A passage into India

Tessa Schubert
Monday 23 Feb 2015

WAN gets some insight into architecture in Asia from award-winning Sameep Padora & Associates

In celebration of the newly launched WAN Asia awards, we are getting the low-down from some of the leading lights of architecture based in Asia. This week we are speaking with sP+a (Sameep Padora & Associates), from Mumbai, India, about winning last year’s WAN 21 for 21 award, to discuss India’s approach to architecture and design, and to ask them what advice they would give to other young, up-and-coming practices in the region.

sP+a is known for challenging tradition through re-interpretation. They are specifically interested in the socio-economic forces of change in the context of contemporary culture in India. Amongst some of their most impressive work is the Shiv Temple in Pune, and the 321 Tardeo building in Mumbai.  


Congratulations on winning last year’s WAN 21 for 21 Award, dedicated to finding the next leading lights of architecture in the 21st century. What does winning the award mean to you as a firm practising in Mumbai?

The award helped us get noticed amongst our peers internationally as well as in some way helped validate the direction, relevance and criticality of our work.

What would you say defines or differentiates the Indian approach to architecture and design?

To define an Indian way as in a singularity is difficult given the cultural variety within the country's geographical boundaries. This condition of a stasis within the continuing socio-cultural differentiation is probably its most consistent and defining quality. So the Indian approach in my view is one that acknowledges this difference while extending this multiplicity.

What do you see as the most significant challenges to architecture in India?

With India firmly directed on the path of economic development, the nature of rapid urbanization that augments it is dangerously parasitic to existing cultures. The greatest challenge would be to pause within this moment of speed and flux in favour of a syncretic urban form that positions itself in opposition to the caricature of urbanisation that globalising forces bring.

What are your practice’s aims or visions?

Through our practice and given the nature of India's rich cultural past we are constantly looking to project historical antecedents of form, event and networks in our projects. The effort is to look at these histories as pedagogical frameworks within which newer models of form, type and human skill are emergent.

Do you feel there is an architectural community in India with a culture that relates to your work?  

I think our work, though formally exuberant, is in spirit more aligned with traditional systemic knowledge and skill rather than a focused architectural agglomeration. 

Can you offer any advice for young architects?

What's worked for us, and my advice to all young firms is to stay idealistic as well as be constantly ready to improvise, to be in a state of readiness, responsive to changing forces and conditions. 

Quick Facts 

We became architects because… through the happy accident of being good at little else!

For inspiration we look to… the socio-cultural and historical cacophony of the context we are situated in. Also the writings of Lefebvre, Harvey amongst others.

Our favourite artists are… the painters of the Mughal miniature paintings, disruptive artists like Banksy, and designers challenging the status quo like Hussein Chalayan and Issey Miyaki.

In our spare time you’ll find us… we're itinerant wanderers through the mountain ranges of the Himalayas.

If you are interested in finding out more about the WAN Asia awards, please see: https://wanasiaawards.com/

Enter on or before 28 February and receive our Early Registration Discount.

To enter, click here

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