Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Behind the Book: Ar. Chandrakant Patel

When I started this segment I did know that I was doing what I love the most, talking to dreamers, believers and achievers but what I did not know was that someday I would be talking to someone who is a masterpiece in himself, someone who needs no introduction and one who has left his mark all around us in the form of the amazing buildings designed by him. He is none other than Ar. Chandrakant Patel. 

When you hear Architect Chandrakant Patel's name and draw a blank, it means he has done his job well. The architect is like and unlike an artist. They clearly contribute to the art of the world, but at the same time, they let the art speak for itself than be attached to a credit tag. And nobody has held this up more than Architect Patel a man behind some of the most iconic structures on the Mumbai skyline. From living in caves to using that logic into making stone structures that utilized space a little better to adding aesthetic value to it and finally, coming up with designs that are dynamic, ever prepared to keep up with current and future times clearly, architecture has come a long way.


And this last bit creating dynamic structures is what has always been at the forefront of what Architect Chandra Patel (his more professionally known name) has set out to do with every single one of his creations. "4th Dimension Architecture" Book, isn't a guidebook but you might end up using it as one because it isn't easy to merge innovation with traditional concepts. This book isn't a memoir, but you will end up learning a lot more about the man from simply knowing how he works. This book isn't the architect's Bible but it has all the makings of one. 

This book never set out to be what it has become but you learn to expect the unexpected when someone like Chandrakant Patel is involved. As an architect as a good architect one is not only defining time but is breathing life into something that is made out of something as lifeless as metal rods and cement mixtures. And yet, once these drab structures are inhabited, life is pretty much contained within them. Generations come and go, but we truly only know those generations by studying the structures they built. And if we simply glance at what Architect Chandrakant Patel has achieved and continues to achieve we will have a pretty good idea that our future generations are going to be mighty proud of this one. 

If you see Architect Chandrakant Patel right from the beginning of his journey, he is still continuing on his chosen path, but it is his humility that hasn't allowed you to see the generosity and kindness in the man. He does not believe in highlighting much else than his work but there is so much more to the person that he is, which ends up contributing to how he goes about his work. Not only does he believe in giving back to the profession that has given him so much by guiding young, aspiring architects or is invited to speak at lectures and seminars, he also offers his profession the respect fit for a God with ultimate sincerity and maintaining its sanctity.

Let's know more about him in his own words:

1. A warm welcome to Reviews and Musings. Firstly, would like to thank you for sparing some of your precious time for us. Moving on with the interview, can you tell us something about 4th Dimension, the book. What is the main purpose behind writing this book?

My book 4th Dimension Architecture is a professional biography of what has gone through in five decades of honest and creative architecture; the book speaks of quite a few milestone projects created by me including the Stock Exchange Towers Mumbai, Galaxy Apartments Rajkot, Kidney Hospital Ahmedabad, and so on. My family's wish and purpose behind publishing this book was to systematically document my work and the techniques used by me, and enable the current and future generation of architects and aspirants of honest hard work to learn and derive inspiration from it.

2. As a student, learning the nuances of designing buildings and then being Alvar Aalto's protege - did you ever imagine that you would redefine Mumbai skyline like this?

My family background gave me enough humility to keep learning. Even today, I am hungry to learn new things - I had never thought of getting lucky with meeting the world-renowned architect Alvar Aalto, let alone getting to work with him and learn a lot about Organic Architecture (which is yet unknown in our country) – it’s just pure luck and my right decisions to learn more, instead of starting to earn in pounds. As regards to changing Mumbai’s skyline, this again was just by chance that a relative of mine having recommended my name to Mr. Jeejeebhoy and then my ability to be able to convince him with my design ideas – I would simply say, God has been kind to me!

3. Being an architect is like an artist, the ability to create something is very special. What is the one thing that you enjoy the most about this profession?

My profession, architecture, is the mother of all arts - while artists create 2-dimensional art, sculptors create 3-dimensional art - a sculpture is within a space, while a building has space within. My architecture is not just 3-dimensional, it has the 4th dimension, i.e. Time - I am confident that even after a century, my designs shall never be outdated - they may need to be structurally refurbished, but they will not look or feel outdated! This is what I enjoy about architecture - creating what is timeless!

4. Bombay Stock Exchange your brain child is an iconic structure till date. How did you conceive the idea for it?

The Stock Exchange Bombay, popularly known as BSE, is a building designed for stock brokers - stock brokers deal in money, which we colloquially call "Doulaat". Doulaat, if split in two words, is "Dou" meaning two and "Laat" meaning Kick - when Goddess Lakshmi blesses one (and the stock prices soar high), she kicks him from the back and he becomes convex (fat-bellied) with pride, and when Goddess Lakshmi decides to leave him she kicks him in his stomach and he becomes concave. Based on this pun theory, the structure is designed with a Central Vertebral Core and two wings, one concave and other convex. There is more to this, which I am sure, my dear readers will enjoy in the book.


5. You are an inspiration to many, is there someone who is an inspiration for you?

My biggest inspiration is my Guru, Prof. Alvar Aalto - he has taught me a lot, not just about architecture, but about how to remain humble and earnest to your profession.


6. Please take us through your publishing journey and how did BecomeShakespeare.com happen to you.

BecomeShakespeare.com’s team is well-equipped to develop any kind of book - when my family members approached them with this idea, they were more than enthusiastic to develop such a unique book - they have all through ensured and maintained the balance I wanted between publishing this book about my architecture, and not about me.


7. Request you to please share with us your experience of working with BecomeShakespeare.com.

My experience working with BecomeShakespeare.com has been by far excellent - I am sure this firm shall do more good, in fact great work ahead - I wish them luck!


8. One piece of advice you would give to all young and aspiring architects.

Architecture is to do with creativity, what is known as "Surgeon" in Hindi/Gujarati, while Surgeon in English means one who is a Doctor and does operations - my pun on this is, don't be a Surgeon (English) and Operate, be a Surjjuk (Hindi for Creator) and Co-operate; to explain this, I would simply want to say, an Architect needs to focus on his creativity and balance it with being commercial - if the ratio of being creative and being commercial changes, one loses path and ends up simply creating a good bank balance, but no great work - this honest path is not easy, but shall enable one to have a satisfactory life!

We would like to thank you Sir for sparing your precious time and letting us have a glimpse at your life so closely.

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