Designing A Revolution : A Chat With Fahed Majeed

The International award winning architect talks of his projects, ideas and passion

Deli at Gateway is a space that spells style and sophistication. The coffee shop at the Gateway Hotel, Marine Drive, resonates nuances of modern design with its elegant décor, subtle lighting and metallic elements.  The use of minimalistic materials, all sourced locally adds layers to its character. The refreshingly contemporary interiors won its architect and his team, the coveted Golden Leaf Award from the Indian Institute of Architecture (IIA). This boutique practise has designed 3D buildings, a leading airline office in the Middle East using a fabric structure that interacts with the environment and changes colour externally, an exotic housing venture using shipping containers and many many such inspiring projects with an ‘insane optimism’ (as he chooses to call it) that drives him. RITZ catches up with the international award winning architect, Fahed Majeed, Chief Architect at Fahed + Architects who shares his ideas, thoughts and dreams about his biggest passion, Architecture!  

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

Photography: Shafi Shakkeer

Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Kochi

Costume Courtesy: Rare Rabbit

How did the passion for architecture begin?

I was quite artistic at school, used to draw accurately and architecture was a subject that interested me later on… Long story short, I did my Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and later did the Glenn Murcutt Masterclass from Australia. 

What do you think sets you apart from other architectural firms?

We have since been working to introduce a whole new eye to architecture, underscored by modernism. In everything we do, we rethink in a new way. Our work involves trying to better understand what we are giving to others and we can’t create something that we don’t believe in. The advantage we have is that our practice is a mélange of talent: people from varied backgrounds and culture, who bring with them the richness of knowledge and distinct perspectives and experiences. The perfect alchemy between strikingly different talents and refreshing enthusiasm underlines our success story. With a strong presence in Kochi, we have also branched out to Dubai and Bali. There is a cross-pollination of ideas and inputs that gets distilled and streamlined along the way. The design process gets shared across the regions, making it a lot more diverse in terms of solutions. Our design aesthetics and core values set us apart. Through the coherence of design and power of its vocabulary, we let our work speak for us.

Our architecture and interiors are inspired by the cultural and climatic nuances of its context by integrating landscape, water features and blurring the distinction between the interior and exterior. The work is grounded in their respective regions and informed by history. As a practice, we have a distinct perception of society. We also have an innate sense of responsibility and strive to make a difference to our immediate community by promoting domestic products irrespective of the region we work in. We are committed to promoting indigenous arts and craft: combine, revive and revisit traditional, old world crafts and employ avant-garde design to create new luxury styles. This, in turn, helps foster intercultural exchange and preserves world crafts, especially in local communities in Kerala as well as other regions. 

Your projects are mostly abroad. What are the challenges involved while executing such projects?

Each project comes with its own set of challenges: understanding the place is the most challenging aspect. Designing in a new area throws up unforeseen complications, and time is always limited. You have to understand the past, which obviously has a strong bearing on the present, and understand the social values – you need time to soak up all of this before getting down to work.

What has been the most challenging project so far?

The most challenging and recent project is the Flying House, a residential project, for which we bagged two awards. It is close to our hearts, for each project is an opportunity to create something unique. The Flying House, a single-storied residence built over an acre of land, has been developed on sustainable systems. The distinct roof typology is in sheer contrast to the traditional type in which the roof eaves drop down. Traditionally, Kerala has a conservative lifestyle, where women had limited access to the world around and the courtyards were primarily for them to see the sky. The low eaves with small windows meant darker spaces. The Flying House is well-ventilated allowing for a lot of natural light to flow in unobstructed. The structure is very close to the ground and the lifted roof gives a visual connect to the sky. It reflects the more liberated all-inclusive society that Kerala has eventually turned out to be. This structure inherently stands for the hope and optimism of a better future. The roof houses a series of solar panels that make the residence self-reliant. The passive lighting systems and extensive rainwater percolation systems are a few of the socially responsible measures we have adopted in the design. 

The most memorable project done so far? Why?

It would be the Deli at Taj Gateway, Kochi. This won multiple awards – along with the golden leaf award. The project used only mundane materials that we see or use on a day-today basis. These materials have transformed by simple interventions to achieve what we see.

With so much travel, how do you manage work – life balance? 

It is tough. Though my travel durations are short, I do move around extensively. Weekdays are tough; it is certainly not easy to maintain any semblance of work-life balance. I am an early riser and catch up on my mails. I begin my work by 10 am, and by 8pm I am off work. Weekends I am with family and do not address any works based in India or Asia. However Sunday is when the Middle East starts – so there is a certain amount of matters I do have to look into.

What is the one thing you like most about your work?

I love what I do – I am able to separate out what I personally like and what the client wants. This enables me to embrace an ever-evolving tapestry of all things esoteric, aesthetic and technical. 

One thing you dislike about the work.

What I enjoy the most is the act of listening – interpreting and then drawing. Often I do lose a lot of time attending irrelevant meetings. This is something that I dislike. I could use this time for drawing.

The best recognition you have received so far?

Being recognised for our stand-out work is in itself a great reward as are happy clients. We win multiple awards for our projects nearly every year. This encourages us to break the boundaries and get ever more creative. 100% of our projects till day are based on client references.

What are your Interests out of work?

  • Haven’t had a hobby that I have pursued in leisure in a while. I love travelling and discovering new lands, cultures and food.
  • Paddle Surfing is something I picked up recently- its relaxing.
  • Cooking with family

I can’t do without:

I can do without a lot of stuff and luxury – except food (I need to eat on time) and sleep, I need at least five hours of sleep to recharge. And yes, my stationary – Pen and Pencil

What’s on your bucket list? 

  • Being involved in the design or planning of matters that would benefit a larger number of people. Something that the general public could benefit.
  • Sailing
  • Stay at the Zero Star Hotel or something similar.
  • Designing a stadium 

What I Consider As A ‘Rare’:

  • Holiday destination:

-Saigon – love the food and peaceful life.

-Amsterdam – It is one of Europe’s foremost architecture and design cities. I am a visual person and am open to seeing things, there’s so much to take in when you travel

  • Read:

-On the Road

-The Famished Road

  • Possession: A small farm in the most peaceful place in the world – Bali
  • Moment In Life: Every moment in life is rare!
  • Compliment: When design students recognise me!
  • Personality: My Parents!