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‘Don’t just focus on what’s trending, it’s more important to identify what the space requires’

Principal Interior Architect Shilpy Lath, an alumna of the Apeejay Institute of Design, says the institute guided her to understand design holistically

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For Shilpy Lath (31) her professional journey began when she was pursuing her undergraduate studies at the Apeejay Institute of Design (AID) when she did internships during her summer and winter breaks. “I remember my parents not being happy with me not coming back home for most of the breaks. I then moved to Ahmedabad in 2013 to do my Masters in Interior Architecture and Design from CEPT University where I learned a lot about building energy efficiency and parametric designing.” After completing her education, the Nepal-based girl stayed in Ahmedabad for another year and worked with Andblack Design Studio. 

She enjoyed practicing parametric design, which was an advanced concept then and finally, shifted back to Delhi to join Design Plus. In 2017, she joined VYOM where her potential in architecture was realised and she received opportunities to handle projects such as the Indian Oil Corporation R&D Centre as a Design Manager. Her last stop as an employee was with Morphogenesis. It was during the pandemic when things changed for her completely and the AID alumna started her own practice in Nepal with Karigar Design in 2020. In an interview, she shares how design is an inherent part of her life. Edited excerpts:  

Did you always aspire to be a designer in your childhood? 

Crafts has been my friend ever since I can remember. “Shilpy” in itself means “Karigar” – that’s where the idea for my brand came from. I would create mini-interior spaces with paper bits for my doll as a kid. I think it was in class 8 when I got to know about Interior designing as a profession and I have never looked back since. Although design in the real world is very different from what I always dreamt of, every time I complete a project, it reminds me why I love to be in this profession.

You started your own business during an economic crisis. How did you decide to embark on this journey?

I believe a lot of people were scared during the pandemic and so was my family. I shifted back home to reassure them, and I started from the bottom. To be honest, it has been a challenge, but I am grateful to have experienced this even though I had to go back to the basics. I feel blessed to have a decent amount of Interior and Architectural projects.

Share some interesting architectural or design differences that you think exist between India and Nepal.

I would say one major difference would be resources. It has been a challenge to get diverse materials or skilled labour. Birgunj is a very quaint city in Nepal where I reside. Design practice here is very conventional, and people are averse to new ideas. Concepts like parametric design, building energy efficiency and sustainability are unacknowledged. I had to unlearn a lot of things that I was very comfortable working with back in India. This city is very far from corporate culture and it’s easier to make relations. Here with very limited options, I have started focusing more on local craft and details that makes me less dependent on hardware/accessories. For instance, we don’t have the availability of hanging lights in Birgunj at all. I designed the same using local terracotta pots with a contemporary design hand painted on it.

Why did you choose the Apeejay Institute of Design? 

Interior designing as a career was a very unconventional thing to pursue when I was planning a career in this domain. At that time, a lot of people didn’t even consider design as an education. In fact, being a doctor or an engineer was the highest rank in the society. It took a lot of effort for me to convince my family to let me pursue something I had my eyes set on for years. Apeejay was one of the few institutes offering a degree course back then.

Any memorable moments from AID you still cherish?

I remember not understanding the value of manual design processes and wanted to focus more on software and simulations back then. As an entrepreneur, it has been a blessing to have learned it and be able to design and visualise with the greatest tool of mankind that is our hands. AID was my home for four years and I made friends for life on this campus. I hope everyone makes a new family here and stride through their journey.

What were your learnings from AID?

I feel blessed to have experienced the design process holistically during the foundation at AID. It made me realise how every specialisation is intimately connected, and helped me so far in the real world where the design practice is not limited to the technicalities of one’s specialisation

Two skills you think an aspiring designer or architect must have or focus on honing? 

Rather than focusing on what’s trending, it’s more important to identify what the space requires. This is the only skill that will make your clients come back to you. Designing is not just about the space. When you design something for your client, you’re designing their lifestyle as well. One can never draft a layout and call it a design unless you make a difference.

Harshita is Assistant Editor at Apeejay newsroom. With experience in both the Media and Public Relations (PR) world, she has worked with Careers360, India Today and Value360 Communications. A learner by nature, she is a foodie, traveller and believes in having a healthy work-life balance.

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