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  • Shreya Shridhar

Diverse Approaches to Design Processes in Architectural Practice

Anushka Poddar

Architectural design is a complex and multidisciplinary process that involves a range of decisions and considerations. In schools, we always design as individuals and as the sole authors of the project. However, when one starts their own practice, it becomes a team effort as multiple people are involved in the design process at various stages and play different roles and esponsibilities.

However, it is seen even when a person starts their own practice, they have some unique design processes or parts of the process which are very personal to them. These stem from their ideology and their way of thinking and designing. For example, in Studio 4000, they had mentioned taking a slightly different design process than usual in the case of a larger project. It is approached through brainstorming through a time problem and the creation of collages. In the case of Vaissnavi Shukl, she emphasizes the importance of process and establishing clear boundaries for what will and will not be done. This approach helps to ensure that design proposals are not something against their ideology. In terms of parts of the design process, Matharoo mentions that there is lesser time spent on designing than on design development, intending to quickly finalize a proposal and work on details. While Apurva Amin emphasizes the importance of having a detailed brief and initial client meetings to structure the brief further. For Butter Concepts, the project starts with spending time with users to understand their lifestyles and reflect this in the design. Similarly, SEA Lab focuses on spending time on-site to understand the context and people and hence respond to it. However, when multiple people are involved at various stages of the design process the questions of individual or collective arise in an architectural practice. Questions like who should be given the credit arise in such cases. In the case of Studio 4000, design decisions are made per project, with one partner taking the lead and another coming in at different stages based on the situation or need. However, the authorship for those design decisions is attributed to the firm as a whole. Meanwhile, in Banduksmith Studio both partners sit together to design the conceptual idea when a brief comes up. They stress upon the importance of having partners questioning assumptions and creating positive tensions in the design discussions.

Matharoo Associates takes a very different approach towards the initial design process wherein everyone is allowed to come up with ideas and each of those ideas is discussed and then finalized. It gives everyone in the team an equal opportunity to come up with an idea, which makes one feel involved and responsible. HCP takes a similar approach to the design process, with individual proposals and ideas critiqued by the team throughout the process. Having such a process allows the engagement of each individual despite being a large firm. It makes the process more collaborative and instils the idea of collective as put against individual.

However, Apurva Amin makes the first sketch and then the rest of the team works on that idea. This process gives him authorship over the design. Similarly, in Jagrut & Partners, when a new project comes in Jagrut and Dhaval only take the lead to come up with the design proposal as they have to revert back to the client within a few hours or a day. In that case, design delegation becomes difficult at the initial stage as other people in the team would not be capable enough to design in such a short time.

The roles and responsibilities in the design process also vary depending upon the kind of team, if it’s a mosaic of specialists or qualified generalists. It also structures the organizational systems based on that. For example, in Butter Concepts the team is structured based on expertise such that one member focuses on producing drawings and executing the design, while others focus on the studio or site visits. The same idea is followed in a large firm INI, where the teams are made on the basis of expertise to handle different kinds of projects Similarly, Compartment S4 emphasize the importance of partners leading projects based on their areas of expertise. The rest of the team switches amongst the projects for various parts of the design process.

Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the design of architectural practice and the design process they would follow, each team must determine the best approach for them in the practice. The key is to establish clear roles and responsibilities, maintain effective communication, and ensure that all team members are aligned with the project’s goals and objectives. And on a larger level, it should be aligning with the practice’s ideology and goals.

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