We Need to Be Closer To the Buildings We Create Says Architect Elizabeth Kurian
We Need to Be Closer To the Buildings We Create Says Architect Elizabeth Kurian of Stonehenge Architects
Elizabeth Kurian, an architect in Goa uses her client’s vision and experiments with ideas to create a personalised structure that is unique and special. After majoring in architectural design, Elizabeth worked with renowned architect Dean D’Cruz but it was in 1999 Architect Elizabeth Kurian of Stonehenge Architects started her own practice- Stonehenge. She has worked on diverse scale of projects. Her projects vary from residences, institutions, hotels and resorts, renovations to interior designing. Detail interiors and wrought iron work is her forte. She has the expertise in using natural materials & experimenting with different constructional methods therefore creating a distinct identity of the firm. Her future plans include detailed environmentally sensitive works with some innovative construction techniques that are feasible for the middle class budget. Architecture has now become a field that ostentatious in terms of catering to the rich and the famous but there has to be some effort to innovate old construction techniques, which can be fitted in today’s times.Designed and executed over 100 projects that cater to a clientele ranging from the lower middle class to the corporate Architect Elizabeth’s focus is not on size or budgets but on delivering a quality tailor-made project. In Conversation with Fortunestreet.com
Your definition of architecture and philosophy of work.
Architect Fumikho Maki says, “The aim of architecture is to create spaces to serve society and in order to achieve this, the architect must understand human activities from the standpoints of history, ecology and changing trends. He must also know the relationship existing between human activities and architectural spaces and processes by means of which these relationships develop,” This single statement defines architecture for me concisely.
There is an Anonymous saying- “All good design is a struggle”. To design as well as you can, has to be a struggle, almost by definition, because you could always improve”. Personally, for me, in the field of architecture, the outcome is a combination of ideas brought about by discussion and critique. Optimum usage of space and resources requires that a design be functional, decorative and not too over–the-top unless it is a theme or a concept based project. To ensure client’s satisfaction, there is always an attempt to connect with the customer through his relevant lifestyle, budgets, materials & technology.
The source of inspiration before entering into this profession
I never planned to be in this field. In my era, there were not many choices for education nor careers, post schooling (Year 1984). I had a mixed interest in the arts and the sciences and history and when I finally got into this dynamic profession, I realised that architecture was a sum of many skills put together and I enjoyed it thoroughly. One has to be creative, to be able to visualise in three dimension, be technically sound (structurally, in construction techniques & with materials), think out of the box yet be practical, to be able manage budgets, ecologically sensitive, understand byelaws, communicate well, market oneself, & most importantly be human.
Experience of doing the first project, would like to know more details on the same
One of my first projects on my own was in 1995- my own house with the husband & me- being the clients (when we did not have children yet). The dynamics of doing your own house is unique- dealing with budget, tastes and emotions. The house was eventually completed in 1998, with the events of my pregnancy & delivery of first child & then setting up my office within the home- (which was not as per the plan). The growing family, the needs, the cars, etc. has been pretty well incorporated for the past 20 years. Although it is a very small house, when compared to the structures I undertake, it has remained as a showcase project, – that a client can see for himself before appointing me as an architect. Simultaneously I was doing Hotel Raman, started with a small unit and continued doing many units for the past 20 years. It is unique and I have experimented with the various types of construction. It is one of my most accomplished projects.
From the various projects you have undertaken which was the most challenging and your favourite.
Every project for me is challenging and is journey of its own; almost all clients have given me the freedom to design the entire project, so every project has been a very fulfilling experience. However, it was Hotel Gautam – a 72-room castle-style resort in Goa, which was part of the A+D (architecture + design) 2004 Awards that earned praise because of the planning, scale and the detailing.
You have vast scope of work that vary from residences, institutions, hotels & resorts, renovation to interior designing, which amongst these you personally enjoy doing
I enjoy doing any type of project so long as I can work on the complete project. Personalised Residences remain my forte, while theme based boutique hotels interest me the most.
Tell us more about your recent projects what are they, where are you doing, scope of its work
All my projects are presently in Goa. Moreover, over the past period, I have always had a large detailed villa going on at a time simultaneously with a boutique hotel & a few smaller residences. So there is always enough to keep me occupied- physically & creatively & to give enough attention to every project.
I will now explain the design process in my own personal architectural practice in detail…. The design process begins with site analysis & with a detailed discussion with the client. Thus spending the most time on the initial stages of design and experimenting with different concepts, while keeping in mind the clients tastes and requirements, I try to create personalised edifice each time. Amidst the integration of the unconventional style within, the reverence for the environs around emerges as the key component in the conceptualisation of the scheme. Working with a theme, and interacting with the workforce, not only keeps the enthusiasm in the whole team, but also results in spontaneous and interesting details, giving each of the projects their own unique individuality. In addition, if I feel if any of the above processes may not happen, I will not take up the project.
Amongst your fellow architects whose work do you admire the most and why?
Antonio Gaudi remains my favourite architect all time- for his exemplarily creative & yet technically challenging work. I have been influenced a lot by Geoffrey Bawa among the Asian architects for his ‘tropical modernism’. Working with architects like Gerard Da Cunha & Dean D’ Cruz in the field ‘literally’, I have experienced that architecture, is not a water-tight profession, where architects sit in air-conditioned offices, creating computer-generated buildings that are brought alive by contractors, engineers, service consultants, interior designers and landscape architects. A combination of all these professions is what an architect must be in the first place… like a chief builder called a ‘Vaastu- shilpi’ in our traditional Indian culture … handling virtually everything, down to the last detail.
Your advice to the next generation of architects and interior designers?
Today, contemporary architecture generally is sterile; the result of architects keeping a distance from their buildings. For life- like architecture, we need to be closer to the buildings we create, to be able to take decisions on site. As architects we have to be responsible enough and realize that we are creating “history for the future”. One has to develop energy efficient & ecologically sensitive construction materials & techniques. Nonetheless, to be successful in our profession, one has to remember- “Creativity plus discipline plus integrity is an unbeatable combination”.
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