Decoding Reza Kabul – Architect & Interior Designer Par Excellence
As part of Design Leaders Decoded – an Interview Series by Arcedior, we had the privilege to have an insightful conversation with the very experienced and successful architect, interior designer, and urban planner, Reza Kabul.
Though becoming an architect was never a part of his plan, he is one of the most successful personalities in the industry today. He has won several awards in over 30 years of his career such as The Best Architect of the Year 2004 by Accommodation Times, Gun Gaurav Puraskar in 2006 by PEATA India for Outstanding Contribution & Research in Architecture, DNA – The Next Generation in 2012, and Society Honours Award for Creative Excellence in 2015 by The Johnson.
Kabul, who says that he wants to redesign Mumbai, has been an inspiration for many because of his work involving everything from intelligent floor plans to architectural and design brilliance.
All About Design, Architecture, and Technology
Reza Kabul’s design philosophy is that – “design should liberate space and not enclose it; it should bring the indoors and outdoors together.” He tells Arcedior that every time he designs a space, he puts himself in the shoes of the client and imagines what would should the space be like. And this is his secret of success.
Taking us on his professional journey, Kabul shares how architecture has changed dramatically. When he started his practice, Reza Kabul Architects Pvt. Ltd., in 1988, buildings rarely had more than seven stories. There were a few buildings with up to 14 stories, but not beyond Bandra in Mumbai. And that’s because people’s immediate concern remained problems escaping high-rise buildings in case of fires or natural calamities.
But gradually, the needs changed. People adapted to the concept of high-rise buildings and believed in it because technology minimized the risk. Moreover, taller buildings allowed designing more open and greener spaces in towers that could accommodate more people. He himself started building his first high-rise building, Shreepati Arcade, at 153 meters in 1999 and finished it in 2002, right after which it made to the Limca Book of Records as the Tallest Building in India.
The award-winning 45-storied building by Reza Kabul is more than twice as tall as the 730-meter Kutub Minar, Delhi. It is equipped with six high-speed elevators that move at the speed of 4 meters per second. The tower can withstand earthquakes and also has an integrated building management system that coordinates emergency services such as security and fire-fighting. Other services such as power and water management have also been beautifully perfected in the architecture.
The high-rise expert gives technology massive credit for making it all possible. He explains, “We earlier had ordinary, collapsible lifts. But with automatic elevators, high-speed elevators, service elevators, both people and material could be transported to the top floor, which made such mighty construction possible. Years 1999-2000 were the years of many firsts for us.”
The successful architect also shares that technology changed their perception and improved the way he and his team worked at his architecture firm — “Earlier, we used pencils to draw on boards when completing one plan took eight days. But with the advancements in technology, we could superimpose images and view plans of two buildings together. Today, we can complete eight drawings in 1 day. Technology has certainly made us faster”.
Challenges – As it is from Reza Kabul
When asked about the challenges that he had to overcome, he answers, “because of high land costs; investors wanted to make the best use of the land available. So, we needed to incorporate services such as shopping, theatre, medical, etc. on the bottom floors of the towers meant for residential clients. And this was the most significant challenge, I must say. But with the BIM model, we could overcome it.”
BIM stands for Building Information Modelling, which helps generate and manage digital representations of both the physical and functional characteristics of an architecture project.
Making Your Work Stand Out
Though there are many accomplished players in the industry, Reza Kabul Architects Pvt. Ltd. is known for being approachable and staying ready with solutions for its clients. No matter what the requirement, every member of the architecture firm works together as a great team to make sure that every request is fulfilled. Moreover, Mr. Kabul believes that as an architect, you should be ready to take on any challenge. Be it a hotel, a residential space, or even a healthcare facility – a good architect should be able to create anything.
This holds true when we look back at one of his most stylish projects, Marine Plaza, Mumbai. His challenge was turning a structure into a five-star hotel without demolition. And what’s a five-star hotel without a luxurious swimming pool? With no space in the central atrium which already lacked natural light, he leveraged the terrace to create a glass-bottomed pool, which also resolved the problem of natural light in one brilliant masterstroke.
Hotel Marine Plaza, Mumbai
Even the Master has Challenges
Reza Kabul considers retrofit projects the most challenging. These are projects that are usually half done or need to be reworked on to fit in new functions and designs, as opposed to a green-field project where you have the liberty to do anything you deem best. But with retrofit projects – for example, restoring a heritage building – the challenges become bigger since, in most cases, architects don’t have any data to back their plans. Such projects require a lot of research on the site. It is also important to ensure that the essence of the earlier design is not lost.
The long-established architect has been completing projects all over the world, including India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Dubai, and is currently living in the US. Explaining the architecture scene in the US, he says that one must be code-savvy to complete a project in the US. But he also believes that every place or country poses a set of challenges; a good architect always finds their way around.
Projects by Reza Kabul
A residential high-rise in Nagpur, Kukreja Infinity, is one of the tallest towers in the city at 90 meters. It is currently under construction, but everything in the plan from the fundamental design to intricate details spells a luxurious lifestyle. It boasts chic apartments, duplexes, sky villas, a multipurpose club, and other amenities. But the super stylish sky-lounge on the top floor is transcendental.
“Kukreja Infinity is a very exciting project for us. And we are glad that it has set a benchmark that raises the bar for residential developments in Nagpur”, says Kabul when asked about his experience with Kukreja Infinity so far.
AXIS-MIDC, in the heart of Mumbai, by Reza Kabul, is sophisticated and thoughtful. The use of vibrant colors on the interiors creates a playful and positive environment for the employees. Very intelligent!
Transcon Triumph, a residential project in Mumbai, is a multi-award winning high-rise development at 135 meters. Its progressive design, lavish features, themed landscapes, and a crowning sky deck – everything makes it highly sophisticated and every bit worth the praise!
A commercial project in Mumbai, Kanakia Wallstreet by Reza Kabul, displays a mix of the classical architectural style of the original Wall Street and Kabul’s own modern twist. The most impressive are its single-glazed façade and attractive interiors.
Le Méridien Thimpu has a beautiful, culturally-inspired architecture perfect for a leisurely holiday. Its modern-day vernacular architecture highlights the regional Dzong style and has a plaster-finished façade with multi-colored wood frontages, small arched windows, and sloping roofs. Truly aesthetic!
Nasik’s Convention Centre’s design by Reza Kabul is influenced by the famous Pandav Leni Caves – ancient rock-cut sculptures with 24 caves. The design conveys a sense of topography seen in hilly areas, whereas its sustainable aspect reflects the self-sustainability of life in these mountains.
Kabul’s Other Brilliant Projects
Radisson Resort (now Le Méridien Ile, Maurice)
Private Villa, Lonavala
AceTech VIP Lounge
96 Legends Square, Colombo, Sri Lanka
We are excitedly waiting for his newest project – 96 Legends Square in Colombo, Sri Lanka – a mixed-use residential project with retail outlets and public spaces. The façade of the building is designed with a ball balanced between four towers (four bats) to commemorate the achievements of Sri Lankan cricketers.
A Message for the Young Architects and Designers from Reza Kabul
Mr. Kabul shares that designers and architects shouldn’t try to prove anything as soon as they take up a project. He believes that the key to a successful project is understanding everything there is to understand before getting started. “You must understand the project, its guidelines, its surroundings, and sustainability before you use your pen or computer. You shouldn’t start anything without context and a prior thought. Whatever we do is going to stay for the next 2-3 generations. Therefore, it is our responsibility as architects to create a design that’s workable even after 100 years ”, says the super successful architect.
Challenges After COVID-19 – Sourcing Interior Design Products
Humans are the carriers of the coronavirus. Therefore, architecture and design, according to Reza Kabul, is going to change a lot. “We will see several technological advancements being actively used – for example – automated elevators that work with mobile apps. Similarly, products and fabrics used in homes and offices will change too. Therefore, sourcing the right product may get even more challenging,” he explains.
“I have worked with your team at Arcedior for five to six projects, including Ramada, Ahmedabad, Landmark Grand, Dubai, The Concord (ongoing), among others. And the fact that Arcedior has been our repeat supplier speaks volumes. The involvement of the team has been admirable. And the fact that Vivek (CEO, Arcedior) himself is hands-on and always stays in an active mode like me has made us a great team”, says Mr. Kabul further when talking about sourcing.
And so our conversation ended…
We hope that our small step towards getting you a little closer to the inspiring people in the industry is doing its job well. We will soon bring you other successful architects and designers with interesting insights and information. Till then, stay tuned, and do not forget to catch Reza Kabul’s interview on Design Leaders Decoded – both on IGTV and YoutTube channels.