Nirmal Kulkarni

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Nirmal Kulkarni, is the founding principal of the firm AUM Architects which is a collaborative design practice now based in Gurugram, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA. Design engagement largely centers on institutional facilities, corporate offices, retail spaces & private residences. As a practicing architect, he has the ability to traverse the boundaries between education and the practice of architecture and design. He says – “We at AUM believe in addressing & evolving new design paradigms. We want to be an integral part of ‘Design for Communities’ and therefore strive to address the needs of people in a sort of “open source” approach to life.

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Nirmal, is also the principal founder member of a “not for profit” organization called Investigating Design – INDES. He realized early on that a viable and lasting solution to the Urban Paradox can only be wrought through a kind of ‘design activism’ that interweaves a value education with design thinking. The problem in India (as, in fact, in most of the Urban South) is that we have the ones with the required knowledge and skill sets: the architects, the engineers and the urban planners who indulge in textbook solutions or in blind copy-pasting from the west.

Nirmal is a staunch believer in a kind of ‘Design activism’ that empowers lay people to become co-creators in the developmental process. The architect or designer has been put on a pedestal for far too long. We need to trash the traditional roles of ‘facilitator’ and ‘receiver’. Through NASA (National Association of Students of Architecture) for 4 consecutive years he evolved the design brief for the G-sen trophy which centered on grass-roots engagement with communities from the informal sectors. He also feels strongly that the youth is where the action lies, since “they are the ones with the energy and the freshness of vision” and therefore, he runs community programs with active student engagement at the center.

He believes that the only way to effect lasting change is to see that lateral thinking and design ability percolate to the bottom of the pyramid, so that the subjugated are empowered to BE the change with minimal external interference.

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