Saturday, January 23, 2021

Interaction-Kalhan Matoo, Director, Planet3 Studios

We anchor our creativity in the subject matter of that particular project specifics

Planet 3 Studios founded and led by Kalhan Mattoo and Santha Gour Mattoo is a young, internationally award winning firm representing the vanguard of future-forward design in India. The company has evolved as a multidisciplinary practice with a rapidly growing eclectic portfolio of projects comprising institutional buildings, mixed use developments, high rise buildings, adaptive-reuse projects, housing complexes, colleges, schools, training centers, business process outsourcing facilities, corporate offices, banks, malls, retail outlets, resorts, spas, hotels, restaurants, lounges, nightclubs, furniture and even industrial products. KALHAN MATOO, DIRECTOR, PLANET 3 STUDIOS spoke to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES


Very briefly tell us about your academic and professional background. Also please offer us an understanding of your company’s operational philosophy and your contribution towards developing sustainable structures?

Me and my partner Santha met at Sir JJ college of Architecture and set this firm up pretty much straight out of college. Planet 3 Studios is a multidisciplinary firm with interest spanning everything from large architecture projects to interiors, products and art. For us creative process is the means of solving problems for people and places. But this is done with wit and wisdom, in a way that delights and makes the world a better place.

Green is unfortunately too often a convenient shirtsleeve to put on an ordinary building and eco-justification pretence of nobility, undeserved and often earned merely by ticking boxes in LEEDS sheets. Socially responsible behavior can be a desirable side effect of addressing fundamental client needs, without putting the cart before the horse so to say.



Is your company offering specific solutions and services in the URBAN planning domain? Can you share details of some of your projects in the pipeline and completed.

We are leading an international consortium engaged in developing a cruise terminal within the footprint of the current building at Ballard Pier Extension, Mumbai. While the project falls well within the custom notified area, we are negotiating an architectural solution to create accessible public spaces for the city. Beyond its significance as an important architectural addition to the city, it is also a test case for opening up the eastern sea front and remedying public infrastructure, amenities and open spaces deficiency in Mumbai. The brown field challenge of reviving our urban spaces has excited us into exploring strategic interventions that will help urban spaces perform better while maintaining identity and preserving memory. Our prototype of a smart bus stop is one such recent effort.



Give us an understanding of the process and methodologies you employ in the design of of your projects?

It all begins with understanding what the project is about, the client, end user, context, constraints and opportunities and so on. We believe in a deep dive to arrive at insights that could potentially become points of inspiration in the creative process. From program definition to project closure, it’s always a participative process in which we engage with the client and other stakeholders in a dynamic dialogue. Never prescriptive, we anchor our creativity in the subject matter of that particular project specifics. Design ideation is a structured but open process that allows ideas to emerge from multiple sources and usually we run through a series of iterations before closing on the most suitable outcome. We are mindful of the fact that arriving at solution requires solving a multi-variable equation that needs us to engage with varied factors and believe that the best designs are the ones that manage to address most requirements effortlessly.



Give us an idea of the construction design software used by your firm in your various projects?

We employ a mix of simple and sophisticated technological tools to enable data collection, analysis, brainstorming, design development, visualisation, documentation, energy audits, monitoring and tracking and eventually post occupancy analysis. Online survey tools, Mindmaps, 3D sketching softwares, computational and parametric tools, BIM and plain vanilla CAD. It really depends on what the project requirement is.



With regards to usage of green and energy efficient buildings materials, to what extent are they used in your projects. Could you also share with us names of such products you use.

We do what is required by the client and project. I personally don’t fetish designer neutrality to the extent that we only speak in generics. When particular brand suggestions serve client needs better, we are unafraid to suggest. This is limited however only to specific proprietary products and technologies and in general specs we offer brand multiple options in our list of makes.



What are the new opportunities you see for your organization in the fast changing construction landscape of India? What specific role do you see playing in terms of contributing to new Smart City developments being planned?

We have recently been entrusted with the mandate for urban renewal of two strategically important towns, Uri and Poonch up north near the border. We are engaging with the present condition of these towns and through a brown field Urban Renewal strategy to uplift the main Bazaars as well as provide solutions for improvement in the functional deficit of town infrastructure. A vision of future is captured in new town centre buildings that provide best of class community facilities and architecturally embody the cultural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir and India in a contemporary context. An out of box self-financing model that uses money from auctioned wood of a defunct flume and grant in aid model for Government-Individual participation in improvement initiatives make these projects uniquely contextual. The Smart City Mission is currently limited to 100 cities, the challenge in India is far greater.



What difference can a quality architect like you bring to the construction process – in terms of design, savings in cost, time, planning and execution? Citing a few case studies tell us about the benefits accruing to clients through such services?

The right advice creates value far more than the investment in acquiring it. It goes beyond the obvious contribution in cost-quality-time improvements, Architects are uniquely capable in understanding needs, crafting Identity, enabling desired culture and providing a macro view, that sees a building as system that needs to perform well over time. Whether it's an individual or an organisation, the process of engagement with an involved, capable Architect can provide unanticipated design dividend, delight, pride of ownership, nobility and more.



How much does a region’s location and climate influence your design elements? Tell us about your company’s strategy to blend Earth elements (air, water, light, etc) in your projects?

For any spatial design to succeed, it’s imperative that it’s contextual, human centric, mindful of the constraints of location and sympathetic to the needs of those who inhabit it. As enablers and sometimes guardians of life quality, we need to ensure that whatever we create is fit for purpose and designed responsibly.

Any design that claims to be good has to demonstrate its value in making life better. It's human behavioral psychology to seek engagement with nature in a way that it creates a sense of wellbeing. It's equally human to derive satisfaction from contributing to society by not cornering resources totally selfishly. These twin strains of human instinct are key to crafting environments that work well for the individual as much as the place.



What are the trends and insight in the market?

The sheer multiplicity of ideas, the fact that no one intellectual-ideological position dominates design discourse, an emergent global architectural style if you like, professed sensitivity to socio-cultural context, mainstream eco-green agenda, concerns on safety, human centricity, emergent generative-parametric-computational design tools, integrated building information-assembly-operation management and experimentation with newer building materials, tools and techniques for construction would be my top of mind recall on the design side.



Tell us about your ongoing/recent projects? What are your company’s plans and outlook for the future.

We are in a dozen cities working on everything from Smart Towns, Transportation hubs, Gated Communities, Learning Institutions, Retail, 5 Star Hotels, Tourism Projects, Workplaces, Experience Spaces to projects for Individuals.  There is big shift in the typology, scale and ambition of our projects in the past few years and hope to keeps doing so in future. We believe that any organisation has to constantly refresh its ways to keep up with shifting context and time, ours is no different.

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