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Custom designs v/s off-the-shelf

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Vibhor Mukul Singh, Senior Partner, Designer’s Alcove for Art and Architecture welcomes the trend of having custom pre-designed items incorporated in initial design. He believes that it is the most efficient way of execution of a project. It reduces overall project cost and material redundancy and is the best way to achieve maximum space utilization. He believes that the functionality and circulation that can be achieved using project-specific furniture and layouts is massive. Every project is then a unique output in terms of ambience. It also takes care of routine maintenance issues.

Most important of all, it has a direct relation with building services, specially electrical and networking, etc. And this can be achieved using both: on-site and pre-fab systems and products. Internationally acclaimed architects like Toyo Ito, Hani Rashid and Frey Otto use a lot of project-specific furniture and art objects. Vibhor says, “This trend could lead to an increase in the possibility of using recycled materials via project evaluation.”

Architect Vinu Daniel, Auroville, believes that architects who build with conventional aesthetics tend to overlook much of their furniture sketches and designs. They prefer predesigned furniture like Alvar Aalto’s Easychair. Vinu who designs unique houses and uses only his own designed furniture because he believes that houses designed by him cannot have normal conventional furniture states that his views may be baised. Albeit Vinu believes that the some specific elements in a design should be designed by the interior Architect appointed for the project.

Ar. Kakkulal S, owner, Aakaar Architects has a neutral view to the issue. According to him the idea of an architect employed with the manufacturer is encashed by the industry (the manufacturer, dealer and the end user). Custom made designs that are available at lower than market rates are always welcomed by any client. For the client, execution time and affordable cost are the major concerns. Therefore standard accessories that are compatible with the design are picked up from the market. However clients who want specific designed fittings for their homes would still look for architects to design them.

Sathesh kumar S, Sr.Architect, Pan Arab Consulting Engineers, Kuwait points out the importance of strictly following standards. In the Gulf regions, International Architects respect code compliance for every single aspect of their designs. For example DHI (Door Hardware Institute of America) has determined the heights of latchets, tower bolts, hinges and push plate panic bar door on a door from floor finish. Importantly specifications should reflect this in order to be followed in execution. However, it is ideal that the enforced standards should be common for all – manufacturer, architect, and who ever in the production. This will ensure uniformity in design, quality and safety.

Sunanda A.J.R, Associate Architect, Mistry Architects thinks it is a great idea to have designers and artists tie in with architects and have them find an outlet for things they specialize in. As long as it ties in with the thinking of the principle architect, why not! It also gives designers the opportunity to engage with local talent and encourages use of local material in myriad ways.

“Our office and a couple of offices we know encourage students from various design schools and give them the platform to showcase their talent. These students and artists very often involve themselves in the programme and provide specific designed products.”

Mistry Architects also have students from the Sristi School of design do a lot of innovative pieces for the firm. Potters and artists from Auroville provided them with beautiful pieces of art and designers of textile from NID wove intricate partitions and screens for one of their projects. “We also have the project where artisans of Bastar have provided the most amazing metal work for our SOS village at Raipur” added Sunanda.

Ketan K, Principal Architect, Humane Architects argues against this trend and has strong inhibitions about the effect this trend will have on the creativity of talented architects. He states that currently, some architects working with manufacturing companies are selling furniture/fittings/standards with options and in mass quantity. This gives the buyer the advantage of selecting something that suits his need and his budget. However, this makes it difficult for other architects to be creative and most importantly fix a price for their creativity. So while products produced in mass might save a builder/house owner the trouble of wasting precious time going over the sketches for individual pieces, it does effect the creativity and livelihood of architects who design exclusive pieces.

In conclusion it is accepted that sometimes it is less costly and more productive to have custom made furniture.

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