HASMUKH C PATELArchitect
HASMUKH C PATELArchitect
Hasmukh Chandubhai Patel was born in 1933, in Bhadran – one of the many small villages that make up the relatively prosperous “Charotar” region of Gujarat. His mother Shantabenbelonged to Bhadran. His father Chandubhai Rambhai Patel was from Sojitra, a village nearby. Chandubhai had studied Civil Engineering, a rarity in those days, and ran a small construction company in Baroda.
Hasmukh was the eldest of six children, two brothers and four sisters. When he was still very young, Hasmukh was striken by a bout of Polio, which left him with a permanent disability in his left leg. Hasmukhbhai occassionally reminisces about his childhood in Baroda, about cycling several miles to a nearby village to run errands for his mother, about playing cricket in the ‘pols’ with his friends, about skipping school to go and watch movies, about being sent away to Ahmedabad to live with his uncle, Ratilal, who was charged with educating him. In the rough and tumble of growing up in a Patel household no concessions were made for his disability and that is probably why he has never thought of himself as handicapped.
Hasmukh’s father was very keen that he become an architect. Hasmukhbhai recalls visiting building sites that his father was working on and being influenced by his meticulousness and high standards of construction. After graduating from high school, Hasmukh joined the Department of Architecture at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda to study for a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. It was here at the university that he met his future wife Bhakti Patel, a student in the Arts faculty. Prof. M B Dave, was one teacher from his days at M S University, who
Hasmukhbhai feels, helped him develop as a designer. He also worked with Prof. Dave for a year in 1956-57, after his graduation and before leaving to study architecture at Cornell University, USA.
The two years of graduate school at Cornell, the professors he worked with, fellow students, campus life, the music, art and architecture of the late 1950s, all left a lasting impression on the mind of this young architect from Baroda who came across the seas by ship in search of an education. He graduated with a Masters in Architecture from Cornell University in 1959. After graduation he traveled within the United States to visit the works of the masters Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan et.al.
Though he owed much to his years in the United States, Hasmukh was keen to return home, which he did, after a brief stop in East Africa on the way. On his return, Hasmukh joined the architectural firm of Atmaram Gajjar in Ahmedabad. It was in that same year that he married Bhakti Patel, and for a short period lived in his father’s house in Baroda and commuted to Ahmedabad for work.
His employer Atmaram Gajjar, however, was terminally ill and six months after joining the firm, Hasmukh was asked to take over the practice and complete ongoing projects. Though unfortunate, this event jump-started his career in Ahmedabad. Hasmukh and Bhakti moved into a one bedroom house in Ahmedabad, their son Bimal was born in 1961 and daughter Canna in 1963.
Simultaneously, Hasmukh also started teaching at the new School of Architecture that was being set up in the city. He was one among the small group of architects who helped nurture Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT, as it is now called) in its infancy. Students from those early years remember him fondly for his down-to-earth approach to design, his ability to laugh with them, often at himself, and his empathy for the best and worst of them. Later, he served as Director,
School of Architecture, CEPT, from 1972 to 1981 and as Dean, CEPT, from 1978 to 1981.
Hasmukhbhai’s practice grew over the years, but the first years were a struggle. He recalls summer afternoons in his two room office in the old city, where, after lunch, water would be sprinkled on the Kota stone floor and he and his colleagues (four in all) would spread out old blue-prints on their drafting boards and take a nap. The first air conditioner he bought was installed in the studio – not his own room. Hasmukhbhai has been a role model for many a young architect, who identified with the self made young man from a simple family who had the courage to step out and find success in the fickle world of design. In 1974 he moved his office out of the old city to Ashram Road, the newly developed commercial hub of modern Ahmedabad.
In 1969, Hasmukh, Bhakti and their two children moved into their new house at 1, Friend’s Colony, Naranpura. The house, which many regard as one of Hasmukhbhai’s finest designs, remained the centre of their universe through the years that followed. While Hasmukh’s practice took him to every corner of the country, Bhakti remained the anchor that steadied their lives.
Through the 1970s and 80s, Hasmukhbhai’s practice grew rapidly. He gave Ahmedabad iconic buildings that stood out in the city’s skyline. His architecture forms part of the ‘gestalt” of Ahmedabad today. The firm of M/s Hasmukh C. Patel, as it was called in those days, was held in high regard by clients, colleagues and members of the building trades for fairness, high standards of construction and professionalism.
In 1990, both his children, now architects, joined the firm bringing in expertise in city planning and interior design. The practice became more multi-disciplinary and grew to a strength of over 100 persons. As a parent Hasmukhbhai was ever aware of the need to offer support, but more importantly to step aside and give room for growth. He used his experience and vision to create the
conditions for growth without being overbearing. Hasmukhbhai now enjoys walking through the studios of HCPDPM, HCPIA, EPC, TDW Furniture, all independent companies working in the fields of architecture, project management, urban design, interior design, city planning and furniture design, and continues to think of what next!
Hasmukh Patel at 75, is still a student. He learnt to swim at the age of 40, and his early morning swim is a daily ritual that he practices till today. He started learning to play the piano at the age of 70, alongside his grandchildren, and took up sketching and painting again - a skill that had remained dormant for many years. Technology fascinates him, and he spends a substantial part of his day at the office, working on his computer, always exploring what else it can help him do.
Today Hasmukhbhai and Bhaktiben still live at “Bhakti” 1, Friend’s Colony. The house has grown to include a beautiful extension that Hasmukhbhai designed in 2005 and Bhaktiben’s garden is a joy to behold. Their home remains the hub of their children, Canna and Mukesh, Bimal and Ismet, and grandchildren, Akaash, Aara and Shaan’s lives.
Hasmukhbhai and Bhaktiben’s House
How should one live in order to live a genuinely good life? What values should one espouse? Philosophers write books to pro-pound their views on these questions. Architects design houses to do the same. The architecture of Hasmukhbhai’s house speaks of his views on these very important questions. I grew up in Hasmukbhai and Bhaktiben’s house. I continue to go there almost every day for lunch. Of course, the lunch that my mother makes for my father and me is delightful and nourishing. But so is the architecture of the house. It continues to educate and nourish me on those most important questions and I want to share some of what I have learnt.
My first hazy memories are of the house being constructed on a distant and barren plot surrounded by open fields. I was eight years old. As the house neared completion, Sundays became site visit days. I remember sitting and watching the carpenters at work on the dark and hard rosewood, waiting for my father to finish giving instruction to all the different people at work. The rosewood was a subject of much discussion. The carpenters, while admiring its dark beauty, kept complaining about how hard and difficult it was to work on. It was also an unusually rich and luxurious material – in a fairly modest house. It was possible to use rosewood only because my maternal grandfather was a wealthy wood merchant. Apart from providing the lovely rosewood, he had also helped pay for the land, and though, as a whole, the house venture relied primarily on my father’s courage and earnings, with characteristic generosity he wanted the house to be legally my mother’s property.
It was clear from the beginning that this was a ‘modern’ house – unlike conventional houses. To start with, the choice of exposed brick and fair face concrete on the exterior as well as interior surfaces was an unusual deviation from the plastered norm. The space planning confounded many – particularly my paternal grandfather. He was a civil engineer who had worked with many architects and supervised the construction of many buildings and houses. But he simply couldn’t understand how we were going to live in a house that lacked a proper living room or a dining room. Instead, there was this large double-height space in the middle of the house with a staircase in one corner, a bridge spanning the width, and the whole space spilling out onto a large verandah. In comparison to this large unwieldy space, the kitchen was absurdly small – just 7 feet wide. The look of the house from the outside, with its hard lines and interlocking cubic forms added to the unconventional character of the house. Right from the beginning then, the architecture of our house seemed to proclaim that life was meant to be an open ended venture - not bound by the confines of tradition but an opportunity to explore and experiment. Once you have decided how you want to live, it seemed to say, don’t worry about what the norm is.
But only after you have decided how you want to live! Do not deviate from the norm merely for the sake of it – do so because you have a well considered and meaningful reason to deviate. As we watched our father explain the design to visitors, my sister Canna and I understood early that every bit of the architecture was deliberate and considered. Everything had a reason, nothing was done on a whim and almost nothing was left to chance. Very soon we ourselves became champions at explaining the design to visitors or to our father’s prospective clients: how the display tackboard next to the dining table was actually a shutter for the crockery cupboard; how the crockery cupboard was conveniently located right next to the dining table; how backed up to it and opening onto the verandah was the gardening cupboard; how it was just the right size to store our old folding chairs; how easy it was to pull out the chairs and putthem out in the garden or the verandah; how the swing was
positioned to divide the verandah into two unequal parts – one for more intimate sitting and the other for larger groups; how the south facing verandah was well located to catch the southwest breeze; how the low cabinet on the bridge, which had a small library cupboard and laundry store, served as both a railing and a display for painting and prints; how the slightly lowered ceiling of the central hall gave an appropriate scale to that space and gave a clear storey window to bedrooms.
There was a clear reason for almost every aspect of the design. To be more accurate, there were at least two reasons for every aspect of the design, and, sometimes three. I say two or three because one reason was taken for granted. Every feature of the house had to look beautiful and provide sensuous delight. But taking delight or titillating the senses was never sufficient reason for making a design decision. To make the decision right, there had to be another clinching reason that was anchored in solving some ordinary functional problem; and if there were two such additional reasons, even better. The architecture of the house clearly rejected wastefulness, extravagance and licentiousness. In its place, it advocated parsimony and prudence.
It was not a house to show off with. The front façade looked like the back and both of them were no more elegant than the sides. It was not that the façade had not been carefully designed. In fact it was clear that they had been carefully ordered. Canna and I were even childishly delighted when a new house in the neighborhood copied our elevation! But it was also clear that the elevations were not designed simply to appeal to spectators but integrally connected with the interiors and designed to make the interior function adequately. The front and back façades were more or less the consequence of how cupboards, alcoves, windows and balconies were arranged within the bedrooms on the first floor – with a view to making them work well from the inside. The resulting elevation was hardly a spectator’s delight. This, I guess, was the architect’s way of saying: no masks! How others see you is of consequence, but not soimportant as to compromise the life inside.
HASMUKHBHAI - BHAKTIBEN RESIDENCE, Ahmedabad
The house was designed to make the daily rituals of life pleasurable. The large verandah and the exquisite garden that envelopes it (a garden that my mother has lovingly tended for forty years now) provide a beautiful setting for morning tea. The pleasant sounds of birds, the fresh morning air, the scents of the garden, and the light of the morning sun allow for a gentle beginning to the day. For many years, summer dinners were in the garden - four of us at a low slatted table with reclining chairs, that made it possible to quietly take in the starry night after dinner. On entering the house, the large glass doors along the length of the living space provide a spectacularly arresting view of the garden – erasing the memory of any outside unpleasantness. The view, gradually altering through the day, also provides a delightful backdrop to the living room and something to fleetingly acknowledge as one moves around the house. The architecture makes it very clear: weave your pleasures into the ordinary rituals of life and you won’t have to spend your life searching for them high and low.
In so many ways the architecture of the house makes one attentive and mindful of beauty: the view from the dining table of the myriad shades of the garden’s green; the contrasting boldness of the yellow, red and blue on the walls; the mild breeze on the verandah swing; the gentle warmth of the winter sun soaked in on the verandah after lunch; the paintings and sculptures that enrich the walls (modern, traditional and those made by Canna and myself); the patch of sky visible from the upstairs bathroom windows; the diffused morning light coming through the clear storey windows; the intricate textures of the many concrete surfaces; the subtle variations in the exposed brickwork and the ever changing light through the central skylight. The architecture also makes one partake in the sublime delight of geometry. The realization that the dining bay is exactly three fourths of the living room bay, that the width of the bedrooms is exactly four times the width of the bridge-bay, that the rhythm of the aluminum strips in the flooring unfailingly aligns with the measure of the structure, that the shuttering pattern in the concrete is rigorously ordered, all subtly enchant the intellect.
Be subtly appreciative and mindful of beauty and the delights of geometry, the architecture seems to be saying, for it is central to a life lived well.
Anyone who has tried his hand at graphic composition or tried to put a sculptural object together will immediately realize that the formal structure of the architecture has been put together very skillfully. All the surfaces and forms appear well-ordered and deliberately composed. Moreover, individual elements in all the compositions, be they two dimensional or three, clearly retain their identity and integrity. Take for example, any internal wall; each is a Mondrianesque composition of architectural elements – walls, windows, doors, columns, beams, partitions, and so on. Or take for example, the manner in which the staircase joins the bridge; connected though they are, the stair stands apart as an independent architectural element and so does the bridge. Likewise, each of the rooms – large or small, is an integral space. None looses its identity or integrity when assembled together as a house. This aesthetic strategy too echoes an ethical imperative: a part should not be required to subsume its identity to the whole. Any organization of people – be it as large as a nation or as small a family – shines all the better, if all the individuals in it are able to retain their identity and integrity.
Three years ago, for the first time in his life, my father was forced to stay at home for almost four months; his good leg had been affected by a relapse of his childhood polio. This was upsetting for him because, throughout his life, he had never let his disability get the better of him. Never comfortable being idle, his way of recuperating was to renovate the house and to improve it. By altering the design of the doors between the living room and the verandah and adding more glass shutters, he has now made it possible for us to enjoy the entire stunning vista of the garden throughout the day. It has made the house more beautiful. The long stay at home also gave him time to rethink some aspects of the design and to look at how the house should adapt to changed circumstances. Two years ago, because he could no
longer climb to his bedroom on the first floor, he added a studio to the little bedroom on the ground floor which he had started to use as his own. The studio has a verandah and view of the garden. It is a delightful room for him to paint in and, architecturally, a perfect addition. Anyone who does not know that it was added later, would think that it was always a part of the house. It is also testimony to the fact that Hasmukhbhai has never made a fetish of design and architecture. When something no longer serves its purpose well, it should be suitably modified. Hasmukhbhai’s views on how one should live, in order to live a genuinely good life, are eloquently expressed in his house. I continue to be educated by its architecture.
- Bimal Patel
INDIAN STUDENTS CENTRE, New York
20 SOCIAL AND WELFARE CENTRE, Mokasan 21
NEWMAN HALL, Ahmedabad 23 22
PREMIBEN RESIDENCE, Ahmedabad 2524
ST XAVIER’S LIBRARY, Ahmedabad 2726
28 ST XAVIER’S TECHNICAL INSTITUTE, Sevasi 29
ST XAVIER’S PRIMARY SCHOOL, Ahmedabad 3130
USHA TALKIES, Rajkot 3332
34 STATE BANK OF INDIA, Ahmedabad 35
36 READERS’ QUARTERS, Ahmedabad 37
38 NAZARETH HOSPITAL, Mokama 39
BHAIKAKA BHAWAN, Ahmedabad 4140
42 SIR SAYAJIRAO TRUST HOSTEL, Ahmedabad 43
44 CHINUBHAI CENTRE - PATANG, Ahemadabad 45
46 SHYAMAL ROW HOUSES, Ahmedabad 47
48 RESERVE BANK OF INDIA, Ahmedabad 49
50 DENA BANK, Ahmedabad 51
EDEN GARDENS, Kolkata 52 53
ST XAVIER’S HIGH SCHOOL, Gandhinagar 5554
56 CENTRE POINT, Ahmedabad 57
INTERNATIONAL STADIUM, Cochin 5958
60 BIRLA CELLULOSIC TOWNSHIP, Bharuch 61
62 CANNA - MUKESH RESIDENCE, Ahmedabad 63
Canna and Mukesh’s House
When a client, who is an architect and interior designer, and one who knows her mind, engages a senior architect to design her house the process is unlikely to be a smooth one, and the outcome not entirely predictable either. This was my predicament when my father, the architect, and I, the client, started on the design for my new home.
My initial brief to my father was indeed very brief. The house, had to have two floors and had to accommodate the lifestyle requirements of a professional couple. As might be expected, my father started with something that was loosely based on the house in Naranpura that I grew up in, and which we all loved.I, and to some extent my husband Mukesh, had other requirements too, which we expressed as the design process evolved over more than two years.
The house had to be open to, and integrated with the • garden. I wanted to move away from the usual lawn and bungalow format and instead have a house surrounded by trees. I wanted to use modern materials, for instance, • aluminum frames for doors and windows, rather than wood, which my father preferred.The house had to reflect modern changes in the Indian • lifestyle. I wanted a kitchen in which we could socialize, not just a place to cook in.
Many of my requirements were also influenced by my extensive experience as a practicing Interior Designer and the work I had done on numerous interiors for houses designed by Hasmukhbhai. While his houses are celebrated for their wonderful treatment of living spaces that so effortlessly combine functionality with modern aesthetics, they sometimes fall short of meeting a client’s specific requirements. Having worked closely with his clients I often felt that these shortcomings were usually because Hasmukhbhai’s clients were unable to articulate their needs clearly. So, while I did want my father to design the house, I also wanted to ensure that I got what I wanted.
What was really fun and exciting for me, was the design and development process. It was my first experience of actually working with my father right from development of conceptual designs based on a client brief to working drawings, and it proved to be a revelation. We worked our way through fourteen different layouts! Hasmukhbhai never lost his patience. Yes, we disagreed, but he always listened, and gave thought to whatever I felt should be changed or done differently. Some of these changes went totally against the grain for him. Like a projected veranda that I wanted, so that we could sit “in” the garden rather than on one edge of it, or, like breaking the overall symmetry of the layout and the façade to enable us to have a library and a single height dining area. However, nothing was changed or added at will or as a mere fancy. Each and every change went through a due process of careful consideration. Not only did the changes have to fit into the conceptual design framework, but they also had to be logical in terms of function and overall treatment of space. Coming through this often trying process made me realize how much patience and perseverance went into all his designs; and, how he managed to so completely satisfy clients – on account of which they kept returning to him with new work. To me this is the mark of a great architect! If an architect fails to understand and appreciate a client’s lifestyle and functional requirements no matter how aesthetically pleasing or bold the final structure, he has, in my opinion, not delivered. Despite his years of experience and expertise Hasmukhbhai was totally immersed in the process. He went through each and every drawing with the same dedication that I had seen as a child and a young adult. This came as a big surprise. For example, once he decided to use aluminium instead of wood for the windows and doors, he identified a supplier who would custom-make them and even assisted him in setting up his production process which now forms the basis of a flourishing new line of products for his business.
What we have today at the end of this process, is a wonderful house for me and my family. An exquisitely balanced living space between the “inside” and the “outside”.
- Canna Patel
Bhaikaka Bhawan, Ahmedabad 40Client: Institution of EngineersYear of completion: 1977
Birla Cellulosic Township, Bharuch 60 Client: Grasim Industries LimitedArea: 22,140 sq m (housing) 13,420 sq m (public buildings)Year of completion: 1998
Canna - Mukesh Residence, Ahmedabad 62Client: Canna PatelArea: 810 sq mYear of completion: 2005
Centre Point, Ahmedabad 56 Client: Hasmukh ShahArea: 17,400 sq m (60 apartments, shops & offices)Year of completion: 1987
Chinubhai Centre - Patang, Ahmedabad 44Client: Hasmukh Shah Area: 7,890 sq m (Chinubhai Centre) - 640 sq m (Patang)Year of completion: 1980-87
Dena Bank, Ahmedabad 50Client: Dena BankArea: 6,800 sq mYear of completion: 1982
Eden Gardens, Kolkata 52Client: Cricket Association of Bengal Capacity: 94,000 seatsYear of completion: 1985
Hasmukhbhai - Bhaktiben Residence, Ahmedabad 8 Client: Smt Bhakti Patel Area: 375 sq mYear of completion: 1969
Indian Students Centre, New York 18M Arch Thesis, Cornell University, 1959
International Stadium, Cochin 58Client: Cochin Muncipal Corporation Year of design: 1996 (Unbuilt)
Nazareth Hospital, Mokama 38Client: Miseror MozartstrasseArea: 10,570 sq m Year of completion: 1975
Newman Hall, Ahmedabad 22 Client: St Xavier’s GroupArea: 3,795 sq mYear of completion: 1965 66
Premiben Residence, Ahmedabad 24Client: Smt Premi Patel Year of completion: 1968
Readers’ Quarters, Ahmedabad 36Client: Gujarat University Year of completion: 1973
Reserve Bank of India, Ahmedabad 48 Client: Reserve Bank of IndiaArea: 17,330 sq mYear of completion: 1982
Shyamal Row Houses, Ahmedabad 46 Client: Hasmukh Shah Area: 400 units -140 sq m (Type1), 280 sq m (Type2)Year of completion: 1981- 85
Sir Sayajirao Trust Hostel, Ahmedabad 42 Client: Sir Sayajirao Diamond Jubilee & Memorial TrustArea: 1,010 sq m Year of completion: 1980
Social and Welfare Centre, Mokasan 20Client: St Xaviers Group Area: 755 sq m Year of completion: 1964
State Bank of India, Ahmedabad 34Client: State Bank of IndiaYear of completion: 1973
St Xavier’s High School, Gandhinagar 54 Client: St Xavier’s Group Year of completion: 1985
St Xavier’s Library, Ahmedabad 26Client: St Xavier’s GroupYear of design: 1968 (Unbuilt)
St Xavier’s Primary School, Ahmedabad 30Client: St Xavier’s GroupArea: 5,300 sq mYear of completion: 1973
St Xavier’s Technical Institute, Sevasi 28Client: St Xavier’s GroupArea: 7,500 sq mYear of completion: 1972
Usha Talkies, Rajkot 32Client: Indubhai Sheth of Krishna GroupArea/ Capacity: 1,000 sq m/1040 seatsYear of completion: 1973 67
Hasmukhbhai’s Collaborators Over the last forty years, Hasmukhbhai has worked with a large number of people to realise his projects – too many to acknowledge them all here. His key collaborators have been : Jayant Gunjaria, Kamlesh Mehta, Leo Pereira, Arvind Patel, A Delhiwala, Ramesh Desai, Dr. Mahendra Mehta and S K Murthy.
HCP Design and Project Management Pvt. Ltd.Paritosh, Usmanpura,Ahmedabad 380 013, Gujarat, IndiaPh: +91 79 27550875, 27552563, 27552442web: www.hcp.co.in
Copyright (c) 2008 HCPDPM. All Rights Reserved.
Concept and GuidanceAnand Patel Bimal Patel Ismet KhambattaJayant GunjariaQamar Shaikh
Design, Coordination and ProductionPreeti Goel Sanghi
LayoutSamantha Amy George
Photo CreditHCPDPM Archive
Technical SupportAmit Pandya, Krupa Chokshi, Sanjeev Sumanand student trainees (Devanshi, Jiya, Madhur, Maneka, Mihika, Namrata, Neha, Renuka and Sharanya)
Photo-processing and PrintingAalap Patel, Combination, Ahmedabad