An architect by profession, a poet by heart, an author by interest, and an educationist by choice, Architect Sangeet Sharma is a multifaced personality, well-known in all these diverse fields. In this article, he shares his early impressions of the world of architecture, the influences close at home that left an indelible mark on his professional outlook and growth, his esoteric world view, his poetic imagination, and his philosophical approach to life.
In his own words…
I graduated from Government College of Architecture, Lucknow, and completed my Masters after two decades of practice. Architecture came naturally to me. As a child, I grew up in Chandigarh, which was also in its growing phase. The stories of the making of Chandigarh are very close to my heart; they were often the topic of discussions between elders and associates at my father’s office. The environment was full of energy and warmth. Witnessing their commitment and intense involvement in creating architecture was the first dose of medicine that was administered to me for my artistic and architectural health.
Punjab Biotech Incubator (PBTI), Mohali, Punjab
The seeds of the architectural intent germinated deep in my sub-consciousness. A young growing modern city like Chandigarh and me, an aspiring architect, were both assimilating knowledge, understanding, and adapting to the various forces that were shaping us. My architectural style developed and adapted from the ethos of Chandigarh and modernism which signified the revolutionary change that took place in India and in the world a few decades ago.
The PSG Institute of Technology and Applied Research in Coimbatore is the inventiveness of an artistic client, who not only inspired but also oversaw every aspect of the building design and construction. Managing Trustee Mr. Gopalakrishnan, a true advocate of sustainability, helped conceptualize this building, which won the best performance GRIHA Award in Passive Architecture in 2017. The structure design is done by Dr. LS Jayagopal of Miteran Structure Design. The project is boundary-less, with unending vistas. It was sheer joy working with a client who inspired me to create a truly sustainable building.
As an architect (keeping aside the style), I imbibed the values of all the influencers and the influencing forces. A ferocious worker, I spewed emotions into forms that impressed my clients. The recognition bought me laurels which I credit to the people who made it possible.
Chandigarh-based Sangeet Sharma is Partner at SD Sharma & Associates, a firm founded by his father, Shiv Dutt Sharma. Sangeet’s architecture is termed as “Cubist Modernism” and is highly influenced by Chandigarh, Modernism, and Sustainable Architecture. He is widely published and featured in prestigious journals in India and abroad. A winner of 15 awards in architecture (till date), he has earned various titles under the heads ‘Hot 100 Architects’, ‘Famous 50‘, ‘Most Inspiring Architects of India’ etc.
He has authored 6 books on Architecture: Architalks, Step by Step Hospital Designing and Planning, Architecture Life & Me, and Corb’s Capitol, ‘Castles in the Air’, and has also published a book on English poetry titled ‘The Touch of Moon’. He is winner of two literary awards - the National Book Honor Award for Castles in the Air and for Creative Excellence by First Friday Forum.
There is always a certain sense of fascination in recalling the two decades when I worked as an apprentice under my father - a powerful personality both physically and temperamentally. We work collectively on projects, yet separately. We understand that creativity is personal, egotistical, and subjective. We have a varied outlook towards architecture. If I am a modernist, my father is a purest; he has spread his creative wings very wide to perfect architectural solutions. My son is highly creative; he has an eclectic approach to design. There are impacts on him by chance, by technology, and from legacy. The third generation of architects in our family, he will also make his unique mark.
Mathematics and Humanities Block at IIT Roorkee is an interesting combination of art, structure and aesthetics clubbed into a building mass. Deft detailing and materiality make it a new emblem of IIT.
Like me, my architecture too is ambivert in nature - a balance of extrovert and introvert features. The spaces that I create are at times in a state of restful tranquility… and at times, they are cheerful, effervescent. I think God must have indulged in a similar feeling of ecstasy when ‘designing’ an amoeba, an octopus, a peacock, a zebra, and Adam. I do not think He employed Autocad in His manifestations; His software must have been more emotionally drawn than mechanical.
“I am proud of projects that are closest to my creative emotions, and which have drawn out the best in me. Amongst my latest is the Punjab Biotech Incubator (PBTI) in Mohali, Punjab. It is symbolic of the understanding and relationship between a client and the architect and the freedom that it gave the designer to create the best model in laboratories. Dr Ajit Dua, CEO of PBTI had given clear instructions on the making of a world-class scientific laboratory and was also an active participant from the conception to the implementation stage. The structure design is done by Dr. IC Syal. I also thank Ar. Purnima Sharma for her meticulous detailing and interiors as a partner in this project. I always feel that the finest architecture is generated by a visionary client and this project is the outcome of our enthusiastic collaboration.”
I do not build to exemplify the philosophy of my life or to prove myself. I build to please myself. My buildings are the silent narrators. Their design does the talking and influence the onlookers.
Himachal Pradesh Technical University
Architecture for me is like the spirit of writing a book—the forewords, prefaces, contents, context…all lead to a common epilogue. It’s strange, but true. The philosophy of my life is contrary to my profession. I know that life is transient.
NIT Jalandhar, University of Jammu
Punjab Biotech Incubator
National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research
PSG Institute of Technology and Applied Research, Coimbatore
Damcosoft IT Park, Chandigarh
Mega Boys Hostel at NIT Jalandhar
Wadia Museum of Natural History, University of Jammu
Cafe cum Library block at Punjab Police Housing Corporation
KMG IT Towers, Mohali, Punjab
TIMEX Factory at Baddi, HP
Boys Hostel at National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Mohali.
My upcoming projects include the Hostel building in IIT Roorkee, Lecture Theatre Complex at NIT Jalandhar, and the Himachal Pradesh Technical University Block in Hamirpur.
I think I am multifarious. Like me, my architecture swirls like a Sufi, is contemplative like a lovelorn lover, robust like a rock, ecstatic like a monk, fluttering its wings like a bird, or flying to some mysterious, fathomless land.
Architecture must be riveting; it must look into your eyes and must talk to the onlooker. It is the sensual dialogue that happens between the eyes of two lovers, when so much needs to be sorted out. There is a sense of perception through looking at angles and images. Throughout historical monuments, there are visible frames which appear for the benefit of human perception. And that is what my architecture communicates.
External Views of Himachal Pradesh Technical University
For me, architecture is the discovery that materializes from imagination, a dream, a visualization. The first vision remains almost intact, and though appearances can change, the first flash is always victorious. Everything interesting in art and architecture happens right in the beginning, but once you pass the beginning you are already at the end of it.
Hostel, IIT Roorkee
What does Cubism mean to me? Cubism is a revolution in art. Cubism changes the nature between the image and reality and in doing so it places man in a very superior position. There are ways to achieve cubist modernism: By choosing the right subject. By the materiality. By turning the fluid imagery into a structural arrangement. There is the art of revealing ‘the process’. It is all about interactions between different aspects, structures, and movements, solids, and spaces, special and arbitrary. For me, Cubism is an art that is modern yet mystical. It is contextual - living in the present time. It can never be vested - or have any debt. It is lingering, phenomenal, and important. It is about liberation.
Mathematics and Humanities Block, IIT Roorkee
Architecture is a meaningful expression of fine art that is primarily functional and for the use of human beings and their comfort. All elements of a building are derived from the climatic conditions. I use passive architecture and incorporate elements in my building components so that there is less dependence on technology. I ensure the least extravagance on materials and confine my architectural expressions to creating valuable spaces that will enhance our experience of the spaces.
A Multifaceted Personality Who Dons Many Hats
His essays on architectural aesthetics culminated in the book called “Archi Talks”. His popular book on Chandigarh “Corb’s Capitol” has been translated into three languages. He has been involved in many writers’ workshop that delves in teaching writing expressions both literary and prose and he has been invited to many literary festivals. He was awarded Poet of the Year by The Poetry Society (India) and the ‘National Book Honour Award’ in 2017. Also an artist, he was awarded the state award by the World Wildlife Fund in Bangalore.
As an educationist, he founded the A3 Foundation, which promotes Art, Architecture, and Aesthetics. The Foundation organizes seminars and conferences, and awards students, teachers, and associate professionals every year. Today, A3 awards are a name to reckon with. He has developed a workshop ‘IDSS-In depth with Sangeet Sharma,’ which comprise lectures and active design exercises, that he and his team conduct in colleges.
He has delivered over 150 talks including in many universities abroad. He was invited to deliver the TEDx talk at NMIMS Hyderabad. His talks on design, Chandigarh, modernism, sustainability and life are very popular with the students.
PSG Institute of Technology
Awards and Recognition for Ideating and Creating Sustainable and Modern Architecture.
- Awarded the GRIHA Exemplary Performance Award for his project PSG Institute of Technology and Applied Research by GRIHA Council, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in 2018.
- Felicitated for excellence at the INT-EXT Expo & Awards by The Times of India and Indian Institute of Architects in 2019.
- Received honorary doctorate from Berkeley University.
- Nominated for Architect of the Year Award by Autodesk NDTV Design Awards.
- Received the 2015 Best Concrete Structure award for his project Mega Boya Hostel at NIT Jalandhar by Indian Concrete Institute.
- Awarded the Best Concrete Structure 2013 for his project Netsmartz IT Building by Indian Concrete Institute.
- Noted as future Architectural Icon by The Economic Times in 2013.
- Commendation award by Indian Building Congress for TIMEX Factory at Baddi, HP.
- Awarded Outstanding Concrete Structure 2009 by Indian Concrete Institute for project KMG IT Towers, Mohali, Punjab.
Hostel, IIT Roorkee
The influence of Chandigarh is not merely in imitating but in adopting sustainability in the order of purity of form, in un-wasteful spaces, and in essential living. My style incorporates green areas inside and outside as learnt from the masters that greenery and nature are part and parcel of architecture. My approach to sustainability is project oriented and is reflected in my buildings. The form is dominant, and, as the aesthetic appeal is creatively vital, the form expresses it all. Architecture is about visual appeal… like my father learnt from Le Corbusier that ‘architecture must appeal to the senses’.