Indigo Architects: Mausami and Uday Andhare

Drawing to Find Out [04]

For Uday and Mausami Andhare, the process of sketching and drawing by hand pivots the design process as they work through the layers of an often messy path to architectural resolution. Looking through a cross-section of the rich visual material produced as a result, we attempt to capture the many purposes of drawing at Indigo Architects.


Images and Drawings: Courtesy Uday & Mausami Andhare;
©Indigo Architects.
Author: Vedanti Agarwal.
Curation: Ruturaj Parikh and Maanasi Hattangadi; Matter.
Film Editing by Maanasi Hattangadi

“In the Indian context, the backdrop of our exercises is to build, seek relevance, to place people and methods in a context and challenge monoculture. The choices that we make are informed choices which root our decisions to place and reflect who we are” says Uday as an insight to the nature of their practice.

While the firm places a lot of importance on the significance of the context, there is a pluralistic approach to design that resonates in the drawings of Uday and Mausami Andhare. They reflect the rigor of design which encompasses variations in textures and layers. From their drawings, it becomes clear that each stage in the project has a distinct nature and demands a different intensity and intuitive method that captures that essential quality. Their drawings are a representation of this thought process.

There are unique ways of drawing that frame the process through different stages: drawing what you see, drawing the image in your mind, drawing to resolve and drawing what you remember. While ‘drawing what you see’, the attempt is not to capture the photographic documentation of the site rather, it is an involuntary movement of the hand attuned to where the eyes rest and what the mind filters.

The understanding of land and context is the first step in Uday and Mausami’s process. Important observations are recorded in the site sketches: an onsite exercise of ‘drawing what you see’. This is an attempt to decipher the site in order to put across the essential abstract for design. This initial recording goes through another layer to transform into a composition of thin lines carefully depicting trees, water flow, direction of light, open space, cover and so on; thus assuming a more interpretative or analytical role to anchor points on site.

Instilled from years at the CEPT University the idea to ‘capture the spirit of the building’ prods them to bring forth the core image of the building. When the mind generates an image yearning to express, the hand vigorously draws it for another to read -‘drawing your mind’s image’. The ‘schema’ – a distillation of the mind’s view is composed of the bold heavy line, the wavering line, the thin hardly visible line: all having traits of their own often emphasised using colours and words.

A note on a sketch reads, ‘chuna walls-go from white to blue, yellow to deep ochre, buff to purple, woodwork-teak, handle-stone’ thus concocting a fleeting idea; the spoken, unspoken, drawn and imagined only to be revisited throughout the design process reminding one of the ‘genius’ of the building.

The genius denotes what a thing is and what it wants to be.’ – Genius loci; by Christian Norberg Schulz

The hand follows what the mind thinks. The mind learns from what the hand draws. The process of ‘drawing to resolve’ distils the ideas further. The initial phases of design for Uday and Mausami Andhare start with setting the direction which moves further into a loop that enables them to solve complex problems – problems of function and detail when the work is to be built. “Trying to work on the drawing through all its layers until you know intuitively that this can be taken further” is how Mausami explains this phase of design.

There is an emphasis on the plan also being indicative of the structure of the building. Thus, drawing thick indicates opacity while drawing lightly indicates transparency, permeability and porosity. This contributes to an unremitting process of sketching through the possibilities which produces the first draft plan.

‘Drawing to remember’: When the eye registers a view from the top of the cliff, the mind cherishes it only for it to be drawn by the hand when remembering, to recreate. Along this entire process of hammering out possibilities, the design is considered from many perspectives and positions of clarity: experience, details and structure.

Both Uday and Mausami equally engage in this process, through reliving inspirations as well by revisiting and drawing from prior experiences. “I drew this view from Ujjain, while designing the innards of experience in the building” explained Uday as a snippet of how travelling experiences make their way in the design through the way they have learnt to draw.

While the many modes of drawing are an exercise in synchronisation, they begin to attain an expressive quality identifiable to the author of the drawing. After the first draft, the process oscillates between ‘the bold hand’ and ‘the meticulous hand’ with mass, scale and proportions being primary actors and propellers of this stage. While the bold hand expresses itself with the use of colour and intensity in lines thus highlighting the core idea of the sketch drawing the eye, the meticulous hand treats lines to have a singular character emphasising on details and uniformity enabling the eye to see the complete intent of design.

The ‘schema’ becomes the driver of the design of the building while ways of drawing correlate to the stages of drawing. The relationship of the building with the land and its setting is captured in the schema, the first bold expression through which the core concerns and values of the firms’ work become apparent. The emerging experience of the built form is represented best in the an elevation sketch as a ‘window to designer’s imagination’.

“Manmade place has to know what it wants to be relative to the natural environment” – Genius Loci; by Christian Norberg Schulz.

The schema portrays ‘what the building wants to be’ and determines all future decisions, it comprises of the universal structure and the rigorous process that goes back and forth; demonstrating the ‘power of the first sketch’ which renders richness and structure to the eventual architecture.


DISCUSSION – TRANSCRIPT

In conversation with MATTER, Mausami and Uday Andhare talk about their drawings, the significance of the hand in an architectural process and reflect on the fundamental motivations that lead them back to the drafting board. 

UA: Uday Andhare; MA: Mausami Andhare

Since when have you been drawing? How did this engagement with the hand start? How did you continue the practice of drawing by hand as professionals?

UA: I think it goes back to the few early years in the school of architecture. The need to learn how to draw was ingrained in the programme itself. The first three semesters ‘Drawing & Painting’ as a core subject which every student had to undergo. We had Piraji Sagara as our teacher who was largely responsible for energising a lot of youngsters to really use and explore various mediums and which informed how we performed in our studios. Those were the formative years and I think those were very important.

MA: I think coupled with that were study trips which were impromptu; often on weekends with one of the faculties and we would continuously keep drawing because that was the only way to record. Some of us did not even have cameras. That worked beautifully for many years and Related Study Programmes (RSP) in CEPT is also something which is wonderfully interwoven. Fifteen days of extensive sketching every year and three such trips would be mandatory to earn a degree. I think that became a part of us. And it helped us do a lot of conceptual thinking during design studios.

UA: The intent was not to turn us into artists as it was meant to inculcate a habit of pulling out your pencil, reaching out for a piece of paper every time you thought you had to say something. We could not say something without our hand doodling on a piece of paper. I think that was one of the most priceless of learnings and in retrospect, we are very thankful for. Even today I reach out for a pen and a paper and I think that has stood us in good ground.

 

What is the nature of the design process in the studio? How does the hand-drawing as an idea become a part of this process?

MA: It is not possible to extract different roles and present a logical picture. It is a messy process and it is not definitive when one does what. One of us would start thinking conceptually about it and doodling on paper; some of it is almost subconsciously – it is fuzzy. Later, as thoughts evolve, as things seem near concretization of some idea, one of us would definitely move to the drawing board with a parallel and start developing it, trying to see how the organization sits, how the sections would work out, how the scales would work out and so on. Then it an overlapping process – one works this way and the other supplements it.

UA: Infact, Leo (Pereira) asked me this question – ‘How do you work?’, several years back and it got me thinking. We have over time known each other. We know each other’s strengths in terms of how one is likely to take off on a particular idea. So we are very conscious of that fact. We also begin to see how a particular idea needs to move so there is a brief discussion either on the way back from a new site or it could be immediately after a first meeting with a client where the programme is shared or it could be just an idea to build a school but what kind of a school is still up in the air but the site is shown to us. There is a lot of initial thinking individually. It is not conclusive as to who will start or draw the first line. Basic schematics are worked out based on certain truths about the site. This becomes a common ground where we agree that there are certain finite aspects about a site and there are certain truths about how water will behave, what is the quality of the land, what are the scale issues, where are we actually trying to take this programme and so on. It is like two Tanpuras being tuned in before the concert. That tuning is very important for us.

 

You have made use of the word ‘schema’. What is ‘schema’? 

MA: Schema is the way a built idea embeds with a site. Schema can vary from ideas about form, about space, about structure and about the way land is dealt with. It is not something that is very firm in our minds but it depends on what the site is really asking for.

UA: It is about another layer, which is hinting towards a certain potentiality that is not recognizable as a diagram so it could be the idea of what would make this climate-sensitive, what would make this appropriate in terms of the technology that one could use. With that at the back of your mind, when you begin to draw, you draw differently. You draw heavy and thick and that diagram which is actually just doodles at a certain scale begins to become more evocative of our intent. That is what we both feel.

MA: I would like to add to it. Through our school years, we have been doing ‘thumbnails’. Thumbnails are an idea that we have grown up with and they have done us well when it comes to quickly putting down the essentials or a distillation of an idea. They cut out all the details just giving you the core idea. We incorporate this as a very important step in the process.

 

Tools and Techniques: How do you decide when and which tool to use to draw? What role does colour play in your drawings?

UA: I think a lot of it has to do with what is lying around on the table at that time. In my case, most of the times it depends on what is close by and how that is used to quickly put down the idea. But I also love using solid renderings, crayons and colours that stand out like an impasto which is an indication of how strong one feels about a particular aspect of the design. If the foreground is important then that would register as a bright red or whatever colour which is stronger than the pencil. Most of the colour drawings actually have happened over time over a pencil drawing.

MA: I think Uday works with this conscious or unconscious layering in his mind and there are so many overlays to a sketch that sometimes it is not easily decipherable where it started and where it ends. Sometimes they are very dense and worked over several times to the point that it is completely a mess to me when I look at it. Mine tend to be different from his and I need a lot of paper space and he loves to overlay. If Uday had a choice, he would just keep using a little A4 or an A3 paper till it is not there. I think there are certain differences of character which get reflected in the way we draw.

 

How do people in your studio respond to your process of drawing?

UA: It has been about 17 years since we started our practice. We have had lots of interesting people come and be a part of our studio as students or as young professionals and we have noticed over time that the ability to engage with this kind of a process is diminishing. So a sketch is not conclusive enough to be translated into a CAD drawing. That is something which I have been encountering quite steadily in the last five to six years – where the ability to see what is within or what is being communicated through a sketch and translated into a diagram to be then taken to a plan or maybe just a composition of mass is something that we have to go back to each person with whom we are working with and convey. A lot of them do understand quickly because it ultimately depends on the individual and probably they were not aware of this way of seeing. So once we have tuned that, it becomes quite easy to take it forward.

MA: But a lot of times, it is important for us also to draw out the first draft. I have done that extensively till about a couple of years back. Every project would be drafted out because that first draft is all about putting things in the right scale. And that right scale sets the tone for the rest of the project and its evolution. By doing that part ourselves, it becomes easier to translate to the rest of the studio.

UA: It is also important for us to draw precisely what we think the scales and the character of the plan is and what we are trying to say. Sometimes jumping the process where a sketch gets drawn straightaway into CAD and then comes back to you needs a lot more work at that stage as compared to something that is drafted by me or Mausami and we both look at it once and we know that the direction is correct. Than the CAD input becomes that much more meaningful and we keep drawing.

Actually the CAD drawings become underlays for a continuous drawing resolution process – all the way down to the smallest detail. The Plan becomes one of the most important instruments to realise what is happening in the third dimension. That is supported by a model-making process which is happening while we are drawing by hand and now – supported by a CAD input which gives us more precise proportions and dimensions. I think it has become very exciting now to work in this manner.

MA: Right. Increasingly, we have done a lot of cut-sections through SketchUp, splicing through different parts of the project and it aids and abets the process. But we have never given up drawing, nevertheless, because I think it is impossible to do that in any other medium. I think it is one of those full points that we must reach in every work.

UA: Another aspect that we encounter is to draw on a model. While a model is being built and you actually see the imprint of the plan – that is also one of the times when modifications to the plan happen in the model where it could be sketched out on the model. Spaces can be resolved which we would have otherwise missed out on the drawing.

 

How efficient is the process? Do people in your studio comprehend your sketches and your intentions? How does that interface work? Do you share these process drawings and models with the clients?

UA: We have realised over time that we never show finished models; there are no finished models. We always engage the client in the process where they see what we are doing even if it is a small doodle but there is a spark of an idea, we have a meeting and we share it with them. Slowly over a period of about two-three weeks of the project, they become engaged with the manner in which we are drawing. And a lot of discussion that happens with the client is about drawing in their presence. When you draw in their presence, they realise the potential of what is happening.

MA: We have hardly ever done any kind of presentation drawings; our sketches before they become CAD drawings are good enough to be shared with all our clients.

UA: We have been able to communicate quite easily. There is actually no Photoshop in our life, absolutely no Photoshop.

MA: No renderings, no walkthroughs, nothing of the sort. We somehow manage to make sure that the idea gets conveyed through simple sketches. Even two dimensional drawings seem abstract to the client but we have been able to communicate it effectively without much problem. And we have always shared the working model with the clients, when they come.

 

Do you both work on the Computer or do you depend on someone from the studio to translate your drawings on CAD?

UA: We both do know how to use the Computer for CAD. I have been slightly more pro-active working on CAD but it has been sporadic, it is not continuous.  I find that it is important to be in the loop on how things happen because from the way we have been introduced to CAD while we were in the U.S., it was about efficient management of the production part of the project.

And we have been able to streamline our production to a point where a few people can be engaged on a project efficiently. Systems organised such that we have a larger chunk of time that all of us can spend on the design process. For us, production is not such a difficult endeavour because a lot is invested in the design process which takes on a more meaningful role in the making of a building.

MA: I have not really worked on CAD systems since a very long time. I used to do that in the U.S. in the initial couple of years of practice but after that I have not. So, my trajectory has been slightly different. Uday has been more engaged on CAD and other systems and me, less so. I have to depend on people.

 

How do you work on details? Do you sketch a lot of them or does that happen at the working-drawing stage?

UA: Certain details that are complex are drawn up by hand. We also take the support of the details that have already been drawn and use those as underlays to evolve and develop details. A lot of that happens in the production phase but the production phase is also one of the richest design phases in the project. While, at one point, when we are producing drawings to be issued to site, there are also significant notings being made on the drawings as to where there is a potential to review a particular wall section or a detail. And that happens while the train is in motion.

MA: I think tectonic development of ideas and their resolution happens only at the stage of working drawing details. This is a very exciting phase and both of us are actively involved, and I think every decision is always a joint ‘yes’.

UA: Ideas are bounced off each other and also members within the studio. It is not just a two-way process but about engaging everybody in the studio on certain kinds of discussions which happen on projects so they know the direction that a particular project is taking.

MA: It is nice to keep everybody in that loop, whoever is working on a particular project and it is a very enriching and an extremely informative process. I think everybody enjoys it and when you see it actually coming up, it completes that sense of satisfaction. This is a very important part of the studio.

 

Do you think students are losing touch with their ability to draw by hand?

UA: There is a different way of looking; the current group of people who come to us and who are actually practising outside – younger architects and students – who we engage with in studios have a slightly different way of looking at things. Sometimes, or rather most of the times, it is a very fleeting look.

We have pushed them to look at it with a little more care and a little more time invested in. When they do that, they begin to also step out of the visual, the screen and begin to look down at a piece of paper. I think there is a slowing down required and that slowing down has to be taught. It is not going to come naturally because we are all speeding up in a certain way unknowingly. I think when it comes to design thinking that slowing down is a very important aspect which we miss seeing in people who we meet.

 

Who were your mentors? Whom did you learn this process from?

MA: Piraji Sagara, for one. He was a wonderful teacher. He never had any structure to any of his classes. It was a sense of freedom that we cherished deeply. Going to a ‘Drawing & Painting’ class had this tremendous sense of release. It was meditative, it was highly internalised, it was highly personalised…

UA: The Sagara basement was a lovely place to be.

MA: It used to be extremely enjoyable. He would very casually come to you, he would chat in a way which was so spontaneous and devoid of any kind of expectation or burden of what he wants you to do and I think each one of us just flowered in wonderful ways because of this kind of extremely loose structure that he kept around him.

He exposed us to a lot of ideas of abstraction because he himself was seeped in the modernist era. Coupled with that, I think, our professors and teachers had a wonderful hand at sketching. Even people who taught us Construction were fabulous at drawing details, so I think we were just watching hands move for years and years and it just became something that we aspired to be. The way Prof. Kurula Varkey would sign his name is something that each one of us was in awe of.

UA: What I also saw that time, was a relationship between an individual, a person, what the person had to say, in terms of spoken word, and how that person expressed himself or herself when they were drawing and talking to you. So the ‘chalk talk’ that happened when Varkey is drawing on the board and talking about cities is something of an experience to cherish. At some point in time, a lot of people were drawing like him. The sketch is always fluid, the ideas are fluid and somewhere your pencil will begin to express it more boldly over a period of time.

MA: The pencil keeps rolling. It does not come off the paper. It just keeps rolling.

UA: I thought that the relationship between the person – what was spoken and what was drawn – was so clear. Raje (Anant Raje), would draw in a certain way and when we were at School, it was Varkey, Chhaya (Neelkanth Chhaya), Raje as being three important figures in our life, pushing and pulling us in certain directions. All three seemed valid to us and there was a tremendous learning in the way they expressed themselves through drawing or the way they reprimanded somebody in public for a particular way of drawing. One figured out early that there are certain dos and certain don’ts and the dos and don’ts actually lead us somewhere.

MA: I also think that the cameos by Prof Doshi (B. V. Doshi) were very important for us because when we had a drawing, he would say, ‘Now turn it upside down. Now imagine, the North is East or West or South, it is not North, what would happen? How would the shadows be?’

UA: And you would fumble, because you would not recognise your own plan.

MA: He would always say that one should always look at the negative of space and see whether that is what is interesting. Crafting of the void or the negative is as important as the positive.

UA: Anything coloured or ostentatious in its making was frowned upon, which in retrospect was such an amazing learning because in the monochrome, one discovered so many more things that were pertinent to what the thought processes were.

MA: Monochrome allows you to be meditative. Too much of colour detracts sometimes. When you are trying to do conceptual level doodles and ideas, I think monochrome is something that works beautifully, it has strokes, it has densities, it has the line-weight that defines. That clarifies to a degree that other things do not allow. I think monochrome is very valuable.

 

Do you think your techniques have evolved over time?

UA: More pen and ink, less of colour, the way I see it.

MA: True, less of pencil, more of ink…

UA: Sometimes, I use thicker pencil but finer lines that I can begin to read as they move over each other. But in terms of the process, we have pretty much stuck to the way we were working from day one. There is a certain aspect here which I would like to share; every time a new project starts, there is this feeling as though it is your first project.

And thus there is this tendency to go back, clean up your table like the way you would start your first semester, put a new backing, and clean the parallel bar with new strings and so on… So you go into this kind of a mode. It is very funny that it happens even now but it is also a safe cocoon to begin from. You go back to that and then you initiate the process the way you know it.

MA: I think that I have become more and more detail oriented in my drawings. I used to be all over the place; I probably had a lot more variety as a student and as an early professional but I think as I have progressed in work, in years of practice, it has become more and more detail-oriented, more finer. I am trying to get as close to understanding of how materials and elements are put together as possible.

UA: The way we work is also currently informed by what we are working with. There is a certain conscientious approach towards viewing how a project is going to move ahead. That also has informed the way we view detail, the way we draw, because you want to see it emerge in a certain way. You cannot be drawing one way and expecting the building to move in another.

I think there is a relationship between what your intent is and how one ends up drawing and if somewhere, you find a discordant note between how you are visualising and drawing, and what the eventual outcome is going to be then there is a mid-course correction that happens. Our plans, for example, are drawn in absolute detail. We do not have walls and we imagine that the flooring is going to come and this is going to be an edge detail and the skirting would move around the wall in certain ways which we can figure out later. It becomes important for us to visualise that detail and draw it in plan to resolve articulation in plan. So, the way we draw also is about how it will eventually get resolved.

 

As teachers, do your methods permeate to the students?

UA: The word ‘sharing’ is more appropriate than ‘teaching’. And in that process, maybe, what you draw or how you speak and what you see in that drawing or how that drawing could become more communicative – those engagements make a difference. It depends on the individual at the end of the day. A method or a process cannot be enforced – it is something that we engage with.

MA: As far as the younger lot is concerned and their responsiveness, what I feel is that there are so many distractions, the kind of deep focus is very difficult to achieve. And I do not blame those individuals. It is the kind of environment we have. Maybe for the pedagogy with which the students have learnt in their respective schools, it is difficult to focus deep.

UA: There are different kinds of plants. Their root systems are different. They are not the deep-type roots. They are fibrous, far-reaching, they will be shallow, but that does not make the plant weak. The roots are trying to move in various directions. They soak in the nutrients they think are worth soaking in. What is important is the exposure and I think schools have a role to play in providing that exposure. I think a way of thinking is a very important mode through which a way of drawing and representation can evolve. What is also important is the fact that in a liberal choice-oriented kind of an academic environment, a way of thinking could be scoffed upon. There could be several ways of thinking but then all of them eventually could lead to a way of communicating – which I think we will have to also adapt our lens to accept and see which is that new way of receiving signals that will lead us to a meaningful process. It is two-way thing, it cannot be one way.

 

ENDNOTE

The process of drawing for Mausami and Uday Andhare is deeply seeped in the way they think about architecture. Their visceral need for sketching and reflecting on design through the medium of the hand is intricately woven with the fine layers of their design process with both – Uday and Mausami complementing and contrasting ideas as they organically move through these layers. These drawings, drawn on multiple mediums and expressed in many colours, lines, shades and strokes enable them to emphasise and eliminate ideas in the process thus drawing one in the essential quality of their architecture.  ♦


© Indigo Architects, Ahmedabad.
© Indigo Architects, Ahmedabad.

‘Drawing to Find Out’ is a curated column on drawing in architecture and the techniques and ideas therein.


Indigo Architects is a collaborative studio practice, led by Mausami and Uday Andhare, supported by a team of young professionals. They follow an integrated design approach incorporating architectural design, landscape planning and interior design into its fold. The design process seeks to resolve the various paradoxes between client needs and affordability, site conditions and programmatic dictates through intensive analyses, explorations, study models and sketches.

The work of Indigo Architects has an intangible quality that comes through simplicity. Their work is receptive of the cultural and economic milieu that forms its background. Practicing from their studio in Ahmedabad, they follow a formal discourse in design on an underlay of their experiences, interactions and their exposure to the context of their work and the place where they are building.

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