Architect Virendra Khare’s grandfather worked as the first Indian post master in Nagpur during the British rule in India, and his father, a mechanical engineer by education, worked as a pilot with Royal British Air Force, before starting his own factory in Nagpur. Hailing from a family full of engineers, Virendra Khare also wanted to become an engineer but life had different plans for him and he accidentally became an architect in 1978. He obviously can’t have any regrets for that as today, he is one of the most sought-after and respected architects in central India. An alumnus of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT), Khare is the proprietor of V K Associates, which he formed in 1979. The firm renders services like urban planning, architectural designing, architectural interiors and project management. His 38 years of professional journey is adorned with an impressive battery of work, which includes a lot of famous buildings in Nagpur i.e. Hotel Radisson Blu and Landmark building on Wardha Road, Mangalam Marvel at Times Square, Software Technology Parks of India at IT Park, etc. Virendra Khare founded VKA Infra Pvt. Ltd. in 2009 to foray into construction with Enrico Heights (a joint venture with Jaipurias) – one of the most ambitious residential cum commercial projects in Nagpur. In a freewheeling chat with Nation Next, architect Virendra Khare speaks about his professional outlook, his pet projects and the city he loves – Nagpur. Excerpts:
You started your career as an architect when civil engineers would only double up as architects in Nagpur…
My father was an engineer and I wanted to follow his footsteps. So, I took admission in Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT), Bhopal to study mechanical engineering but I had to come back as there were some law and order issues there in those times. I then attended VNIT (then VRC), where I had got admission in architecture department. So, initially it wasn’t really by choice. I graduated in architecture in 1978 from VNIT and started practicing from 1979. Later, I also did my M-Tech in Urban Planning in 1989. In those days, there wasn’t much awareness about architecture course; it was just engineering which was given a lot of importance. There was not much of requirement for an architect as during those days people wanted everything to be simple and nobody would go to the professionals. It is now that people’s choices have changed and they want everything to be done professionally.
You are perceived to be one of the busiest architects of Nagpur and now you have taken up new joint venture construction projects like Enrico Heights, Urbane Woods, a residential project at Ganesh Peth, etc. Isn’t it a bit too much on your plate?
Everybody should be aware about what their potential is and how much a person can work. The thing with me is that I haven’t still understood my potential and that’s why I cannot decline anything, which comes my way. Hence, I go on accepting projects, which fall in my kitty, if I like them. It’s true that I’m so busy that I’m not able to spend time with my family but I love to work.
What do you love the most – Architecture or Construction?
I always feel that I should create good architecture, good aesthetics and comfortable utility areas for people at large. Not many know that after studying architecture, I started my career as a builder first, then switched over to being a professional. Now again I am working as a builder.
Is there something like fashion in architecture design? Or is it just about the tastes and preferences?
Fashion in design basically depends on the material we use, but at the same time fashion has a shelf life and anything can go out of fashion anytime. The best option is to use materials and designs, which are trendy yet evergreen. Fashion has a shelf life in architectural design but the class is everlasting! People’s tastes and preferences are often shaped up by their budgets. While people see their low budget as a hindrance to everything they wish to implement, sometimes the elite class feels inexpensive is not classy. Then, they pressurise the architects to choose something costly. The truth is while a lot of superb designs can be made in a very low budget, you don’t necessarily get the quality by only infusing money. Everything depends upon how a client feels and that helps us decide better.
Talking about preferences, many builders complain that Nagpurians have a diehard fetish for specific residential areas like Ramdaspeth, Civil Lines, Dharampeth, Byramji Town, etc.
Traditionally, people do stick to limited areas in Nagpur due to lack of resources on the outskirts of the city. Builders will have to cater to people’s needs to change their perception. As a residential architect with projects like Ensara Metro Park and Tata’s Capitol Heights, I see things changing for better. Despite Ensara Metro Park being located on the outskirts, people are buying property there, not because we are offering a lavish lifestyle there but because we offering a comfortable environment for all age groups so that none of the family members feel that there is nothing for them there.
Nagpur has quite a few ancient buildings. If you ever get a chance to re-construct one of these building, which will it be and why?
I’m in love with Nagpur and its architectural heritage like High Court, Railway station etc. These buildings were constructed some 100 years back but they’ll stand like this for next 400 years! These structures score hundred marks on both aesthetics and sustainability. This is because the materials used for the construction of these buildings are natural and don’t age easily. This is why these older buildings have a much stronger and sustainable construction quality than the the ones that have been recently built.
What advice would you give to budding architects?
Act responsible, create a sustainable architecture and also beget an environment which is worth living to pass on the next generation.