Blurring the lines between virtual and the real world with his path-breaking designs, Architect James Law is taking architecture to a whole new level
- What was the turning point in your life that served as a stepping stone into the world of design?
As a seven year old, I discovered the iconic movie ‘The Fountain Head’ playing on TV. The movie inspired me to turn my dream of becoming an architect into an ambition. The movie has stayed with me till date and the work that I do is not a job for me; it has become the mission of my life.
- Tell us about that one thing that sets you apart from other contemporaries.
The field of architecture is laden with creative opportunities. Architects contribute in creating a beautiful society and shape it to be optimistic; we give soul to the building. Creativity is beyond competition. For me, being true to myself is more important than being different. I am an architect of the 21st century so my perspective, skills and upbringing has been a modern one. Hence, I am interested in creating structures that I speak of now. I believe in future and want the buildings (that I design) to be a vehicle to the future and take people beyond the existing designs. We have many names for the new possibility, I call it Cybertecture.
- Where do you draw inspiration from?
While a creative person is capable of creating something inspiring, they can get inspired from anything big or small or from situations that life throws at us. As humans, one has different kinds of experiences all the time–sensory and psychological. Our minds screen experiences but some part of it stays with us, that small part is where inspiration is drawn from. Different people will keep different things from the same situation. My inspiration comes from people around me–my friends and family. I see and appreciate all unique things they do in their own style and I learn from them.
- Any particular artist/architect/innovator whose works you most admire?
It is astounding to see how (Ar Buckminster Fuller?) transcends engineering into architecture, architecture into science, science into industrial design and industrial design into spirituality. I also admire the work of Leonardo Da Vinci who seamlessly merges art into science and engineering. With Cybertecture, I wish to go beyond architecture which will irrefutably blend art, science and society.
- How has your philosophy evolved over time?
Designing and building is a significant act by man; so as architects, we need to be very careful and work with a lot of reverence to people, society and nation. I ensure that I design for the benefit of the project and not for my ego, convenience or money. The business of architecture needs a fine balance of various elements—design, utility, client’s requirement, funds, image and social responsibility. Our business philosophy evolves and matures with time; hence sticking to one philosophy may hinder the progress. I don’t work to protect any particular philosophy; there are larger goals for me. I don’t believe in the ego of an architect, hence I welcome clashes in opinion.
- Which is the most challenging project you’ve worked on? Tell us about your learning experience?
Every project is difficult and challenging. If it were easy, it was never a project. It takes a lot of pain and effort to get to the depth of any project and deliver the right balance of every aspect. One of our projects—the iPad tower in Dubai—had run into a financial trouble and was shelved for five years only to restart in 2003. Back then we lost hope, but today we are nearing completion. Such incidents test a person’s emotional strength and sense of optimism; it has been an invaluable lesson in my life.
- What is the influence of international architecture/ design on India?
I have worked closely with Indian clients and on Indian projects, and I have seen that Indian architecture is much influenced by the western design. Due to globalisation and modernisation, there is an invasion of western architecture in India. I am amazed to see that there is no strong movement initiated by Indian architects. I am yet to meet an Indian architect who will introduce a new trend, an amalgamation of traditional Indian architecture with modern designs, in the market.
- Any incident that has left a lasting impression on your mind.
There was one incident in India that has left a lasting impression in my mind. At the site of my friend’s project, one night from the balcony, I saw children of slum dwellers going out to study under street lights because lights inside their homes were dimmer than street lights. Within few minutes, the street light too went off. That left me with a lingering thought, ‘Is it not the duty of the architects to ensure good urban planning that helps bring light to every house?’
- What, in your opinion, is the future of design in India?
I believe that future of architecture comes with incredible potential given the nation’s appetite to improve. Any society wanting to improve will challenge architects to bring sustainable and iconic masterpieces to be built. And India will soon have a portfolio of world-class architecture. The pride that Indians take in their culture and heritage, which also serves as rich sources of inspiration for them, has potential to put them on a high pedestal in the global scenario.
- How do you strike work- life balance?
When I was in my 30’s, it was all work for me. Things have changed for me now; a healthy life needs much more than job satisfaction and creative vent. Of late, I am much more creative when I am actively involved in other aspects of life. In a nutshell, I work better when I take up work selectively. Moreover, I am proud to have a very supportive family and to be associated with a talented team of professionals working for me.
- What is your take on sustainable architecture?
According to me, human sustainability is more important than architectural sustainability. People should adhere to living a ‘sustainable life’ before designing a sustainable house. What we call sustainable architecture is actually bio-mimicry. Nature is so multifaceted that even man-made technology cannot match its complexity. We strive to supersede nature by creating intelligent buildings with environment-adaptive features and so on; but most importantly, we should respect nature.
- Share one piece of advice to the upcoming architect or designer.
I want them to know that they are lucky to be born in a period where there are plenty of challenges and opportunities to innovate. Young architects have an inquisitive mind, gift of time and the spirit to take up the challenge and lay the foundation for future.