Studio Interweave is led by Architects Kailash Pradhan and Upendra Gurung
Aligning oneself to a worldview where ‘the earth does not belong to man but man belongs to the earth’, opens up space that empowers one to ‘be the change’, taking refuge in the belief that words, thoughts and actions have a profound influence on the evolution of people and society. It also enables one to recognise the limitation of looking at projects in isolation to acknowledge the interconnectedness of reality. In practice, this implies being sensitive not just to the physical context, but also to the social, cultural, economic, environmental and contemporary contexts.
Choosing to practice in a small geographic context in and around Sikkim, allows us to tap into our nuanced understanding of the place.
Currently, we are at the frontier of a traditional culture encountering the onslaught of ‘development’ [globalisation/ neo-liberalism/ capitalism] and are still in the unique position to choose and follow our own path into the future. This translates into understanding our plus and minuses and ensuring we don’t lose our positive qualities while moving ahead. Environmental harmony and social equity are integral to indigenous cultures, which somehow, does not accompany ‘development’, which is ironically pushing indigenous cultures to extinction, the very vessels that can show us the way to a sustainable future. Recognising our interdependence with nature and the importance of community, we feel the need to grow from the inside out and not lose what we have while improving the aspects that need to change.
Sikkim and its surroundings have a weak economy with almost everyone directly or indirectly dependent on the government. This and the fact that architecture as a profession is new here and building technology and skills low, has nudged us in the direction of finding generic prototypes and steering clear of ‘boutique’ to seek a contemporary architectural language appropriate for our context. Our bamboo initiatives are at a preliminary stage but much of our practice feel like sowing seeds in a fertile environment and nurturing the growth of something valuable.
Our refusal to separate our ‘professional’ role from that of a citizen constantly draws us towards civic engagement, especially when it comes to matters concerning our city, Gangtok. Public consultation concerning the commons is non-negotiable for us and we have taken advantage of competitions to design and undertake exercises for effective public participation, so much so that we have even gotten directly involved in the Gangtok Municipal elections.
An unequal world is an unsustainable world eventually. It is an unspoken fact that the architecture profession caters almost exclusively to the urban elite. Our practice is deliberately lean to reduce overheads to enable us to take up projects that pay less. At the same time, we don’t want to be working all the time and recognise that quality of life requires enough time for one’s own personal life and growth. We have a 5-day week and an 8-hour workday, with the flexibility to choose when to take a total of 3 weeks’ leave annually. It is a constant challenge to balance our workload so that projects can cross-subsidize each other with room to take up some pro-bono work as well.