Architect's Voice, Oct 2017
AR. HEENA KOKEL Co-Founder, Director of Clay Club Innovations Pvt. Ltd.
Tell us about your professional background and Clay Club.

I completed my B.Arch. in 2012 from CEPT University, Ahmedabad.

In 2006, while studying architecture at the CEPT University in Ahmedabad, our group began to brainstorm, collaborate on class projects, and explore various materials, soon named CLAY CLUB. It became a hub for hands-on work, rigorous discussions, design explorations and experiments with our “ideas of doing.” After graduating we set up our own design studio called CLAY CLUB Innovations to continue our explorations with an added challenge of engaging with clients, associate practitioners and the society at-large.

Today, as a start-up, CLAY CLUB Innovations places itself within the milieu of a growing economy with depleting resources, inaccessibility to basic needs, shrinking job opportunities and other such incongruent circumstances. We identify the crisis to be an ethical one rather than climatic or economic. In practice, we engage with three media – Architecture, Ceramics, and Handmade Paper. We employ design, communication and social innovation as means to address societal challenges in a contextual manner.

We are a design consultancy cum manufacturing agency and call ourselves Archipreneurs – Architects + Entrepreneurs as we enjoy practicing coherent designing with Architecture – Interiors – Ceramics and Handmade Paper as our media.

We continue to have some amazing mentors like Walter Dsouza, Valsan Kolleri, Miki Desai, Anupam Chakraborty, Nehal Rachh who shared their knowledge and wisdom with us to shape ours.

Architects Project, Alpeshi Studio, Shilaj, Ahmedabad.

What is your take on government’s initiative on “Digital India and Smart Cities”?

As a concept “digital and smart cities” concept is a wise thought but in context of India, I personally believe that the basic living quality for a larger population is being ignored for making few established cities to even better versions. I wouldn’t use the word “developed” or better quality of life because the definition of development should not be based on infrastructure only, similarly there are many flaws in government projected development initiatives.

What are your views on the growing trend of high rise buildings?

High rise buildings aren’t only a trend; its an important call of this hour for our country that has high population and only major cities have apt opportunities. When designed well with the right make and workmanship, it can make use of resources being used to its optimum life. So only when designing and executing quality is made affordable for mass population, will there be right development.

What are your views on Vaastu in modern times? Do you think that Vaastu is a key aspect that architects/interior designers/urban planners should consider?

Vaastu had its roots based on climate and locational logics of India. For which it should still be referred but with modern times, techniques and technology of drainage, facade light management, air conditioning solutions, many of these basics are can be tweaked. So Vaastu aspects should also be upgraded. Let’s have locational and directional logics for AC installation, solar panel, and drainage.

What are the different kinds of projects you have undertaken? How has the experience shaped you?

We started our practice with catering to customized work projects. The product design and manufacturing ceramic products gave us a smooth transition from student life to professional being. Our contacts in the industry through CEPT- be professors or alumni body practicing in the industry were our first set of clients for ceramic products. We would design the murals as per their vision, manufacture and install in their projects.

The key point being Gujarat has lot of ceramic products manufacturer, if there is a huge quantum, one would get plenty vendors but for small quantity and good quality right methods for designing, discussing with the architects’ team, and executing at good costs, there were very few.

We started identifying a entrepreneur in us to make architectural products and started catering various kinds of projects – murals, customized tiles, décor products, sculptures, etc.

Soon after seeing our design etiquettes and results in products, a few good experimental clients trusted us for architecture and interior design projects. We made sure that these opportunities at hand are well served with all our attention, design skills and on-ground efforts to work with execution agencies.

We have learnt a lot from the execution agencies and our surrounding in the industrial area of Gota (Ahmedabad). I can say that apart from the academic knowledge and innovative thinking, the learning limitation of the execution agencies at our disposal around in Ahmedabad has helped us to shape our design practice.

Sample Homes Interiors For Kaveri Sangam, Shilaj, Ahmedabad.

Tell us something about the approach you use towards your projects.

We believe in a hands-on approach, and questioning the basics to innovate. Most important part is working on grassroots level with various agencies within their set of limitations to come up with good work and execute the innovations.

How can architecture attract people and business in the city?

First, why should architecture attract people and business to the city, isn’t going digital all about opportunities reaching people all over.

Do you feel architects should be concerned about environment sustainability? If so, what role does green building play into your work?

Architecture, be it in city or otherwise, is essentially supposed to be apt measures to develop right environment for humans as per the local climate and natural resources. When this is done right to accommodate sunlight, water, construction materials, execution time as well as bringing right employment opportunities to locals, only then it can be called sustainable and, the way to go forward.

Customized Ceramic Wall Mural

Architecture, be it in city or otherwise, is essentially supposed to be apt measures to develop right environment for humans as per the local climate and natural resources.