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Down to Earth

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Kishore D. Pradhan: Architecture + Landscape was started in 1972 by architect Kishore D. Pradhan after completing his Diploma in Landscape Architecture from the French institute Ecole Nationale Superieure de’ Horticulture in Versailles, now known as Ecole Nationale Superieure de Paysage. The veteran architect takes us through his journey and his views on landscape designing in India.

I had decided to become an architect very early, during my school days in the ’50s. At that time, even the prevailing architects were struggling to get recognized as important contributors in the building industry. People routinely thought that designing a building was a civil engineer’s job and they did not know what an architect really does. Still, after finishing school, I joined architecture course at Sir JJ College of Architecture to obtain B. Arch degree. An opportunity to specialize in Landscape Architecture occurred when I was selected for French Government scholarship to study in France. The three years spent in Paris from 1969 to 1972 were a turning point in my life. Apart from studying landscape architecture, I was deeply influenced by the European art and French language and thinking. The passion developed for these is strong with me, till today.

 

The passage to success

Landscape architecture is the only profession which deals with the design of outdoor spaces and enhances its efficiency and aesthetic value. Only a landscape architect will understand the advantages and disadvantages of the site features and be able to create a design that will fulfill the users’ aspirations.

My professional journey, though full of struggle, has been an enjoyable one due to the very selection of my vocation which has always been fun and never a compulsion. Responsible behavior and professionalism enable you to go happily to sleep at the end of the day. No matter what your age, the faculty of enquiry and learning should be intact in-order to find fresh and innovative solutions to problems. The challenges such as changes in people’s attitude and their values, ups and downs in market conditions are inevitable, but the goodwill earned in the profession always looks after you and never lets you down.

Today the information may be a mouse-click away, but the skill of assimilation and application will come with deeper involvement in the job. The project should not just appear impressive through media coverage or by being photogenic, but should be truly functional.

The project of SP Infocity at Pune was a mixed-use development with a full-fledged club house and housing which had different demands of out-door spaces and in turn on landscaping needs. The challenge was to create a seamless transition between zones so that the landscape design looked harmonious and not a patchwork of spaces. The choice of plants especially trees helped us in fulfilling this challenging task. One can experience the copious use of trees and perennial shrubs as an important common factor in the landscaping.

In the case of Reliance Greens, township, Jamnagar, the project was built in three phases over 15 years, inevitably influencing the design character and quality in each phase. Here too, the trees become a major uniting factor in the landscape. In spite of sequential development, the iconic spaces built in phase I such as Central Park, Temple and Residency-I (VIP guest house) remain till today as major landmarks in the complex. This has been possible because, during Phase I, development although the client’s attitude was rather skeptical and hesitant due to the financial constraints and the “first time” blues, the strong support and visionary leadership of Nita Ambani in the project facilitated in creating these unforgettable places.

I am worried that in today’s landscape designs the balance between hard and soft surfaces is getting diluted. This dominance of hard surfaces might be due to the blind imitation of design trends from abroad or simply due to the lack of knowledge of plant material among landscape architects. Either way, the result is disastrous. Large hard surfaces radiate heat and push up the ambient atmospheric temperature. Shadeless grand plazas are okay for cold climate locations where people seek warmth in the Sun but in a tropical zone like ours, greenery definitely mitigates the heat.

Recognition of the field

After more than 40 years of being in this profession, I can definitely say that today, there is a better recognition of the profession of landscape architecture. People are now aware that qualified consultants do a much better job than mere gardeners, horticulturists or so-called amateur ‘Landscape designers’. However, one must admit that a lot more is needed to gain due respect for the profession. The opportunities for obtaining education for the specialization are available only at a handful of institutions. More places to study landscape architecture are needed. I hope with time this situation will improve

In all my projects, I have been keen to evolve a design that is 100% functional. I abhor the word “beautification” which implies cosmetic adornment. Even a small dot put by me on drawing board is meaningful and not gratuitous. I am convinced that beauty is never skin deep and comes from good health that lies within. A well designed project is aesthetically good, functional and sustainable.

Moreover, I have my concerns regarding the future of my younger colleagues as the practice is currently dominated by residential schemes. Other genres of development are rare and far between. Even in the developers’ domain, there is increasing engagement of foreign consultants, not necessarily for achieving higher design quality, but because these alien names and their addresses add better market value to the sale. As a result, the Indian professionals who are brought in later have to work hard to adapt on-site the concepts imposed from abroad, but never get due credit.

This scenario makes me wonder if this will result in frustration among the young generation of landscape architects, obliging them either to look for greener pastures abroad or opt for other professions. I hope that soon the clients will recognize the potentials of Indian landscape architects so that it will encourage more young people to opt for the profession.

The architectural and landscape consultant firm Kishore D. Pradhan, was established in year 1972 in Mumbai after Pradhan returned to India from France having obtained the Diploma in Landscape Architecture. Since its inception, the firm’s exhaustive list of projects offers ample proof of rising need and demand for landscaping services across the country. Master Planning exercise includes detailed site analysis including survey, existing contours and other physical elements, preparing overall design strategy at macro level which becomes the design basis at micro level planning. It also identifies potentials and limitations of the site vis-a-vis proposed land-use as well as ideal placement of buildings, out-door amenities etc. The landscape design includes, designing, landscape construction and horticultural details. In addition, environmental Impact assessment studies are also conducted for certain ecologically sensitive sites.

 

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