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 ‘I’ve met two Prime Ministers for projects related to architecture, my line of work’

AIT-SAP alumnus Nishant Gupta, senior associate at the firm Architect Hafeez Contractor, says every moment spent in college contributed to his professional evolution

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Nishant Gupta is the youngest senior associate at Architect Hafeez Contractor- one of the largest architectural studios of the nation. He was recently chosen in the Forty under Forty Young Tycoons of Real Estate India list by Realty Plus magazine.  He is an alumnus of the Apeejay Institute of Technology- School of Architecture and Planning (AIT-SAP) and completed his Bachelors of Architecture in the class of 2008. In an exclusive interview, Mr Gupta shares details about his professional journey, life lessons learned at the AIT-SAP campus and the effect of the pandemic on the architecture industry. Edited excerpts:

Please tell us about your work profile?

I head a team of around 35-40 architects. I work on all types of projects ranging from master planning projects to small bus-stands, corporate interiors to hospitality projects, from low-cost housing to luxury residential projects and large public buildings. I work on just about everything. 

What was the inspiration behind choosing this field of work?

I always wanted to be a graphic designer to be honest. But I could not get through the National Institute of Design. I come from Jaipur, a second tier city so I did not know any other avenue of becoming a graphic designer back then. I was fond of making structures out of cassette boxes, tiles and even Lego boxes. I also had a fascination with graphics, photography and creative writing. Then I realised that architecture is the mother of all arts. One can do architecture and still become a photographer or a graphic designer or a movie-maker. So, I went ahead with that instinct. Also, I wanted to get out of Jaipur. I wanted to be in a bigger city and see where the world is heading towards, basically get greater exposure. And that is the reason why I landed where I landed.

What are some of your best memories from the time you spent at AIT-SAP?

I received learnings of life at AIT-SAP. I gained a lot of education not only in terms of architecture but also in terms of companionship with friends and exposure to various skills and fields. I was the editor of the very first magazine ArcScape. I had written some poems in English for the magazine. It was a lovely experience.

Then I remember that I had flunked in my second year of architecture. Coping up with that was an experience that has played a huge role in shaping me into what I am doing today. At AIT-SAP, I was all into extra-curricular activities. I was a part of Zonasa, the cultural fest every year. Losing it in the first year, second year, third year and then finally going on to become Mr Zonasa in the fourth year was an experience that taught me a lot.

In architecture, it was all about design. There were times when I would top in the Design exam but barely pass in other subjects. It was then that one of my teachers, Ms Ekta, told me that if other less-meritorious students could get through then I could certainly do the same. So, that is when it struck me that I should study the other subjects as well. After that incident, I never failed a single time. I made sure I invested my energies in the right direction and for the right purpose.  I maintained my social life, attended parties and everything but maintained the hours of self-study needed. I would like to thank Professor Amit Jain in my first year, Professor Ekta Singh in second year, Professor Anurag Verma in third year, Professor Bansal in fourth year and Mr Mitra in the fifth year.

 What life lesson would you like to share with students of architecture at AITSAP?

I would say, five years is a very limited time, five years would just come and go. Do everything, parties and all that you want to do but have one particular goal in life. Be focused on that goal with a strong determination that you have to do this. Even if you have joined architecture but want to be a photographer then become the best photographer. But study so that you can comfortably get through. Look at every subject from a curious perspective. Learn about your skill from every subject that you study. That’s how it should be. When we compose a design, it should be like a picture. If you want to be a drunkard, then learn all about alcohol, the types, where it is from. If you are an enthusiast of bikes, then you should know everything about bikes, their models, features. Basically, be a madman in your area of interest. If you want to be a guitarist, then play the guitar for 20 hours a day and let your fingers bleed. Be the best in whatever you do. Remember that at the end of the day, 90% of money is made by 10% of people in life. So, decide where you want to be. Stay hungry, Stay foolish, as Steve Jobs says (laughs.) Your initial three years are very crucial. Everyone might demotivate you that you aren’t up to the mark and aren’t growing enough. But once you cross that threshold then sky is the limit.  I have met two Prime Ministers on projects related to work.  I met Dr Manmanhon Singh for the coastal road project and Mr Narendra Modi for the Central Vista project. I have also worked with 6-7 chief ministers.  

How has the pandemic affected the architecture industry?

With every setback comes an opportunity. I have got at least 20 large scale projects during the time of the pandemic. The pandemic gave a lot of time to developers to think about new projects and better ways to design and execute the project.  We worked in the pandemic on project designs that could have been designed better, more efficient, more economical and more viable for the person who will buy, build and design. So, with this thought process and attitude, I was beating all other top architects of the country. Everyone got time to reevaluate what they were doing. Everyone got the time to slow down and do things in a better way. In Mumbai, real estate is doing very well unlike in other places. Unlike north India, houses here don’t have balconies. Real estate prices are such that an architect designs in a way where every square inch counts. The onus lies in the hands of the architect to give you value for money. A 500 sq. feet house works as good as an 800 sq. feet house. So, business wise there was an opportunity in the pandemic.

What are some of the career prospects open to a student of architecture?

 If you have taken B. Arch with the intention to become an architect then you have a long way to go. If you have taken B. Arch. for the heck of it then I would say choose another line immediately. Like engineering, some twenty to thirty thousand architects are coming out of the country annually. Basically, there is immense competition.

Secondly, don’t think that since you have become an architect, you are also a good designer. Everyone feels that their design is the best. It is a creative product at the end. There is nothing wrong or right. It is just that something is more or less appropriate. Even after you have done architecture, understand and recognise your strengths and target a field accordingly. Select a field where you can work on it. Don’t live under an illusion that you are a great architect. 

See, there is a difference between an artist and an architect. An artist chooses the size of the canvas, the mode, the idea and the time to be taken but an architect even before he starts the project the deadline is already three months back. So he starts in minus. Plus there are rules, setbacks, complicated guidelines, aspirations of clients and the aspirations of the architect as well. Finally there is a budget. Basically, all things are in a framework for an architect, his life isn’t like an artist. As an architect, I like to do the project for the purpose of the project and not for my ego. A project has to be done in a certain way.

How did AIT-SAP help you pursue your passion in life?

I have named the teachers in one of the previous questions.  I would also like to thank all the friends that my college gave me. It was a very emotional journey for me in college. Every moment spent in college has made me what I am today. Every teacher, every friend, every bench, every page, every drawing, every crayon had a smell which I remember and which still lingers on and makes me who I am today.

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]

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