would recommend everyone else to take up course in new technologies related to Architecture such as Rhinoceros & Grasshopper and even BIM-Building Information Modelling as it is widely being implemented by global firms.
AP: What are your thoughts about sustainable architecture?
Sustainable Architecture is the need of the hour and as designers our responsibility towards our planet. We are never starting from scratch, we have a planet rich in resources & minerals, divided through a diverse climatic regions and landscapes. Understanding these primary existing conditions, as architects we add and subtract adapt and evolve, modify and manipulate matter to achieve conditions even more conducive to human life. Green architecture is essential to save the ecological systems of earth. Architecture is obviously inflicted by countless aspects behind climate and geography but no matter where you built, 2 aspects will always be inescapable: the environment and the social. At its core architecture is always an effort to make the existing environmental conditions more hospitable to human life. Try to bend what already exists.
AP: What do you think about the affordable housing scenario in India? How do you think architects contribute in addressing this issue?
VS: A series of regulatory and policy changes, especially over the last two years, has opened huge opportunities in the ‘Affordable Housing’ segment in India.
A lot of government schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), have been proposed to build two crore houses, including the economically weaker section and low-income groups in urban areas by the year 2022.
Affordable housing is important as it is more profitable and faster in all aspects. It is the need of time that we make smarter houses using the spaces to the best of its ability. Compact but functional and smarter houses should be the motto.
AP: What is building typology do you like designing? Which architects have inspired you and do you incorporate their design principles into your work?
VS: I like different challenges everyday so any new design is interesting for me. From retail to hospitality to high rises everything is fun and breaks my monotony.
Sir Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid and Bjarke Ingels are my favorites. I incorporate their design principles in every aspect of my design process. I idealize their work and implement it in mine every now and then. However, I like to maintain my individuality and use their work as an inspiration during my designing process.
AP: How do you create responsive design? How does the context (surroundings) affect your design process?
VS: I strongly think that whatever I design is an output of this underlying design philosophy which I truly believe in “Form follows Function”. Every design has a language in correspondence to its uses. There is no structured method of designing. The process manifests through multiple directions, in all aspects. The stakeholders, designers, architects, consultants, market rates, building authorities & Regulations are all aspects from where we gather many kinds of meanings to a formulate logical design for a form.
Understanding of the surrounding of a particular site is crucial, it provides clues to an architect. A simultaneous study of micro and macro level climatic further offers us with design strategies to implement while planning the built form. I always persuade myself and my team to be observant of such clues and keep their mind open to imagination while designing everything… be in an interior project or a large-scale university campus to residential complexes.
AP: Do you think technology has had an impact on architecture and design?
VS: Absolutely! Technology is a powerful tool that enables us designers to bring our visualization to a reality. The advancements in the digital tools & technology through the variety of software’s as mentioned earlier is a boon to the construction & development industry. In today’s time technology has enabled architects & designers to expedite the design process and deliver to through systematic approach & efficient project management to our clients. With advancements in Virtual Reality(VR) and User Experience Design (UX/UI) we can make our users feel the built space in thin air as well. Thus, I think technology enables us not only to design but deliver efficiently.
AP: What is the future of architecture?
VS: A “burst” in architecture activity is what we would entitle the scene of architecture industry in the last 15 years. Almost all developed cities and those in emerging economies have their own architecture masterpieces that have aesthetic delight, functional feasibility and structural creativity. Architects of different scales, activities and specialties have been making good businesses irrespective of the quality of work they are producing.
Also the Indian government is now encouraging more infrastructure and construction work to provide employment. Nonetheless just like all disciples of which the construction industry is a major one are undergoing drastic changes due to many factors. The architecture practice is now in urgent need to cope with the increasing impact of globalizing economy.
The world is being designed by us, I look at google earth and each structure is made by an architect. It is in our hands to make the world look beautiful. Architects are always going to be needed and it is a profession that will never die.
AP: Could you elaborate upon the financial aspect of architecture? Was it difficult to break into the field as an amateur?
VS: It’s a very competitive field and you have to be on your toes to sustain in the market and build a strong presence. In the beginning it is a struggle but do it for the exposure and not the monetary value. However, after 5 years of struggle you will reap the benefits. Keep at it, don’t give up and it is very important to be updated about the current technology to keep up with the market. I would recommend that you start working on projects to gain more knowledge and get well versed with how things work. Once you have got a more holistic view you will understand what steps to take next. This profession requires a lot from you but if it is your passion you will willingly do all those things and the fruit of your work will be endless.
Question: One person, fictional/real and dead/alive that you want to have dinner with
Answer: Sir Norman Foster
Question: A book on your career field that you would recommend to or readers
Answer: FountainHead by Ayn Rand
Question: 3 things on your bucket list
Answer: To own and design a sea face boutique property, to travel and explore the world, I have completed 70% of my travel bucket list.
Question: Your coffee order (or drink order)
Answer: Cappuccino at 4 pm, cannot function without it.
Question: Quote that changed your life
Answer: “Creativity is epizootic, sprinkle it all”