As a newly independent nation, India needed to be reshaped and rebuilt to fit into the modern world. A few enterprising players took the lead to achieve successful results on a fruitful journey. CP Kukreja Architects from Delhi is one of them. Dikshu C. Kukreja, Managing Director of CP Kukreja Architects, has recorded these developments for posterity in his new book “Five Decades of India’s Built Environment”. On this occasion he meets the Sunday Guardian for an exclusive chat. Excerpts from an edited interview:
Q. Please tell us something about your book. Who designed it and when?
A I am a passionate architect, urban planner, environmentalist and Managing Director of CP Kukreja architects (CPKA) based in New Delhi. We also have offices in USA, Vietnam and Japan. I received my BA in Architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, followed by a scholarship to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in the USA and a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from Harvard University. I worked internationally in the US and France before returning to India and joining CPKA in 1997.
At CPKA we design built environments of all scales and typologies, from residential and retail projects to hospitality and institutional projects. Our work is contextual and driven by a sustainable approach, reinforced by innovative technologies.
As the title suggests, the book captures the last five decades of India’s built environment. The text navigates the development of Indian architecture over the past fifty years through the lens of our fifty-year-old multidisciplinary practice at CPKA. It is a showcase of our pioneering architectural projects that have shaped India’s architectural landscape from the post-independence era through post-liberal society to the present.
The book is the brainchild of Arunima Kukreja – a passionate writer, interior designer and philanthropist – and me. As we approached CPKA’s golden anniversary, we searched our archives and reviewed our company’s vast repository of projects that have made significant contributions to our growing nation. We felt that writing this book would be a great way to bring all that hard work together to be known and appreciated by all. Our book can be ordered online via Amazon.
Q. How has it been received so far?
A We are honored and honored to have received excellent reviews for the book.
It has been presented to eminent dignitaries worldwide who have enthusiastically recommended the edition, including Shri. M. Venkaiah Naidu, Hon’ble Vice President and V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State, Department of State; Shashi Tharoor, renowned author and politician. The book has also received compliments from eminent figures in the architectural community, including Mr. Daniel Hart, President of the American Institute of Architects, and Mr. Sherif Anis, Executive Director, AIA Middle East Chapter.
Arunima and I were also invited to present the book at the Jaipur Literature Festival where it was unveiled by His Excellency the Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Hans Jacob Frydenlund.
Q. How was this book put together?
A As CPKA approached 50 years in the industry, we began searching our archives. All in all, it has been quite amazing to see the scale of the work our company has accomplished over the past five decades. At the same time, we have also been fascinated by the significant changes that have taken place in India’s architectural vocabulary and building landscape during this period. So we decided to document and share our practice’s work with the world, presenting the profound changes that have been taking place in the urban environment in cities across India through the lens of our 50-year-old architectural practice. Led by Arunima Kukreja, the book is the result of a rigorous effort spanning two years amid the pandemic.
Q. Please share three of your most memorable memories from this 50 year period.
A My first notable memory is when my father, Mr. CP Kukreja, won the design competition for Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1969 when he was a young man in his early 30’s. The JNU campus has been considered a trendsetter in planning and a multidisciplinary approach to architecture with its comprehensive and contextual masters.
Another of my fond memories is when I joined CPKA in 1997. At this stage there was a confluence of ideas between mine and Mr. Kukreja’s. Although we both had different personalities and opinions, we shared a similar philosophy when it came to work and life. We both wanted to improve people’s lives and have a profound impact on society’s expectations of what architecture should stand for, by building with nature rather than at its expense.
The third memory is when our office was voted one of the top 100 architecture firms in the world and I was voted one of the top 100 architects worldwide in 2021 by the Union of International Architects in Paris. I was also happy and humbled when our design for The India Pavilion at Dubai Expo was recognized worldwide and selected among the top three pavilion designs in the world. It became a major trailblazer in bringing contemporary Indian architecture to the global map.
Q. How else do you commemorate this 50 year milestone?
A We are very excited to be completing half a century in the industry. We are commemorating this special occasion in a variety of ways, beginning with the release of our book Five Decades of India’s Built Environment. We have also partnered with the National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA) and created a design competition and scholarship for architecture students through the CP Kukreja Foundation for Design. In addition, we also travel the world and exhibit our work at CPKA over the past five decades. The exhibition took place in Dubai and Seoul in 2021 and will also be part of the upcoming London Festival of Architecture in June. We also organized internal celebrations with our beloved team at CPKA.
Q. What are you working on next?
A We work on many critical projects that keep the atmosphere in our office positive and exciting. Our team has just completed the master plan of the city of Ayodhya and we look forward to the implementation. The ongoing East Delhi Hub, India’s first and largest transit-oriented development project, is another of our ventures. It will house Delhi’s tallest building. A number of other projects are also in the works.
Besides that, we are also working on some exciting international projects in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Kenya. In addition, to bring conversations about urban issues into the mainstream, I’m working on an upcoming show, A Tale of Two Cities, which will air soon on WION. On the show, I will engage with global leaders from major metropolitan areas around the world about critical global and local issues in urban design and planning, and possible solutions.
Noor Anand Chawla writes lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.