Pioneer Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe has astutely remarked, “Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.”
I have vivid memories of visiting monuments in and around Delhi with my parents for picnics, and of how these trips would always enthuse me. Though at the time I did not understand much, yet there was something about seeing these monuments that struck a chord within me. I was instinctively drawn to buildings. Since as far back as I can remember, it had been a dream of mine to become an architect.
My father played the role of a very silent guide in my life. He has been one of the greatest influences on me, but in a very unusual manner. He was silent, but one could judge that his expectations were very high. I have always tried to meet up to those expectations. He became my greatest inspiration – his hard work, sincerity, honesty, and the way people around him felt inspired by him and loved him was something that made me want to emulate everything about him.
As a student of architecture, one of the most important aspects for me were hard work and conviction towards one’s thoughts, ideas, and design. I studied in India and USA, and I felt that these aspects were equally relevant in both countries. However, my experience in India was very different from that abroad. Firstly, most people had preconceived notions about me. As the son of an established architect, they assumed that I would take life easy and not work hard enough. Yet, as time progressed, that opinion changed. Through my studies here, I understood that in India, the functionality of a building is given more importance, rather than the level of creative exploration. On the contrary, the outlook in USA was very different – socio-cultural aspects and other intellectual and aesthetic explorations were considered at length, rather than just functionality.
Looking at my body of work thus far, I am attached to every single project designed by our office. However, if I had to choose, I have an affinity towards Gautam Buddha University, which has been a very special project not just in terms of scale, timing, and complexity but also due to the fact that it gave us an opportunity to create an absolutely greenfield, large university of seven million square feet spread over 511 acres of land; where the aim was to blend the tradition and the features of Buddhism with a modern interpretation. That fusion has always excited me as an architect.
Architecture is a response to the world around us, and the world around us is changing faster than ever before. The architectural profession itself is poised for change – whether it is climate change or the influx of technology, different modes of construction and the world becoming a smaller place with enhanced communication and travel; all these aspects are going to change the way architects need to approach the profession. In the foreseeable future, one of the primary aspects that architects will have to focus on is sustainability. India seems to be witnessing exciting times with a plethora of opportunities waiting to be explored in its design and development sectors. The availability of large development areas like new cities, towns, etc., make the scope for growth through green practices an achievable feat. The way our planet has been savaged and is being destroyed is alarming. Therefore, in whichever manner architects intervene in natural habitat, it needs to be handled carefully and sensitively. There is no other alternative.
Architecture is a challenging profession where we are constantly expected to create new ideas, be innovative and yet be able to convince others around us that every intention that we have, is for the betterment of their project or their environment. It is, therefore, very important that we have our own strong convictions – only then can we be successful in transforming the environment around us. I would advise upcoming architects to be leaders, to be bold and inspiring not only through their design approach but also their personalities, perception, and interactions with society. As architects, we are trained to look at the future and shape the future of our society and built environment. I also believe that the human mind is a palace of thoughts with endless possibilities. I would advise students of architecture to explore these endless possibilities and make the world see things through their eyes.
- The article was originally published in Career Ahead October 2021 issue.
Dikshu C. Kukreja is the Managing Principal Architect of C. P. Kukreja Architects (CPKA). He received his B. Arch Honors as a Gold Medalist from School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi. He attended the prestigious Taliesin Fellowship at Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, USA and received his master’s degree in Architecture and Urban Design from Harvard University. He has worked in India, France and the USA and has lectured and taught at institutions in India and abroad. His firm CPKA has been consecutively ranked amongst the top 100 Architecture firms in the world and the top 5 in Asia.