Architect Dean D’Cruz, the co-founder of design consultancy Mozaic in Goa, believes in creating built structures that softly merge with their environment rather than rigidly juxtaposing against it. He recounts his journey as an architect over the last 30 years and speaks on issues ranging from urbanization to environment sensitive designs.
As my father was an engineer, I was encouraged to be one too. Luckily, I failed to get in to IIT and instead filled the entrance form for architecture at Sir J.J. College of Architecture. It was a chance walk, past the beautiful college campus that pulled me towards it and eventually set me on the path of being an architect.
After graduating, I gained admission for product design course abroad but never left after having discovered the beauty and uniqueness of Goa. I initially partnered with Gerard da Cunha for a few years and was influenced by the Baker approach to design. This down to earth learning also helped a great deal in designing jungle lodges around the country.
For the first 10 years of my career, I designed mainly low-cost houses in a very Laurie Baker style and then moved on to small, low-cost hotels termed ‘boutique’, by virtue of their unique designs. These led to large luxurious homes, high-end hotels and institutional projects. Our office grew to about 40 persons designing mainly large homes and boutique hotels. Having had our fill of designing unsustainable showpiece homes, three years ago I stepped out of this arena and downsized to the present office of about 12 people. This downsizing, though was a financial hit, allowed an introspection of our past work and chart new directions.
Governments have shirked their duty in providing sustainable and equitable development for citizens, leaving it to builders to create lopsided planning schemes that leave the economically weaker sections out in the cold. I believe architects have a duty to intervene, voice their concerns and get involved in developmental and planning issues that protect the rights of all citizens especially the poor.
We found a great need to:
- Redefine homes making them more sustainable, smaller and connected to the immediate environment
- Create new experiences in the hospitality sector that we are working in especially designing building that are temporary in nature, using natural materials in eco sensitive zones
- Get involved in architectural projects that would contribute socially in the field of education and healthcare
- Reach out to young practitioners and support their practices in being more environmentally and socially responsive
- Influence students of architecture, encouraging them to be thinkers and leaders in society and not draughts persons for large architectural practices Now, our firm takes up only cost-effective houses as community exercise designing for groups of people that share resources. Hospitality however remains our mainstay.
Our experience has taught us the need for architects to connect to nature and intervene as little as possible with the built form. But, a good deal of our innovative projects never been built for either being too radical or clients not recognising the effort and costs that go into creating a well thought of design.
An accidental urban designer
Practising in Goa brought me face to face with developmental and environmental issues in the state . I joined forces with environmental groups, using my architectural skills to prevent degradation of the ecology. I got involved in the Regional Plan 2021 as a result of spearheading a movement to de-notify the scam RP 2011 in which Ministers converted land to settlement area based on payment under the table.
As punishment for stopping this they made me part of the Task Force to prepare the policies for the new plan and the State Level Committee to prepare a land-use plan for the state.
This was a great experience working with planning experts like Edgar Ribeiro and Charles Correa. It also made one politically savvy in dealing with the bureaucracy and pressures of economic development. Learning to achieve a balance between development and environmental protection along with social upliftment was a big challenge and we did the best we could under the circumstances. Since the Regional Plan is a powerful tool in the hands of politicians and what we had created had clarity of areas for development and protection, the new government decided to keep the plan in abeyance and allow for construction under the 2021 on a “case to case” basis. We all know what “cases” they used to get development permission.
I they made me part of the Task Force to prepare the policies for the new plan and the State Level Committee to prepare a land-use plan for the state.
Confronting the challenges
Indian architecture today seem to be all about creating striking form and façade and copying the West. In the process, design professionals are obliterating the traditional response to climate and use of natural materials. To build sustainable buildings, young architects need to design with common sense and not eco-rating systems, along with compassion to respond to the client needs, the needs of the users and even to the issues of the people who clean and maintain the buildings.
As architects we tend to live in a bubble not recognizing parallel design and art fields that need to integrate with ours. So more recently a small group of designers in Goa have put their time and talent together to create a platform that allows for dialogue and implementation in an effort to create design for greater good. This platform analyzes existing needs in society, identifies methodologies and solutions and collaborate on implementation. The role of going beyond that of an architect is one that excites me and I believe is my future.
Architect Dean D’Cruz joined architect Gerard da Cunha as an assistant in Goa in 1985 and a year later became a partner in a firm called Natural Architecture. In 1994, he expanded base of design work as principal architect of Dean D’Cruz & Associates. In 2001, he co-founded Mozaic, with general collaboration between disciplines as the core ethic. The firm explore prospects of symbiotic growth of clients with nature and encourage sustainable practices in architecture as well as industrial products. Having been part of the State Level Committee for the making of the Regional Plan 2021 for Goa, his current emphasis is on urban interventions, sustainable principles and conservation.