Mother – Being an epitome of eternal love for children, Ar. Smita Das, a multi-tasker not only manages her home, keeps her head firmly on her shoulder – also approaches with her architectural design evolving the understanding of life.
Shreyasi Maiti in-depth conversation with Architect and Interior Designer Smita Das on Life – Architecture and much more
Smita Das. Graduated from JJ school of architecture, today she’s not just an architect and a designer of spectacular built forms. She’s a persona embodying art and culture in everything she does. Design becomes, in her hands, a vehicle for unprecedented and eye-popping new spaces but also the conscience of the built and the unbuilt environment. Her designs elevate diversity in art, conveyed in the modernist vocabulary.
Strikingly, Ar. Smita Das is an optimist and a keen traveller who has roamed the globe in pursuit of her own creative genius. This interview is a measured attempt to see Ar. Smita’s work in this larger context in Navi Mumbai — to understand the forces that transformed her and to witness how she responded to its unique set of requirements.
How did you garner interest in Architecture?
Being in the 9th standard, where there’s no impact of social media and Television with limited information available, my father at that time visited Germany for his office work. While visiting Berlin, I was completely flattered to see more advanced, beautiful tall sleek skyscrapers that have drawn my attention and pleased my mind aesthetically. Seeing such beautiful architecture, I made my mind to do something best for my country and finally chosen to become an architect.
Which project has led you to the ladder of success in the field of architecture?
There are many times when I started from scratch and during the pandemic situation, it’s becoming difficult, but one of the historic renowned projects of mine is a competition project that I won on a national level which is for Bihar State Educational Infrastructure Development Corporation (BSEIDC), Maulana Mazharul Haque Arabic & Persian University at Patna and the project has been completed 80% as well – that gives me major confidence today. Along with designing several townships, this project is a landmark for me. Moreover, I have been a designer with Nalanda University.
Any signature style in architecture that you follow?
Speaking Designs, the name of my firm, which I majorly emphasise on is when one sees the building, the design should speak for itself. If it’s a university, the design should be such that looking at it one should know that it’s the University. Portraying the designs of Maulana Mazhul Haque, one will come across all beautiful Islamic architecture in it. My creativity in design blends with the place along with modern architecture that suffices the client’s requirements.
Being the power of a woman with a rich diversely varied experience – Describe the evolution of female architects and challenges faced.
It was an uphill task to make it in a man’s world, I must admit. People seemed unable to associate women with more than interior design and found it hard to believe that a woman could be a serious and competent architect and perform as effectively as their male counterpart.
India has been progressing and it has progressed, but still, they don’t trust a woman architect easily. In this profession, an architect has to be from high-profile clients to labourers and contractors and builders, most of them lead to corruption which is a major challenge a woman has to face. There were indeed very few women architects in the field of architecture. I did not start a big organization overnight. I built it up slowly with my work, built a relationship with clients, then had a lot of repeat clients, and proved my capability.
I think what gets me going peacefully is the will and choice to be happy and to spread it contagiously! Once you realise you’re good enough to give yourself great company, strength and independence come naturally. I think entrepreneurship to me is love for one’s own pace. Only that, I acknowledged this love after working for hours in the same company for 15+ years working for 12+ hours/day right after graduating from JJ school of architecture. Nevertheless, in all these 25 years of working hard, I designed all sorts of spaces and structures and satiated my creative hunger.
How did you manage to make a mark in BNI?
Being the world’s leading business referral organization BNI has proved to be the most trusted relationship. During my dark phase of business, I joined BNI as a member and each member of your referral network contributes to your success and you to theirs. Now more than ever, building trusted relationships is critical to business success. One of my professional challenges was launching a 50+ chapter in a business networking platform in Navi Mumbai. The success of this challenge was felicitated in Bangkok where delegates from over 75 countries were present.
What are the issues considerations and challenges from the Govt. you face in architecture project?
There are many issues and challenges for an architect. Especially in the Navi Mumbai sector, the rules are not clear and there should be a one window solution. There are multiple and several windows you’ve to approach most of the architects have lost their creativity. Both time and money gets wasted in this strenuous process. It should be much seamless and simplified. As the days passed, completion of project becomes difficult with so many approval authorities; they should suggest a one-window solution. More lately, I have started participating in competition projects and also keep taking interior projects.
We are both dreamers and we’re fearless in our own ways. I dream to design bigger and better as I go and make history in the field of architecture. With her inclination towards Dance Movement Therapy, her dream is to heal the world through movement and dance and a part of me in her will make that happen.
Projects in Future
Presently, I am working on a small township bungalow project in Karjat with a cluster of 50 bungalows. Another project that I am working on is the Administrative Building for MPSC which is a competitive project, hoping to win the same. Also, there are a few interior projects in hand.
Special message for Mother’s Day
Mothers are a unique combination of a creative mind and a relentless attitude. Over time, I have learnt how to stay artistic and creative whilst realising the challenges of making it big in the practical world and still not is a bit less determined to keep striving to achieve it.
The wonderful thing about being a parent is that when you see your child make their own set of right and wrong decisions, you get to learn a lot merely by living those moments with them. After a point, your child needs complete and wholehearted support with a tinge of guidance. Investing my faith and trust in my daughter has always pushed her to keep going her best because that way she knows she’ll always have a place to come back even if she messes up! She makes me proud in many ways and I hope that I make my mother proud in the same manner. My mantra lies is believing in your children and supporting them blindly. Mothers are superwomen and biggest supporters, the biggest strength for their children.
Wishing all those wonderful and loving moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day!!