Where functionality meets design
Bobby Mukherji, the noted interior designer and principal architect of Bobby Mukherji and Associates sheds light on the emerging trends in the design and architecture space, and the many projects in his kitty. Rajesh Kulkarni catches up with him.
As one of the largest design firms in the country in terms of sheer value of projects, Mumbai-based Bobby Mukherji and Associates (BMA) has earned an enviable reputation. This for designing some of the finest five-star hotels, resorts, country clubs, malls/retail chains and prime commercial and residential properties over the last 16 years.
What started as a dream concept by architect Bobby Mukherji way back in 1992 has today evolved into a Rs 6,500 crore design hub. One that has worked on an eclectic mix of projects. A mix that includes Sahara’s 6000-acre Aamby Valley project near Pune, Raheja Exotica, K Raheja Universal’s 35,000 sq ft Mediterranean styled spa, club and resort spread over seven acres at Mumbai’s Madh Island, premium hotels such as Mumbai’s Sahara Star and Le Meridien at New Delhi, Whistling Woods Film Institute (Mumbai) and shopping malls like Aurangabad’s Prozone mall and Mumbai’s Infinity mall.
For Bobby Mukherji, BMA’s principal architect, it’s his client’s interests that are of paramount importance in every project. He says: “Our primary objective is to satisfy the client and his need for a return on investment. We believe in the dictum ‘functionality meets design’ and work towards making the environment operationally viable and aesthetically pleasing.”
The spotlight beckons
With a clutch of projects in his kitty, Mukherji and his 120-strong team at BMA have their hands full at the moment.
“We are currently working on the architectural, interiors and landscape of a premium residential complex spread over approximately four acres. The project includes three residential blocks, an office block and a recreational club with health and spa facilities. We are also working on a 1.3 million sq ft mall in Mumbai,” says Mukherji. “The scope of works is the same as the above mentioned project. The structure is complete and work on the interiors has begun. The project, which has an interesting facade with LED lighting techniques, will take another year for completion.”
It’s the hospitality segment where BMA has maximum ongoing projects. “We are working on a five-star hotel in Bangalore for the Chalukya group. It’s a one-of-its-kind project in India in terms of the new age design concept and materials used. We also have the Srinagar Palace hotel, a part of the Intercontinental-Bharat group, where we are converting a palace into a hotel.
Also on the anvil are an apartments hotel at Pune and Hampi’s first five-star hotel at Hospet. “We are working on the architecture and interior designing for the Hospet project,” says Mukherji. “This includes the designing of the lobby, coffee shop, restaurant, bar and banquet hall, guest rooms, junior and presidential suite corridors, additional cottages and the surrounding landscape incorporating a special lighting design.”
Asked why hotels seem to dominate BMA’s portfolio, Mukherji says, “It started with our focus on high-end projects such as night clubs and airport lounges that were smaller in nature. This interest landed us plum five-star hotel projects.”
So what are the costs involved in meeting the design and interior requirements of a large commercial project? “The costs for most five-star properties vary from about
Rs85 lakhs to Rs1.5 crore per key,” says Mukherji. “This includes the complete cost of construction, services and interiors (excluding the cost of land). A shopping mall may vary from Rs2,500-5,500 per sq ft inclusive of the services and interiors. This however does not include the cost of individual store interiors.”
Let the games begin
Having worked on projects of varying size and budget, Mukherji picks the Sahara Aamby Valley project, Sahara Star and Le Meridien hotel projects as those showcasing some of his most satisfying work.
He says: “The Aamby Valley project spread over 10,000 acres at a height of 766 mts above sea level, for instance, was the first city constructed as per global standards in terms of planning, lighting and landscaping. We, with our partners from LA, designed the master plan, wherein as per the client brief, water was an important element that needed to be incorporated in some form. We created multiple dams and lakes of which the largest one was about 1.5 kms long,” says Mukherji.
“No project of this scale has been planned in India since Chandigarh city. Controlled planning was the key USP here, which is India’s first gated community. Boundary walls encompass the entire city and all entry points have gates which give controlled access to only residents and their guests.
“For the Le Meridien, New Delhi, we used mood lights that could transform the entire look of the room, plasmas, maple flooring, high end accessories and lights from Spain and Italy,” he says. “For the required look to come through, the drama starts from the façade itself where you are welcomed under the steel canopy of the porch.
“As the clients brief was ‘art and tech’ – intensive research had to be done on the latest technologies to create art through technology. Concepts had to be constantly upgraded. The other challenge was the dependence and correspondence with other countries for new age materials, lights, furniture and craftsmanship.”
The way ahead
According to him the modern office or residential space in most Indian cities are now indistinguishable from their counterparts in New York or Shanghai. He says: “Space and light continues to dominate the ambience structure of Indians. In terms of colour, a splash of vivid colour thrown over a predominantly light background colour scheme rules the roost. The sway of colour that splashed electrifying colours on our walls would continue, but the stress will be on giving a muted, more sophisticated look.
“You will now see unusual combinations like dark wood against olive green walls or stainless steel against walnut wood finishes,” adds Mukherji. “What has become critical is how well you mix colours, rather than how many colours are being used. Now, individuals and corporate entities employ design to stand out from the crowd.”
Veering the conversation to the key issues and challenges facing the domestic architecture and design community, Mukherji says: “There is definite scope for the government to be more liberal in its attitude towards builders and architects. It still takes a long time to get the required sanctions to start a project. But apart from this, India and the South East Asia region is the next big interior design destination.”
To leverage on emerging opportunities, BMA has recently opened an office in Thailand. “Our office at Bangkok is more of a design studio than an office to handle the expansion,” says Mukherji. “We would like to expand our networks to the Middle East and South East Asia as this is where the future growth is going to happen.”
On a more personal note, Mukherji attributes his professional success to a slew of factors. He says: “I have been lucky to find support among my parents and friends. I also learnt a lot from international designers, who inspired a lot of my work. My success can also be attributed to my young and motivated design team at BMA. Lastly, it is the timing, being at the right place at the right time.”