01 June 2020

Table of Contents for Interiors

Interview- Prateek Chaudhry (The First Ferry)

We have moved from strength to strength with over 20 design-build projects in 5 years



The First Ferry is a Dubai-based international boutique design office with branches in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and India and is known for its cutting-edge style and classy designs. The young and dynamic interior firm advocates a design by emotion and immersion philosophy, in contrast to the mainstream of ‘design by aesthetics’.  The First Ferry has many projects to its credit including the UAE embassy in Singapore, homes at The Palm, Burj Khalifa, Emirates Hills as well as restaurants, clubs and corporate offices and aspires to be recognised as a global powerhouse of design. PRATEEK CHAUDHRY, SKIPPER, THE FIRST FERRY offered SHRIKANT RAO an understanding of the holistic role played by his organisation in the area of interior design.



It is interesting you call your organisation The First Ferry and yourself its skipper? Why the marine allusion?  From where does The First Ferry draw inspiration?



It’s all about living the dream.  The sea connotes ideas of adventure, of free spiritedness, of freedom of vigor and of freshness.  The ferry symbolises a vessel that synergises the idea with the dream.  We are the conduit that takes you from an idea to reality.  As the skipper, I orchestrate a myriad of people- designers, engineers, contractors as well as civil authorities that all play a role in connecting the elements of the design to complete the composition.




Which are the important projects you have done both in the Middle East, where you are based, as well us in India? Tell us about their features and challenges faced in conceptualisation leading to the delivery of the project?



We have done a large number of projects. We started out from banks, retail shops, office spaces, villas, apartments, etc. Some of these include apartment at the Burj Khalifa, designed and built by The First Ferry.  Completing the stature of Burj Khalifa will always be a challenge for any good designer, everything about it, the sheer significance. The First Ferry understood the soul of the space and thus created a very biomorphic, free flowing design.  The Apartment at the Kempinski Residence, Palm Jumeirah denotes complete elegance and sophistication. This was done for a Russian client; the apartment is understated and respects the personality of the owner. Everything in the apartment is custom built, including the carpets and the chandeliers. The chandeliers are from a 300-year old Armenian company, hand-crafted, custom built, with exclusive distribution rights to The First Ferry for India and the Middle East. Then we have the offices of Metalloinvest at Dubai World Central, Metalloinvest is an international conglomerate with offices in Moscow and Switzerland, The brief given to us was that the offices had to have a corporate feel and yet be very dynamic and should depict its global presence.  Other than the above mentioned clients we have designed many homes, retail and office spaces including Middle East’s first racing simulation centre.



Do you have a preference for specific type of projects?  



From experiences, we have become very strong in designing high-end residential apartments and villas, however we do not shun away from possible projects and usually welcome the challenge of creating something new.  However frequent a type of project may come, we have successfully managed to spin out a new concept for each unique client, situation and site.  We believe in a holistic design for all our projects and we get into all other areas of the design.  Take for example a pizza shop which we recently completed: we not only designed the interior space, but also the pizza box, the menu, their branding, staff uniform; right up to the tissue.  Likewise when we design houses, we take it upon ourselves to pay attention to the finer details - fabrics, lighting design, landscaping and ambiance design.  We do the hardscapes, bollards, fountains as well as stone works to make sure the theme of the design is carried onto the smallest details of the project.




Tell us of the project management and design software employed by The First Ferry and the benefits accruing from their usage?   



We use whatever software we can get our hands on that is appropriate for the job output requirement.  For drafting we use Autocad; for rendering we use 3dmax and Vray; we use Maya for modeling.  For project management, we use MS Project and Primavera.  It goes without saying that investment in technology goes a long way for time-savings, efficiency and quality.  Still, it is our belief that the software output can only be as good as the skill of the designer who operates it. 




Can you talk about your preference in terms of construction materials for various projects – and the material advantages they offer from a sustainability perspective?   



Construction materials are as dynamic as the industry itself. We are always in search of new materials that address the issues of economy, quality, value, and technology, and sustainability that we as designers are obliged to address in our designs.  To date, the middle-east market has been less focused on sustainability compared to our European and American counterparts.  We are actively trying to bring our projects up to speed on this matter and have realised long-term savings.  Materials that are recycled; which have minimal carbon footprints in their production; using renewable resources, and consume less energy are of paramount importance for us in our directive for good sustainable designs.  We do not advocate a single design style and try to ‘force’ this for our projects.  This outlook gives us the freedom to think creatively for each new job, and propose a fresh solution that responds to the client’s values – of integrity, of sustainability or practical purpose.




Could you tell us of the current demand for artistic bespoke architectural-interior designs? What are the business opportunities you seek in India?



When you have a society who is engaged, involved and attune with everything and anything around him, then the only direction for him to go for design is bespoke. The possibilities for ‘bespoke servicing’ are far reaching.  The heightened awareness of clients will mean that their tastes are upscale, more discerning and ultimately will seek to be more assertive in reflecting their individuality.  The First Ferry is poised to answer to this very specific calling.  We are in contact bankers, corporations, and executives who have influence in the decision making processes that shape corporations, communities and land developments, and we are not bound by geography.  Indeed we now have offices in 7 countries.




What is your assessment of the architectural and design practices you have seen across India?



With respect to design and project management services in India, I would be happy to say that the intent to excel is evident.  Designers, developers and contractors are now working towards globalisation and adopting international design practice standards.  Across India, there is evidence of an international design character that is catching up with modern minimalistic lines that are presently found in Europe and the Americas.  What India could be working towards now is a design movement that is intrinsically Indian in concept.  What we need is to assert our creativity towards the general spaces that we habitat.  We need to assert a proud and playful Indian design culture.  India is still at the very platonic level in design.




Tell us of the important projects that your firm is currently implementing?



At present, most of our projects are located in Dubai.  Active projects include an African bar, which after completion of the Dubai branch will open in four other locations in Africa and Europe.  The Kiza bar, an African inspired bar is located in the downtown Dubai.  There isn’t a better address than this.  This is a personal favorite because it demonstrates that we can transcend cultures in our design capabilities.  Indeed we have had Russian clients as well as Asian, and the cultural differences are evident in their preferences for design, materials and outlook.  Yet The First Ferry has successfully got the approval for the project and is now working to deliver within 2 months of this printing. We have been commissioned to design schools, nurseries and university campuses.  We have adopted a non-regimental school design, with the design intent diverting from the very institutional character of older schools.  Our design philosophy was to make the mood of the school as playful as possible, to invite and raise interest for the children to go to school, and cultivate motivation and curiosity. A third example of our work was the design of a shipping company’s corporate headquarters in Business Bay.  As the design brief was to have the office NOT look at all like an office, we have proposed to create a ship deck atmosphere throughout the office.  Retro shipping objects such as funnels, ropes, bollards, fishnets and containers add to a general feeling of being in the open sea on a ship deck.  Located on the 38th floor overlooking the bay and the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai, the afternoon sun reflecting on the glistening brass design elements is stunning to see.




What is your strategy to market yourself as a interior design and architectural firm? Could you talk of your recent association with Gauri Khan and what is the tie up expected to deliver?



The First Ferry has moved from strength to strength over the last 5 years.  In this short span of time we have turned over almost 20 design-build projects.  We have created a niche for ourselves in the art design sector and have enjoyed the benefits of repeat client referrals.  Our completed projects alone have generated numerous project referrals, which have decreased the need for aggressive marketing.  This has led to creation of a positive reputation, and has catapulted us into opportunities that allow us to open offices in countries like London, Singapore, India, Auckland and just recently Colombo.  We are able to do this only because we have a design team that is qualified to take on the most complex architectural and interior design jobs. Recently, the association between The First Ferry and Gauri Khan was formed, which is a perfect blend in synergy of mutually creative pursuits. It was almost second nature that a tie up was forged.  This partnership is bound by a mutual passion for excellent design, the betterment of human existence by improving the quality of life.  She has a huge heart for conservation and green architecture and for recycling and sustainability. Her designs will be for high-end luxury clients who are connoisseurs of the finer things in life. Gauri prefers not to limit her creativity to only designing homes but also cafes, restaurants, offices, retail, spas and all other kinds of spaces. Gauri Khan for The First Ferry will also be involved in architecture, landscape design, yacht interiors, the Gauri Khan signature line of furniture and lights and the signature chandelier collection by Gauri Khan. Her endorsement of The First Ferry speaks highly of our commitment to quality deliverables and of our artistic flair.  The First Ferry association with Gauri Khan means we are synonymous to a fashion icon that transcends cultures and nations.  The possibility of generating new business because of this association is astounding. 




What are your future plans?



The last four years have seen a phenomenal growth in our client base.  The completion of a varied selection of portfolio projects has increased both credibility, and skill base.  We have demonstrated an ability to deliver and manage project overseas as well as propose radical design concepts that contest mainstream design dogma.  Over the next few years we are expecting greater and more interesting projects, as we open up new offices in Europe, African and Asia.  Whilst our design center will still be Dubai, our satellite offices will support foreign clients and provide them a centre by which coordination can take place. There will be an increase in the magnitude and scale of projects as the reputation of The First Ferry becomes more far reaching.

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