I interned at BV Doshi’s Vastu Shilpa Consultants from December 2015 to May 2016, as my semester requirement for my graduation course. I had applied with a lot of hope and trepidation, as I had heard that interns at Vastu Shilpa consultants had the privilege to be guided by Doshi himself, a master architect who recently in 2018 won the Pritzker prize in architecture. BV Doshi had worked with French architect Corbusier, contributed in the building of Chandigarh and numerous other projects like the Shodhan house etc. His own contributions to architecture like IIM Bangalore, CEPT University and even his own studio Sangath are exemplary spaces. He had been an example and a guiding force throughout my years as an architecture student, and when I was accepted for the internship, I was beyond myself in joy.
The Vastu Shilpa Consultants hire about 15- 20 interns at any given time. At the time of my internship, the studio was 60 people strong. The Vastu Shilpa Consultants has a sister foundation, the Vastu Shilpa Foundation (VSF), that additionally undertakes research and publication of BV Doshi’s work. One of my first assignments were to develop sketches of some of the low cost housing projects of Mr. Doshi for an impending publication for VSF. This included site visits, and reading up about his strategies for design and the understanding the spatiality of the projects.
Vastu Shilpa Consultants is a firm that works primarily on an institutional scale, with the institutions covering housing and residential clusters along with an academic or administrative belt. The approach that the firm has towards the resolution of such huge expanses is the master planning of the campus. The ideation was clear during the development of Raksha Shakti University master plan, where the location of the services, landscape, housing and road networks were decided on a larger scale with resolution and walking distances in mind, along with experiential and visual aspects. The zooming into individual buildings and details is something that the firm gives equal importance to, with every staircase and toilet resolved to its optimum capacity. The projects I was involved in also involved the use of unconventional materials such as precast concrete panels, and almost always featured design details that involved intense resolving. In the studio, we were privy to intense discussions by Doshi Sir and his architects, helping us gain insights about the challenges that design execution face.
One of the best experiences perhaps of my term as an intern was my involvement in the Amravati Design competition. The competition led to some of the most intense months, with countless all-nighters and back breaking hard work. It involved the master planning of the entire Amravati city, new capital of Andhra Pradesh, and the design of the capitol complex and the secretariat. I was able to see the whole process, of how a design is conceptualised, the research undertaken, the factors for consideration and resolution. Through the studio, I understood how time and resources are managed in the few short months of a competition’s deadline, and how design presentations are done for such competitions. Though the competition was not won by VSC, we still managed to learn an incredible amount from the process itself. It helped me differentiate the academic process from a professional studio, and how studios manage to sustain themselves creatively.
Another aspect of my internship that I immensely enjoyed was the site visits undertaken to various projects in various levels of execution. I had visited IIM Udaipur, as the first phase of the project was being raised. Those site visits, coupled with regular lectures within the studio itself, and group discussions, helped me understand architecture in a way different to other studios. It also helped that Sangath is located in Ahmedabad, a hotbed of architectural discourse and a UNESCO heritage site by itself. There were constant discussions and exhibitions about the state of architecture organised by CEPT University, and a plethora of inspiring architecture such as IIM Ahmedabad, ATIRA housing, Tagore hall, Mill Owner’s building, Premabhai theatre etc. within the city itself that was just waiting to be explored.
The studio employed architects and engineers from all walks of life and all nationalities. Studio evenings, even chai time became a hotbed of discussions, debates and laughter. The time spent at Sangath morphed into a way of life itself; an experience that coloured every firm I joined after that, my fears and triumphs and the standard that I held every studio to. I hope that I along with all previous interns can emulate the good that was learnt from working in this studio, as we attempt to practice architecture in the future.
Ipshita Karmakar has graduated from the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi institute of Architecture and Environment Studies. After completing her graduation, she worked with the KRVIA Design and Research Cell on developing an existing situation report on water and sanitation systems of slum settlements in Orissa. She has also worked as a research associate at the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai. Currently, she is working on the post-earthquake rehabilitation of heritage sites in Nepal. She is interested in studying post conflict mechanisms and the resettlement and rehabilitation policies of the same.