MAP Architects, Meghna Srivatasava

“Architecture Must Be Region Specific”: An Interview with Meghna Srivastava

GoSmartBricks spoke to Meghna Srivastava, Director at NewARCH Design Consultants and Managing Partner at MAP Architects India. Meghna’s visions for her own architecture and for the profession are unstintingly inspiring. She believes in creating spaces that ultimately enhance human experiences, her contributions are aren’t temporary but are going long way in shaping the new horizon of the developing cities in our country.

Go big or go home. That’s one underlining mantra of the construction industry and one rising trend in India – Today, supersized indulgences and apparently infinite expansion have left us amid concrete jungles with gigantic glass boxes. While many follow the bandwagon of exploiting our Earth’s natural resources, Meghna thinks” Architecture must be region specific”.

She says,

“I strongly believe that built forms have the power to transform, connect and inspire people all over the world. But what intrigues me more are the structures which are built in our lands by our own people sourcing local materials understanding the local norms, be it Vaastu or regional weather conditions. I am indifferent to what the world considers Sustainable or provides a rating for. A building which breathes and connects one to its surrounds is what I value the most”

GSB: Could You Brief Us A Little Bit About Your Self AndWhat Originally Made You Want To Study Architecture And Become An Architect?

Meghna: In those days, people took up architecture primarily for two reasons one they couldn’t get into engineering. In my case, I was more inclined towards creative designs and I think that is something that I decided very early in my career that I wanted to become one.

GSB: Could You Tell A Little About MAP Architects And The Aim Behind Starting It?

Meghna: MAP architects came into existence in the last 4 months. But before talking about it I will give you a quick rundown on my career graph.

I started off in Mumbai after my graduation at Sir JJ College of Architectureand then got this exciting opportunity to work with Somaya & Kalappa Consultants, i.e. one of the leading architectural organizations along with a very popular lady architect Mrs.Brinda Somaya. It was she who inspired me with her idea to get women to be more entrepreneurial and do some good architectural practice. That is exactly where it all started as a journey.

After moving to Bangalore, I was able to be a part of RFP architects i.e. Singapore based MNC. This firm was doing several projects in Bangalore then. In fact, we were responsible for creating primarily the first and all the other major IT parks in Bangalore. EGL campus was the first one that fell into my lap and going forward we did Manyata Tech Park and many more residential towers and campuses.

In 2010, I felt we have created enough carbon footprint through these gigantic glass boxes, and we needed to do something beyond. I made a move out of the corporate and planned to start something of my own. I founded NewArch Design Consultants (NDC) which was in 2010 and did a lot of good work then. We did many IT buildings and residential towers in Bangalore and all this work was going on under NDC. Since we were introducing a lot of BIM based technology, and a lot of Augmented Reality(AR) and Virtual Reality(VR), NDC was slowly being visualized as a tech architect firm which ultimately resulted in the loss of my real architectural design business.

Hence, to give an architectural edge to my practice, I coined MAP architects which is purely into commercial and residential designs. MAP architects is a very sustainable practice in terms of what we design, what materials we use, how to design, how do we handcraft a project in India for Indians.

So, these are a certain idea around which we work under MAP architects……

GSB: What All Constitutes Sustainability In Your Architecture?

Meghna: In terms of design, I always felt architecture must be region specific. You have to know the local market, you have understand the local weather conditions and then design. That’s the reason when I get projects from Delhi or any other part of the country, I try to understand a lot of demographics around those projects before I kickstart. But largely, I have had projects in and around Karnataka, and now since its been 15 years for me in this region, I understand how different things function here.

So, when we design, we work with technology, we make sure a good lighting design, good material pallet are the major components of what we deliver. So, understanding the climatology is the first step that we take up, we work on software’s which now enable us to have real-time locations mapped in for the site that we are working on. And then we tweak the sun path to completely understand where we are tapping in the natural light and where are the glares and how do we block the sun in a certain zone.

Second is the material, We Do Not Believe In Outsourcing Any Material That Has A Cargo Movement. We strongly believe you will have to step out, look around, and pick something that you can put together and make it shine in your project.

And of course, landscaping. You cannot call your building green by picking up plants and planning it up on the walls and making sure that somebody is maintaining it and then call it a vertical garden. I don’t believe in concepts where you are force feeding a green solution. You must Let The Greenery Grow on a virgin land, you have to let landscaping be a very natural feature. In simple terms, if you don’t maintain the building’sgreenery, still it should still be able to survive on its own.

GSB:Do You Think Innovative, Cost Effective and Responsible Architecture Can Be Brought At The Same Time?

Meghna: Absolutely, in fact, they are the components which must go hand in hand. For example, organic food is still expensive to us, but, in reality, it’s just a thought process, as it need not really be. Similarly, a green sustainable building need not be an expensive propaganda that people are trying to do. You should be able to achieve greener and sustainable built form at the right price and not shell out unnecessarily.

GSB: What Role Does Green Building Materials Play Into Your Work?

Meghna: So, there is a lot of misconceptions around green building materials, and I think that a lot of knowledge sharing needs to happen around the community. A lot of people still believe that a certain green rated and stamped product is green in nature. Nobody really goes around to check which agency is stamping it or why it is stamping it.

Consequently, if you are going to have a green rated Austrian wood which is going to fly down to Bangalore. To me, it is NOT GREEN. There are certain philosophies that we need to first understand regarding green building materialsand then understand what has gone behind it. The idea could be international, I am not against the idea being international, the concept can come from any part of the world, but we need to understand the material availability and we should also know how was it created what was the carbon footprint created around it – how was it bought to your site, how was it implemented and how long will it last. If you get a green product which has a life of 10 years, again it’s not worth.

These are things we should all keep in mind when we shortlist anything under the green bracket.

GSB: What Is The Most Challenging Aspect Of Bringing Together Sustainability And Architecture?

Meghna: The client belief to begin with. I feel you need to be very sure, – If you want to apply green, it must be in the basic part of your design irrespective of what the client’s intent is. But yes, if your clients are aware, then you can really take this forward and bring it on to your site.

GSB: According to You, What Misconceptions Are Associated with Green Building? Why Still Many People Are Reluctant to Switch To Green Buildings?

Meghna: Making a green building as an idea is very enticing to everybody. Even a small-time developer who comes around smiles and tell me – let’s do a green building. But very often the green building concept is limited to putting up planters or a green wall. The concept itself is blurred, I feel there is a lack of education and knowledge which I see in the market. 

And most importantly, the government needs to take initiative. Today what is really missing is that there is no incentive given to the developers to go green. If there is a monetary benefit or tax benefits or some other benefits, then people will take that step. Just sustainability reason if you are going green, it’s only an eyewash.

GSB: What Is Your Ultimate Goal When It Comes To Your Work?

Meghna: When we design, irrespective of a client telling us to make a certain green rated product.  We try to gauge how much green we can push our customer to go towards. A customer being the king in India, we cannot push them beyond limits, but we do make an attempt to educate the customers on the ROI that he can have by going green in his budget.

GSB: What Message You Want To Share With The Architects Community?

Meghna: Design with all your passion and belief to create a sustainable community. Remember if your intent is right the product that evolves will any day do justice to the environment and help us have a better environment to live in. It’s all about the passion with which we have this advantage to create and you should try and utilize it in the best of your knowledge.

Restoring the connection between people and our environment – Meghna you are truly bringing in a different level of passion to sustainably.

You can know more about Meghna Srivastava 

If you too are doing something creative that is bringing a change in the environment then please drop us a word at gosmartbricks@gmail.com

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