Ambrish Arora, Studio Lotus: The reflective practitioner

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Ambrish Arora, Studio Lotus: The reflective practitioner
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Ambrish Arora, Studio Lotus: The reflective practitioner

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Ambrish Arora, Studio Lotus: The reflective practitioner
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Could a universal process account for all things sustainable — energy, materiality, comfort, etc. — in all typologies, from resorts to low-cost buildings? Would this work in a land as vast and complex as India?

Ambrish Arora, founder and principal at Studio Lotus, New Delhi, aims to achieve social, cultural and environmental sustainability in contemporary buildings by integrating traditional crafts, vernacular wisdom and local artisanal skill sets.

Studio Lotus is known for innovative designs, each with a strong affinity to place, an approach that is backed by cross-disciplinary skillsets that produce solutions for the various climates and conditions across India. As one of several partners who lead the firm, Ambrish views design leadership as a catalyst of wider change.

Episode outline

00:04:53 “My father was totally left brain. He was a naval architect and engineer — and he had a profound influence on the way… on my thinking.”
00:11:09 Framing sustainability in India
00:12:45 “If I look at the way we build, there’s a temporal quality to it. And, for instance, when we look at sustainable materials — and, say, we look at the idea of something that, when its life cycle is over, it kind of merges with the ground and dissolves the ground.”
00:14:42 “India is a country with […] millions of artisanal kind of workforce. And, for us, there lies an opportunity to harness that energy — which is zero embodied energy that processes somebody eating food and using their muscles to lay a brick.”
00:29:11 The making of Krushi Bhawan
00:37:56 “Find a champion and do not begin work until you found one. Because we just don’t have the wherewithal to anchor the conversation — exactly like you said — with the committee where there’s no one who owns the process. Because innovation is a process; it’s not a product.”
00:39:18 Managing Studio Lotus
00:45:16 “We are trying to create our own metrics of how are we going to measure: what are the measures for craft and do there exist benchmarks — or can we create, at least for ourselves, benchmarks of how will we measure the value of… from a sustainability perspective.”
00:46:29 Becoming Ambrish
00:46:59 “One of the things I advocate really, really strongly is a very strong practice of reflection and silence. And unless you form your own benchmarks and your own measures and articulate them, I encourage people to write down today what does success mean for you five years from now?”

Summary

It will seem like an anomaly to some that Ambrish does not possess a degree in architecture, given that he has a remarkable appreciation of space and structure and an intuitive appreciation for the craft of making. These abilities, he says, were inherited from his father, a naval architect, and mother, a sculptor. He started his own career as a boat designer before opening Studio Lotus in 2002.

The strength of Studio Lotus lies in its teamwork where individuals learn, grow and perform at their fullest potential.
© Studio Lotus

Ambrish views life as an opportunity to discover himself and explore values that permeate everything he does, from design to business management. He regards architecture as a cathartic outlet to explore space, volume, materiality and function.

At the drawing board, he prioritises local or recycled materials with low impact and high durability. His holistic approach applies to both architectural conservation and ecological restoration. The wider goal is to positively shape conditions that lie beyond project site boundaries.

Through luxury projects such as RAAS Jodhpur, Studio Lotus focuses on reviving traditional crafts to restore the local economy.
© André J. Fanthome, Studio Lotus

Krushi Bhawan is a testament to Ambrish’s entire value system. This frugal government office edifice, situated in Bhubaneshwar (Odisha, India), exemplifies a plethora of green design principles: use of indigenous materials, revival of traditional crafts, passive thermal comfort, inclusivity and self-reliance.

The facade of Krushi Bhawan consists of a brick-louvred screen that acts as a solar shading device and expresses the local weaves in colourful patterns.
© André J. Fanthome, Studio Lotus

In terms of energy efficiency, Krushi Bhawan achieves an energy index well below 50 kWh/m2/year. It does this by rejecting the more conventional approach of other office buildings which are extensively glazed and fully air-conditioned. Learn more about this project here.

The ground floor of Krushi Bhawan is conceived as a free-flowing stilted space connecting to the street’s pedestrian circulation.
© André J. Fanthome, Studio Lotus

Villa in the Woods is part of Devānya, a development in Matial (Uttarakhand, India) that promotes eco-conscious community living among 90 acres of Himalayan forests. It is a self-sufficient structure, built lightly on sloping terrain with minimum excavation. Natural elements like sunlight and wind are harnessed to enhance the living experience, while innovative features like rainwater harvesting and wastewater recycling enhance eco-friendliness.

The Villa in the Woods uses modular construction and pre-engineered technology with infills of Light Gauge Framing Systems (LGSF) clad with local materials.
© Noughts & Crosses, Studio Lotus

Ambrish emphasises Studio Lotus’s work ethic when talking about performance and the quality of outcomes the firm has been able to aim for. Individual talents are nurtured within the company, creating a synergy that is key to its growth. There is a spirit of learning at the root of every undertaking: each project improves the DNA of the next and, by extension, the corporate culture they benefit from.

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Episode Notes

Keep reading if you want to deep dive into this interview’s content and get more out of it. You can also find out more about this episode’s guest/s and sponsor/s, and the team that put it all together.

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

As mentioned in this episode

If you heard it in this episode, we likely have a link for it right here. Click on any topics, people, buildings, places, products and/or technologies listed below to learn more about each of them.

00:53:44 “…if you look at Maslow’s pyramid…”
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” | Wikipedia
00:23:02 “…for most of the work we do for RAAS…”
RAAS Hotels
00:23:05 “…we’ve been very fortunate to have Nikhilendra of RAAS as a client…”
Exploring Rajasthan with RAAS” | BW Hotelier
00:24:45 “…We worked with a landscape architect, Akshay Kaul…”
Akshay Kaul and Associates
00:45:35 “…And that’s where Gaurav Shorey, for instance, the guy I spoke about…”
BE YOURSELF AND SAVE THE PLANET | GAURAV SHOREY | TEDxRTU” | YouTube
00:18:09 “…with one of the projects we worked on in Bhubaneshwar, called Krushi Bhawan…”
Bhubaneshwar” (Odisha, India) | Britannica
00:18:09 “…with one of the projects we worked on in Bhubaneshwar, called Krushi Bhawan…”
Krushi Bhawan” | Studio Lotus
00:24:18 “…so we did this housing project in Uttarakhand…”
Uttarakhand” (India) | Britannica
00:30:27 “…to create a building that became a symbol of modern Orissa…”
Odisha” (India) | Britannica
00:30:05 “…these kind of glass-clad buildings they saw in Gurgaon and in Delhi and Dubai and Singapore…”
Gurugram” (Haryana, India) | Britannica
00:30:05 “…these kind of glass-clad buildings they saw in Gurgaon and in Delhi and Dubai and Singapore…”
Delhi” (India) | Britannica
00:30:05 “…these kind of glass-clad buildings they saw in Gurgaon and in Delhi and Dubai and Singapore…”
Dubai” (United Arab Emirates) | Britannica
00:30:05 “…these kind of glass-clad buildings they saw in Gurgaon and in Delhi and Dubai and Singapore…”
Singapore” | Britannica

There are no design features mentioned in this episode.

There are no products or technologies mentioned in this episode.

Host
Nirmal Kishnani

Producer
Maxime Flores

Managing editor
Kruti Choksi Kothari

Communications executive
Sana Gupta

Sound technician and editor
Kelvin Brown | Phlogiston

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