Riding high on the success of his collaboration with team Tesla at the Milan Design Week, architect Saket Sethi believes that India must tap into its traditional design philosophies to create sustainable homes
For almost every designer and architect in the world, the Milan Design Week, which brings the best designers, design apparatus and innovative ideas from across the world, under one roof, is one of the most awaited events of the year.
This year, in April, Saket Sethi, Founder and Principal Architect of Mumbai, Barcelona and Milan-based architectural practice Archilogics collaborated with Tesla at Salone del Mobile, Milano 2019. “I can most certainly elaborate on the shock (of being invited by team Tesla). It still hasn’t sunk in. It is surreal when one of your favourite brands in the world asks you to come and speak about your life’s work and most important project in Italy, in Milan, the design capital of the world; at Salone Mobile,” says Sethi. He collaborated with Italy-based The Way Magazine and Tesla Motors to celebrate innovative green design ideas at the Tesla Design Lounge.
At the Tesla lounge, the architect displayed his Tesla-inspired AL Truss chair along with a physical and Virtual Reality model of Sunoo, a green home that he designed in India. AL Truss chair, a ready-to-assemble seat, assimilates the ideas of assembly, DIY (Do It Yourself) and customisation. Its bespoke version was showcased at the Milan exhibit and was coloured red to match Tesla’s colour scheme. Sunoo is an unusual home, in Manor, Maharashtra, with India’s largest private green roof house, designed by Sethi in April 2017. It has a massive green
roof, extremely dramatic and challenging cantilevers and a galaxy-inspired, mosaic-clad temple, outside the house.
The countdown to the Tesla project began in October 2018, when an article on Sethi’s practice was published in the Domus Italia magazine. And after a month, he went to speak about his work at The University of Campania Vanvitelli in Naples. Around the same time, Tesla was looking for a new international designer whose designs align with the latest technology and sustainability practices for its Fuorisalone exhibit, one of the most important events of the Milan Design Week.
The Tesla team heard about Sethi and invited him to collaborate for the project.
At the event, Sethi spoke about his Sunoo project and fusing Indian tradition with sustainable technology in architecture, with an aim to put a spotlight on India’s ancient architecture philosophies such as the Vastu Shastra. He also discussed the evolution of the relationship between man, God and nature and its conception in a built form, since the Indus Valley Civilization.
In today’s time and age of rising pollution, melting glaciers and deforestation, many people are looking at sustainable or greener options for almost everything. Sethi is also a green warrior and keeps sustainability in mind while designing spaces.
Though what’s the level of eco-friendliness that can be achieved while building a home? “Just be more sensitive about the materials you use in your house, their source and the material used to make them. Education is the key that prefaces anything else.” For instance, actress Dia Mirza, who was invited on the FOX TV show Design HQ, which Sethi hosts, has plants that attract birds and bees. All the planters placed outside the window and inside are made of eco-friendly materials.
Sethi, an avid traveller, has, over the years developed an acute sense of design, in-depth knowledge of the many trends in the architectural world. For a long time, Sethi was obsessed with Barcelona, the Modernisme Movement, the workof Antoni Gaudí, and the urban planning of the city. “This year though, Naples stole my heart and soul, whilst my experiences with Milan and Rome are jousting about with it. Naples is a secret city, with many-layered architectural treasures, and even some surprising parallels to Mumbai – Chiaia and Marine Drive and Posillipo and Malabar Hill,” he says.
Coming back to India, Sethi thinks that while the country has some of the best architects, the architecture fraternity has not been able to amp up the green movement. “Even after having the best architects and projects in India, we are yet to see work, which is truly iconic and inspirational and the one that has the power to design a more benign future for India,” says Sethi, who has designed homes of celebrities like Salman Khan, Raveena Tandon and Shilpa Shetty. Thinking out loud about the key takeaways from the West, he says, “Design is considered important and also a profession in the West. India can give more importance to architects and designers as without them our cities have little chance to make a real difference in the quality of people’s lives.”