Not only did the duo, Sanjay and Beena participated in the said design competition, they won the top honours – with one of the Jurors commenting that no other entry came anywhere close to the benchmark setup by the said design submission. This was a precursor of many a design competition which the partnership of Sanjay Wadhwa and Beena Idnani participated in, winning most of them and culminating in winning the first prize in the design competition for Vittal Mallaya Convention Centre at Bangalore wherein about 250 firms from across the country participated.
Another landmark project bagged in the earlier days of the firm was MP Urja Vikas Nigam, also secured through a national level design competition in 1987. This was an award winning office building using non-conventional energy systems, as a curtain raiser to the work which MPUVN was doing. The architects acting on the advice of Waseem Akhtar, the PM at EPCO, took on board firms like MRC (Mahendra Raj Consultants) for structures, Spectral (M&E) and Deolalikar Consultants (PHE) who were already doing Vidhan Sabha with Charles Correa in Bhopal.
“Hey Sanjay, there is a big advertisement in the newspaper today by DDA for Design Ideas Competition open to all architects for housing design. Let us try and participate in that” This phone call from Beena Idnani in the October of 1984 defined the life – both professional & personal of architect Sanjay Wadhwa, the founder director of New Delhi based SWBI Architects, a name synonymous with corporate architecture & interiors.
“In the eighties and early nineties, the government followed a closed door economic policy. There were only a handful of large Indian corporate and no multinational companies in India, thereby making the Government of India, by default the biggest builder and chief patron of architectural and design fraternity, “explained Sanjay. “From the mid to late nineties, when the country opened up its doors to foreign investments in India one witnessed a steady influx of large number of MNC making a beeline to enter India and set up shop here. Design profession thereby saw a clear tectonic shift, whereby a number of firms got drawn towards this relatively new design vertical in India of doing corporate fit-outs, now evolved and re-christened as Workplace Design.” he added.
The new design vertical
Indeed, the systematic, process oriented and quick conclusion of corporate fit-out projects was something that attracted a number of mid-sized design firms including SWBI. Today, SWBI is one of the market leaders in the Corporate Interiors domain having successfully designed and delivered 25 million square feet of space for a variety of user clients – corporate offices, back officer, IT & ITES facilities, R&D centres etc. The scale of the projects varies from a small 10,000sqft to as large as one million square feet. “An interesting project was that of an interior fit-out wherein the single floor plate itself was larger than half a million square feet of leased area. This was similar to planning a township with its streets, crossings, plazas & central hubs.” recounted Sanjay. According to the architect, the past decade in particular has witnessed a fairly brisk activity in the real estate space and more specifically in corporate real estate space. “With demand for office space booming both in terms of volume of real estate to be fitted out, there are plenty of opportunities for designers to partake in this growth story.” Sanjay commented.