Developing a vocabulary on sustainable, affordable interior design – Architect Shweta

“Aesthetics must not be only for the privileged”, believes Shweta, who earned a Degree in Architecture from JNTU, Hyderabad, in 2004 and completed her Masters’ in Interior Design in 2010. She acquired her initial experience under Pritzker Prize Laureate, Architect B.V.Doshi at VastuShilpa Consultants, Ahmadabad. She further pursued the nuances of sustainable architecture and interiors at Inspiration, an eco-sensitive design firm in Kochi, Kerala.

An advocate of sustainable architecture, unconventionalism and the ‘Design -Build ‘ model, Shweta has constantly increased her range and repertoire while breaking several male bastions, thriving in difficult locations and tight budgets by undertaking projects in almost every part of India including off beat places such as Wayanad, Tadoba and even Ladakh.  Shweta has won several awards at regional and national levels and has been listed as one of the young and emerging architects of the country.

In 2006 Shweta founded Vistaar Associates with the vision of developing a vocabulary on sustainable, affordable interior design in an endeavour is to create people-oriented, ecologically sustainable designs that are artistic yet practical. As an Architect practicing Interiors, she strongly feels that aesthetics must not be only for the privileged.

“For a country that has witnessed incredible talent and craftsmanship in different forms, be that rangoli or traditional architecture, it’s important that we bring back our everyday crafts and take pride in the simple beauty of our neighborhoods’, opines Shweta. To encourage this pride, she has been instrumental in starting a movement called Meri Galli Meri Shaan (MGMS), which calls out all Hyderabadis to stand up for a cleaner, safer, healthier and a more aesthetic Galli to live in. MGMS, in collaboration with the Environmentalist Foundation of India, started a ‘Keep your Lakes Clean’ awareness campaign and it involved design students into public art and design domain on a pro bono basis. The idea was to make a neighborhood free of garbage with simple touches of aesthetics by painting eye-catching murals on compound walls and to visualize what we would like to see in our lanes and by-lanes as we call them.

Her genuine and unconditional passion to increase standards of professionalism in the field, her constant need for improvement in skill sets of her workers as also her wholehearted support to artisans has found expression in taking classes for students of architecture and design, setting up community projects (Meri Galli Meri Shaan) and organizing workshops for local artisans /craftsmen for introducing them to contemporary requirements. She has also contributed significantly in reviving dying arts by incorporating them in her projects.

Shweta shares with Gallopper, one of her recent projects: Designing an office space infrastructure company, based in Ahmadabad . This project according to the Architect, was a journey in creating a culture of collaboration and curiosity with the client. The design direction was, therefore, influenced by nuance and subject.

The rectangular space of 40′ x 52′ was flanked by natural light on 3 sides, and to fit in the requirements of 5 workstations and 17 cubicles and 2 closed cabins without blocking out windows was quite a challenge. They chose to let the angular form define the spaces, demarcating the senior staff from the junior staff, giving the accounts department, privacy and the MDs, the luxury of the view. A large reception area was created with a comfortable accommodation of 7 people

Angular cut-outs in the cabins of the MD and Chairman and opening the sit out area into a large landscaped section brings in a burst of energy and light.

“Working with space constraints to fit in the requirements of storage and in keeping with the need for natural light to energize the space, was our biggest challenge,” reminisces Shweta.

The angular layout of the workstations, despite the deep beams and existing tiled flooring while making the space look large and airy, with a burst of energy was the primary motive of the designer.

Salvaged  scrap from the company’s yard including rusted metal work plates,  screws, spanners, metal pipes and even gear clutch plates to define metal grills, handles, shelves, joinery, etc. has ensured that eco-sustainability is genuinely addressed, besides, constantly reminding the staff of ‘on site’ work. The art on film depicting the core business of the firm, further emphasizes this sense of pride.

The Gujrati culture of ‘Work is Worship’ is alluded to by creating a mock gabion structure with openable shutters, for keeping shoes outside the office and having stone walls carved with relevant passages from the Bhagavad Gita in the reception area, whereas the main desk has been clad with salvaged metal plates to reflect the ‘hands on’ ethos of the company.

The result was a dynamic space that makes the overall area seem larger and the up-cycling of materials that add character.

Shweta is also a trained classical dancer in the Kuchipudi dance form and has performed across the country. When she’s not hard at work, she likes listening to music and curling up with a book.