Ar. Karan Grover has his office set amidst green fields on the bank of river Viswamithry. A lover of architecture attuned to nature, he has designed his office as the perfect example to his philosophy. Every morning about 23 crocodiles can be spotted near the office car parking, for their sun bath.
Karan Grover Associates has served in the field of architecture for about 23 years. His work represents contemporary architecture and its development in tune with the prevailing circumstances in India. He emphasizes on the fact that our architectural design should be in correlation with our culture and tradition. Considering his efforts in preserving this great heritage, he was honoured as fellow to the Ashoka Foundation of Washington.
It can be said that it was Karan’s 22 years of efforts that gained the Champanar Pavagadh in Gujarat, UNESCO’s World Heritage Site Status. He has received many awards like IIA, JIIA, IIID-MK India etc. He is the first architect in the world to receive the Platinum Award in November, 2003 under Version 2 of LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) from the US Green Building Council for the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre in Hyderabad, USGBC. He got his second Platinum award for designing the interiors of ABN AMRO bank, Ahmadabad. He received the title of Permanent Fellowship from the National Academy of Environment which was given to him by former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
Ar. Grover is a man of varied interests-his interest in food led the Economic Times to describe him as a ‘Man of Taste’. Construction Journal Magazine Cover described him as ‘India’s Hot Architect’. His efforts for Heritage Conservation and Sustainability made the Verve Magazine call him a “Charismatic Crusader’. Karan got enlisted in ‘500 missionaries of 21stcentury’ along with Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods; and also as one among India’s ’50 stylish men’, along with Amitabh Bachhan.
Ar. Grover is always involved in encouraging activities to promote green architecture. He urges the youth and other architects to do the same. He gave a speech in the ‘Clinton Global Initiative’ as per the invitation of President Bill Clinton himself and has been the main speaker in many international events related to Sustainability and Green Architecture.
Interview given by Karan Grover to the Designer plus builder magazine
How did the decision or aspiration to be an architect come forth?
From my school days I have aspired to be an architect. Then I was only 12 years old. I was the eldest son in my family. According to Indian family system, eldest son has many responsibilities. My father wanted me to be the chairman of our family business. But I was least interested in that. I told my father that I want to be an architect and asked him to make my younger brother the chairman. I was only interested in the architectural structures of buildings. From then on, I concentrated entirely on architecture.
What style do you follow in architecture?
Modern architecture doesn’t go well in India. Our building style is not something that should be copied from the western countries. It won’t go well in an environment like ours. The buildings that I design are based on tradition. It’s this tradition that gives me the strength to go forward with my design.
About the constructions in Kerala…
Observe the buildings next to the rivers in Kochi. Most of them are very beautiful. And because of the rains in Kerala, most of them have steep roofs. Verandas, central courtyard etc make them more beautiful. But there are certain other buildings, which are completely covered in glass, which is an irony. This technique which is meant to give a shiny effect to the buildings actually heats up the whole building. Later whatever mechanism that we do, like air conditioner or something else, will not cool the building.
Sounds like you have something against modern architecture?
I’m trying to redefine what’s modern. What you are wearing is a cotton dress that suits your climate. On that basis, I’ll call you modern. Try wearing open slippers. It will let air into your feet. Like this, ventilation is very important in Kerala. At times there is heat and at times there is moisture in the rooms. Having ventilation can solve this. You have to design buildings that safeguard our tradition which is in friendly with our climate. It’s your tradition that is the investment for the future. You can’t create a modern Kerala just by imitating their style. I have a laptop, I was in New York – all this doesn’t make you modern. What do we give to uphold our culture, that’s what makes us modern.
What kind of architects does Kerala need?
I got a chance to take a closer look at Kerala architecture while designing Goodnight Mohan’s house. He asked me what I know about Kerala architecture. Nothing much, I answered. But if I get a chance to be born again, I like to be born in Kerala. I like the food, the dressing style, the architecture etc. Moreover I like the people here. Keralites can be identified at first look. This is Kerala’s exception. Keralites have a rich heritage and culture. It is this culture that we have to develop. The buildings should be as such that it represents our culture.
Which buildings represent Kerala in this way?
Kumarakom resort, Kovalam rest house etc were created using our traditional architectural structure. But there are many other buildings that do some random work in their interior just to give that feel of Kerala.
What do you think is the reason for this?
Kerala has got 100% literacy. Even the women are literate. You have all the facilities. There are many families that go abroad for work who sendmoney to Kerala.
Last day I travelled from Kochi to Trivandrum and back. My driver knew only Malayalam, but I didn’t.
So I thought I’ll just enjoy the view outside and sat next to the window. But most of the buildings that I saw were absurd. Just because they have made money working abroad, they want to make their buildings modern. But it all ends up in total disaster.
What do you suggest as a solution to this situation?
Haven’t you heard a story about musk-deer? From birth, its body tends to give out a fragrance. From that day, it tries to find out the source of that fragrance. It even forgets its food while searching. Finally, it goes mad failing to have not found the source of the fragrance. It doesn’t realize that the fragrance is coming from its own body. This is the case with our architects. We have to turn back and look at our own culture and tradition, not to look at other countries. Indian soul is for our own. You are the people of God’s own country. Be proud of what you are and what you have.