‘The strength of Indian Architecture lies in its variety’
– Ar. Nimish Patel
An unfortunate loss to the fraternity; the master of conservation in India, Ar. Nimish Patel is no more. His soul may have departed but he will continue to inspire generations to come.
Not just one of the best conservation architects, but also a great human being who inspired many others! Nimish Patel believed in empowering craftsmen, promoting tradition, building contextually, and emphasized on innovation as a necessity for a developing nation as India and not a luxury.
Nimish Patel studied at MIT, Cambridge with specialization in Urban Settlement Design in Developing Countries and also had a Diploma in Architecture from CEPT, Ahmedabad. He had lectured widely and was a visiting faculty at CEPT. He officiated as a member of Jury for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Awards 2001-04 and 2007 to 2009 and 2012 at Bangkok.
After staying in US and Nigeria, Nimish Patel and his wife Ar. Parul Zaveri came back to India to set up their own Architecture, Interiors, Conservation and Planning consultancy firm in 1979 called Abhikram, which in Sanskrit means ‘initiation’.
Abhikram is one of the leading architecture and conservation firms in India. The firm has to its credit projects like Torrent Research Centre (India’s largest passively cooled building), The Oberoi Udaivillas in Udaipur (one of the top resorts of the world), Conservation of Amber Haveli, Fort Barwada Resort and many more.
Parul & Nimish were clear from the start of their practice that they would not accept any project if it did not pass through a set of convictions and beliefs that they had framed. These established the boundaries for their practice.• Conservation of resources is the primary guideline for all our projects.
- We will design the buildings, which in their form, space and technology, reflect the continuity of the Indian traditions.
- We will contextualize the design in all its aspects to be able to evolve responsible architecture.
- We will innovate responsibly in all our projects, since innovativeness for a developing society is a necessity, not a luxury.
- We know that every problem, irrespective of its nature, magnitude or constraints, has an appropriate solution.
- We also know that appropriate solutions will only come through clarity in the identification of the problems, the selection of appropriate tools and their judicious application.
- Our design and construction processes will offer opportunities for creative inputs at all levels for all involved.
He was strongly rooted in his culture and tradition. For their project ‘The Oberoi Udaivillas’ they had generated employment for 300 craftsmen for more than 3 years, and he felt that if one project could do this much for a community, it could work wonders if every project could be done that way. He believed that solutions must be contextual.
‘Our infatuation with using the “quick-fix” construction techniques like Precast, PEB, Dry wall etc. without checking their relevance to Indian context and climate, as well as our considering the directions of development pursued by the West as a role model, would invariably lead to an inappropriate and irresponsible built environment for India.’
-Ar. Nimish Patel
Hearing the news of his demise, B.V. Doshi who had even taught Nimish Patel said, “Nimish was one of the only architects who believed in conservation and tradition. The architect couple — Nimish and Parul — spent their lives on the revival of tradition, crafts and local material, and they worked on the conservation of energy at a time when everything is either imported or modified. They stood their ground and perceived what they believed in, which is one of the most important aspects today. Even though both of them were my students, overtime, we became colleagues and eventually like family members. He constantly encouraged me and others to do good for the society. I will miss Nimish.”
Architect Bimal Patel said, “Nimish Patel was a very important, highly venerated architect. He was committed to enriching contemporary architecture with the use of traditional crafts and was also very invested in the idea of sustainability. His collaboration with his wife, architect Parul Zaveri, was also a deeply inspiring architectural partnership. Both of them, who are also CEPT alumni, have given us some very wonderful and inspiring buildings.”
Here’s a peek into some of his projects.
Torrent Research Centre, Ahmedabad is a complex of pharmaceutical research laboratories with supporting facilities. It uses Passive Downdraft Evaporative Cooling (PDEC) for a large scale office building through a system of designated inlets and outlet having different heights and widths generate the requires air movement without using any mechanical or electrical energy. The projects is an example which proves that even in hot dry regions, it is possible to achieve human comfort without HVAC system.
The Oberoi Udaivilas is a super luxury heritage resort on the banks of Lake Pichola at Udaipur. Their concept was to achieve a balance between continuity with the past, without fossilizing it, and a change for the future without making it incongruous with its contextual surroundings. The whole complex is planned in the like a traditional palace complex. Every room has a courtyard to it and the creamy white monotone lime wash completely resembles the architecture of Mewar. Not only has this, but the cusped arches, niches, domes, brass doors, stone columns make the complex look like a heritage building. The design shows that local traditions and crafts have a quality of timelessness that can redefine grandeur in public spaces.
Conservation of Chanwar Palkhiwalon Ki Haveli proved that ruins of Amber were not as dilapidated and conservation was possible without much use of time and money and traditional materials had the potential to revitalize available ruins also.
Ramneet Kaur is an architect who loves to write about architecture and believes that words do have the power to bring about change.