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The AIA in India
On the subcontinent, an expanding economy is creating opportunities for architects—and the AIA
By John Gendall
As the American economy struggles to regain its footing, architects and developers in India are tapping into a burgeoning economy where building opportunities abound. And it’s not just buildings that are popping up: The AIA is launching an India chapter, an initiative spearheaded by Somshankar Bose, AIA.
Having moved to India from Wisconsin in October of 2010, Bose (an India native) found himself in a right-place-right-time kind of story, in the midst of an architectural market with considerable upside. But after launching his own practice, Bose Laboratory and Industrial Planning Solutions (BLIPS), he found himself missing what had been extensive involvement with the AIA back in Wisconsin. Following conversations with the national chapter, he is setting out to found and develop a chapter in India.
“This is a very exciting time for architecture in India,” Bose says. “In 2007, there was a sudden slow-down in the economy because of the global market crash, but within a year the economy kickstarted again. The economy is in very robust shape. In the next 20 years, there will be a lot of construction.”
This upswing is due to an immense population eager to acquire commodities (and a lifestyle) readily available in the U.S. and Europe. “There are a large number of consumers in India who are still trying to get the things that people in the West have, so there is a lot of potential in the markets,” he explains. “From the built environment point-of-view, there are a lot of things that need to happen to meet this consumer demand,” he adds, citing an expansion of the hospitality, housing, commercial, and industrial markets.
Architecture in India is also evolving in ways beyond economic expansion, Bose says. The practice of architecture itself must be updated to keep pace with established and emerging practices in Western markets. “The practice here hasn’t evolved too much since the 1950s,” Bose explains. “The knowledge base comes from the British system, but it hasn’t been updated to current RIBA standards. The material palette and methods of construction have been very limited, typically brick and stucco.” Looking back on his time in Wisconsin, Bose understood that the AIA was integral in nurturing the kind of knowledge resources necessary to keep up with a quickly changing practice.
In India, Bose says, architects should plan to bring very particular expertise to the table when meeting with clients. While American firms tend to generalize, taking on a variety of program types and working across a range of scales, Indian practices, according to Bose, especially value specialization and niche expertise. Bose’s own practice has borne this out. When he moved back to India last year, for example, he worked at Edifice Consultants, in Mumbai, for five months as the head of its science and technology business unit. His firm BLIPS now specializes in similar program types.
Bose says there is a large audience for the AIA in India. “Because of the economic downturn in America,” he says, “there has been an exodus of professionals back from the U.S.” Because many of them have American training and licenses, and are already AIA members, Bose’s task is to connect and organize them. He plans to work closely with the Indian Institute of Architects, but understands the unique contributions of the AIA, particularly for those architects with American backgrounds. “Our primary goal is networking with industry and clients, with experts in different knowledge areas, and with each other,” he says.
Indian building professionals seem equally ready to work with Americans as well, Bose says. “One very positive thing is that Indian design firms are always more than willing to partner with an American firm,” he says, encouraging the idea of international collaborations. The same goes for developers. “Clients here are always interested in developing projects with international scope.”
Visit the AIA’s International program Web site on AIA KnowledgeNet.