© Mukthi Hegde
Studio GDK, can be defined as an one-man itinerant practice that is nomadic in nature. The firm offers ‘comprehensive design & build’ services, carrying out complete project management for executing commissioned works.
GDK’s choice of practice – the enterprise being subservient to design processes – is informed principally by his focus on design as an engagement spanning across the studio and the site. GDK’s stance rejects the attitude of establishing a compartmentalized, hierarchically crewed office, which more often than not leads to mundane munching for survival. Instead, the choice is of a light-weight set-up with, typically, a single project-assistant; while tasks beyond GDK Designs’ scope are engaged in by collaborating with professionals with corresponding expertise. This approach not only reduces pressures of overheads and retention during lean periods, but also helps in sustaining the intensity and intimacy of processes.
GDK’s mode of engagement is vital for addressing concerns of appropriateness of materials and methods of construction. A comprehensive project management necessitates accounting for the foundation, the roof and everything in-between and around. Further, the prevalent condition of the labour sector – informal and largely illiterate or inadequately educated – renders it impossible to remote-control the site, no matter how detailed and precise the working drawings and specifications may be. For reasons of efficient construction and project management, GDK commits to a continual presence on site, resulting in, at any given point in time, virtually a single ‘under-construction’ project engagement and not more than another couple in their design development phase.
One of the encouraging aspects of GDK’s direct and undisturbed presence on site is the fruitful collaboration it affects with the craftspeople. This close association with the artisans, who are otherwise trapped in the run-of-the-mill bargain for survival, offers an opportunity to release the intensities of their skill and subtleties of their craft. However, this association with craftspeople too is project-based. The question of regrouping depends on the specific context of the subsequent project commissioned. GDK refrains from both patronization and misappropriation of a craftsperson’s contribution.
GDK Designs’ schedules are usually half of what is otherwise considered as the normal construction period for projects of comparable scale. Not that cost and time estimates don’t fall through, but GDK emphasizes on the necessary transparency on these issues with clients and insists on a particular dispersal of the different stages through the course of project. The design development and detailing stage is the most generously spread-out phase of every project. With reference to tools, the computer aided sketches, simulations, study models and working drawings are largely executed by either the project assistant or associates, while GDK substantially invests himself into project related design research, sketching and manual drafting. Following the incessant questioning and forthright debates and discussions with the project assistant, associates and friends through the course of design, the working drawings are complete and thoroughly elaborate. This pushes the envelope of anticipation furthest, allowing for a pragmatic and precise estimation of time and cost. Though the final model is commissioned to a professional, it is not ‘outsourced’. An extensive amount of GDK’s time is spent with the model-maker, and the process marks the final stage of negotiations in design before proceeding on to the site for execution. Markedly, the project lives on beyond the completion of the building as the drawings and models are revised to accommodate the modifications that may have occurred during construction.
The selectively limited number of projects reveals GDK’s uncompromising commitment to correctness of methods unperturbed by the lure of spectacles. GDK places serious faith in creative enquiries rather than straight-jacketing expediency. Numerous parallel and peripheral activities interject GDK’s professional design engagements. Painting, cooking, photography, motor-bike customization, brief free-verse compositions, white-water rafting, trekking, and motor-bike and driving expeditions help in breaking the familiar comfort of processes, apparatus and environments.
To seek the unfamiliar is GDK’s maxim.
-Siddhartha Singh, Architect