StartUp Architecture II starts with the story of Studio An-V-Thot, a young design studio that believes in the uttermost importance of the space within & beyond rather than the built frame. Completing seven years of a successful run, this award-winning, multidisciplinary studio endeavors to design and develop an environment for stories to take birth and remain, where true feelings are captured and felt with a sense of belonging, only to resonate through time. Since its humble inception in 2011, Ar. Ankita Sweety & Pratyoosh Chandan has taken up and completed several Architectural and Interior projects of varied nature, scale, and sizes. “An-V-Thot” is a hybrid of two words, ‘anvit’ (Sanskrit) and ‘thought’ (English). Anvit means followed by, so it is a practice following a thoughtful approach to problems.
A simple desire to make a name in the game & compassion towards people & surroundings led Ar. Ankita Sweety & Pratyoosh Chandan into their overly satisfying entrepreneurial journey. With the driving principle to “breathe” at its core and an intense desire to change for better, they have continuously pushed themselves to do justice to this humble profession. After graduation, both architects have worked for a couple of years prior to venturing into their entrepreneurial journey.
For both of them, their dreams of starting their own initiative have been embedded deep inside their minds since the start. Ankita says, “The entrepreneurial dream was quite deep-rooted in me since my early years of Architectural School”. Pratyoosh further elaborates, “From as early as the second year of college, I had started visualizing being commissioned with one project & having a practice of my own. Though it was always about the first project & never beyond that, I guess being naive helps in taking the risk that triggers the courage to take alternative paths”.
Some of the works by Studio An-V-Thot
Talking about the challenges that all first generation Architects face, they say that the obstacles are very typical in nature and cater to the basic functioning of any startup. Apart from the ‘architect’s expectations’, the real challenges that they faced during their first project have been summed up by the following questions.
• How to find somebody who needs design services?
• How to persuade someone to trust your work without having any work to showcase?
• How to gain knowledge of prevalent fee structures & handle financial negotiations?
• How to learn politics of obligation & authority?
• How & where to set up the workplace?
• How to manage travelling & manpower?
• How to establish the stability of income & manage office expenses?
• What does it take to culminate the project into reaching your portfolio?
Continuing with the truthful fact that the journey becomes colourless unless your startup has your own personal story to tell, they go on to share their personal experience. “We’ve made our share of mistakes, but if given a chance, we will do exactly what we did since the start. We’ve known many Architects who want to start their own practice, but will not start unless they have a handful of projects, and there are some who strongly feel they should continue with their jobs & simultaneously look for freelance work.”
Pratyoosh says, “For me, a job was never an eventual goal. So when I was ready, I told everybody that I have left my job and started my practice. My announcement came before I took an office space and with not even one project at hand”.
It’s amusing to realize that honest intentions soon become clear to everyone, and the sole aim to establish your personal practice translates to people as passion and your complete dependence on your practice translates into confidence in your skillset.
Having taken the bold step, they were soon approached by a prospective client to design a residence 150 kilometres away from Delhi. The duo fondly recalls, “He met us with his curiosities & insecurities in hiring us for obvious reasons. Our insistence for him to visit our office (a garage space with no sunlight & rolling shutters) while we had nothing to showcase, no staff other than the both of us but happily talking about architecture in general for 2 hours, all worked out quite well and the meeting landed us our first project.”
Bringing up the very important factor of professional remuneration, they put on paper a prominent point. “When it comes to the fee structure, the total amount can vary amongst architects. Initially, what matters more is not the total amount but schedule of the fee. A little leniency while negotiating won’t harm as much as a wrong schedule of payment. Starting to work on a project without an advance doesn’t seem that bad an option when the desperation for getting work is extreme, but such a mistake will directly lead to losing the required authority as a consultant and eventually even if made, the project will not reach your portfolio in the manner you would want. Running an office is an expensive affair, so initially one should try to negotiate on monthly payouts rather than a construction based payment schedule. Finally, as construction takes a lot of time and gets stressful, patience is the key to culminate the project into reaching your portfolio.”
Starting to work on a project without an advance doesn’t seem that bad an option when the desperation for getting work is extreme, but such a mistake will directly lead to losing the required authority as a consultant and eventually even if made, the project will not reach your portfolio in the manner you would want.
The founders believe that contemporary young practices can find numerous small-scale projects to easily sustain their practice while simultaneously reaching out to find larger projects. “With a more travelled and exposure-rich set of clients today, every small-scale project now requires a high level of skill set. The amazing level of detailing that can be seen today even in single dwellings will definitely inspire a lot of young talent to venture, sustain & flourish.”
Talking of public recognition and identity, they agree to the fact that social media has been the game changer. With the enormous reach, it saves a lot of time unlike earlier days to reach out to people personally, they opine. “These pocket-friendly platforms definitely help in setting foot into the entrepreneurial world. In fact, it is also useful in knowing what our contemporaries are doing. Inspirations today are just a click away. This age of going beyond boundaries while sitting at the confinement of your studio is a luxury we all must intend to embody.”
In the final few minutes, they suggest the new generation be fearless. “To all the budding champions of Architecture, the math is odd but if you start, you are already halfway through. Always remember to respect the Cultural relevance, get motivated by Contextual bandwidth & compete through pure indulgence in Creativity.”
In the coming few days, we will be publishing more stories on the upcoming design practices of the country. Watch out this space for further inspiring stories on young practices from their founders!