Aurora Magazine

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The thrill is in the design

Published in Jan-Feb 2016

Adil Kerai, Partner at Habib Fida Ali Architects, on the challenges and rewards of being an architect.

I enjoy starting my day early. I am fresh and there are no calls or people to meet. Although my day starts at 8:30 a.m., I would really like to start even earlier, as I get a lot of my design work done then. The morning crispness feels good and the ideas flow. Butter paper and pencil and one just wants to create. It is the best time of the day to work.

This is a short lived pleasure and the phone starts to ring and there are meetings and vendors to tackle.

I try to divide my days and sometimes I succeed. As the day flows on, design ideas are floated and then sketched and then the more detailed work starts and deadlines are discussed. A sketch takes a new dimension when it is drafted and as you start making changes, new ideas emerge. At these meetings we discuss the wildest ideas, but the bottomline for all of them is how will we build on them and how will they respond to the environment. Plenty of times we are carried away by our designs and I have to bring us back to the realities of the conditions we work in. Site meetings and visits need to be conducted and the day is planned accordingly.

Architecture is a dream come true profession. Designing a home, an office, or any space – be it a factory, staff quarters or landscape – the thrill comes from knowing that people will use it and that how we do this will affect their way of living and working. This is what I think of every day and what brings me to work full of energy and enthusiasm, even after having been in this profession for 23 years.

For me architecture is one of the most rewarding professions in terms of personal satisfaction. To dine with clients in the new home you have built for them and watching them enjoy it, is fulfillment and accomplishment.

Of course every day is not the same and there are frustrating moments (sometimes one too many) during a project. There are clients who want their home to be better than their in-laws’, their cousins’ and their friends – and they want to mix elements from all these houses and put them together in a single house. To articulate an explanation why all cannot be part of their home is a nerve wracking job.

Meeting the client is integral to the process of sketching. Understanding what the client does and how he wants to live or work is the neuron of the sketch. The project starts with discussing what the client wants. Then comes the design and how it is developed to fit the client’s needs and requirements. A project normally lasts 18 to 24 months and there are countless meetings to discuss materials, colours, wood, hardware, and so on. Every meeting with a client is unique because their requirements are unique, making the design and the material palette different.

The thrill is in the design and my ability to transform my clients’ requirements into spaces they will enjoy. The down comes when the idea is shot down because the client does not agree with it. It’s a very difficult balance at that time and how one approaches that turn will determine the resolve of the architect and his belief in his design.

Part of my day also involves coordinating projects with our team of engineers, while structure, mechanical, air conditioning and plumbing designs need to be integrated into the architecture. It is my responsibility that all aspects of the design team are coordinated, otherwise there will be major problems at site. In these meetings new methodologies, materials and equipment are discussed and their pros and cons are evaluated before being applied to the project.

When I started 23 years ago, things were very different because we were far behind in terms of technology and commissioning an architect was not a widespread notion. This has changed considerable today, although a lot of people still do not understand the need for an architect.

Yet, architects not only design the spaces, their knowledge of materials, resources and the environment, all combine in providing better solutions and far more cost effectively. Construction too has changed. Construction methodologies are incorporating technology as well as many of the solutions available in the West. The new way forward is green building and energy saving.

For me architecture is one of the most rewarding professions in terms of personal satisfaction. To dine with clients in the new home you have built for them and watching them enjoy it, is fulfillment and accomplishment.

I love being an architect and I am very proud of what I do.

Adil Kerai is Partner at Habib Fida Ali.