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Studio Symbiosis is a young architecture firm that is shaping the future of Indian design. The firm, which was established in 2010, has signed 38 projects in India. The firm is currently working on several hotels, offices, housing and city-planning projects in India. "India is the place to be," said Amit Gupta, architect and co-founder of Indian design firm Studio Symbiosis. And for the rising Indian architectural star, this certainly seems to be true. Though the design firm -- founded by Gupta and his wife, Britta Knobel Gupta -- is only seven years old, it is already looking to shape cities and skylines throughout the South Asian nation. Of the 40 projects Studio Symbiosis has signed to date, 38 are based in India. This not only includes lone-standing structures, such as hotels and offices, but several large-scale housing and city-planning projects. For a practice like this one, they said, the scope is unique. India: A booming architectural hub The co-founders launched their vision in London, first studying together at the Architectural Association, then working with world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid. They also have ties to Germany, where their firm's international headquarters is located. The Kesari Headquarters in Delhi, India, won the Best Office Architecture India Award 2016 from International Property Awards But it is in India where these designers feel their projects really make an impact. "The architecture industry here is transforming," Amit Gupta told CNN by phone from India. "And the economic spike in recent years has really increased the demand for new buildings." Though established international firms have a strong presence in the Indian architecture industry, Gupta insists it's time for young, fresh, creative new design houses like Symbiosis to make their mark. "Yes, there are many international firms working out of India, but more and more Indian architects (are) coming back to the country and setting up base here," he said. "There is increased building demand, the budgets are good, there is plenty of land. It's great because there's room for younger, smaller practices to move in with their bold new designs." A competitive edge But designing innovative new projects in India is only the tip of the iceberg, Gupta said. "The question quickly shifts from: OK, you can design it, but can you construct it?" he said. "And that's where you have to be careful." Construction in India, he believes, is different from elsewhere in the world. Rendering shows the Punjab Kesari Headquarters designed by Studio Symbiosis "There is a combination of high and low technology processes and tools for construction here, and so you're working with materials that (are) uncommon or rarely used in other countries," he said. "It's very rare in India, for example, to see buildings constructed with steel, but it's very common to see buildings made from concrete." The Punjab Kesari Headquarters is currently under construction Setting up shop in India, he said, has given him an edge over his overseas competitors to tackle these issues. "Although we are newer and younger than other firms, we've been able to solve construction problems because we're spending time in the country and seeing what's happening on the ground," he said. "We are able to see the state of Indian architecture up close." Tradition meets 'cool' new design And Indian architecture -- particularly traditional construction techniques -- has served as inspiration for several of Studio Symbiosis' bold, futuristic designs. "We've spent a long time studying India's architectural history," Knobel Gupta said. "Mogul architecture, Wada architecture and of course the famed ancient stepwells. But we then take these historic designs and re-imagine them, and so you may not even recognize it at first because it's done in a completely new form." Helical vav, Champaner, Gujarat – "When I give lectures, the so-called Helical vav invariably causes gasps -- something about that sinuous spiral and severe simplicity is so compelling. Even more startling -- as with many stepwells -- is the subtlety of it's above-ground presence: just a low masonry wall. Lovely." Hide Caption 10 of 18 "There are a number of really wonderful stepwells in and around Delhi, some just a few yards from main tourist attractions, and yet even local guides have no idea that they exist or how to find them. Rajon ki baoli is located in the Mehrauli archeological park, itself a magical place studded with tombs and ruins. It's deep, in good shape, still harvests water, and its many levels of "apartments make it such a fun place to explore." Photos: Rajon ki Baoli, Delhi – "There are a number of really wonderful stepwells in and around Delhi, some just a few yards from main tourist attractions, and yet even local guides have no idea that they exist or how to find them. Rajon ki baoli is located in the Mehrauli archeological park, itself a magical place studded with tombs and ruins. It's deep, in good shape, still harvests water, and its many levels of "apartments make it such a fun place to explore." Hide Caption 11 of 18 "It's not easy getting to this small stepwell in the fields outside the city of Narnaul, with its many spectacular Mughal monuments. But the dirt road eventually lead to pretty -- if overgrown -- stepwells, with its four chattris that come into view. What a peaceful spot in its day - I'm sorry this one's such a ruin." Photos: Mukundpura baoli, Narnaul, Haryana – "It's not easy getting to this small stepwell in the fields outside the city of Narnaul, with its many spectacular Mughal monuments. But the dirt road eventually lead to pretty -- if overgrown -- stepwells, with its four chattris that come into view. What a peaceful spot in its day - I'm sorry this one's such a ruin." Hide Caption 12 of 18 "The fort at Mandu has a number of stepwells, tanks, and sophisticated water-harvesting systems but none as beautiful as Ujala baoli. The picture doesn't show what an odd, asymmetrical structure it really is, or it's sadly dilapidated state." Photos: Ujala baoli, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh – "The fort at Mandu has a number of stepwells, tanks, and sophisticated water-harvesting systems but none as beautiful as Ujala baoli. The picture doesn't show what an odd, asymmetrical structure it really is, or it's sadly dilapidated state." Hide Caption 13 of 18 "It's so steep and in such terrible condition that Mertaniji looks as though it's weeping filthy tears - but it's also an enormous feat of engineering and architecture. An estimated 25% of stepwells were commissioned by women, and this is one of them -- another "protected", awe-inspiring monument that unfortunately has all sorts of garbage in it."<br /> Photos: Mertaniji ki Baoli, Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan – "It's so steep and in such terrible condition that Mertaniji looks as though it's weeping filthy tears - but it's also an enormous feat of engineering and architecture. An estimated 25% of stepwells were commissioned by women, and this is one of them -- another "protected", awe-inspiring monument that unfortunately has all sorts of garbage in it." Hide Caption 14 of 18 "A farm family cares for this stepwell, using it as it was in past centuries: for drinking, washing, and irrigation. It's large scale, huge entry towers, and architectural details make it another of my favorites -- an unexpected treasure way out in the countryside." Photos: Raja Bir Singh Dev baoli, Serol, Madhya Pradesh – "A farm family cares for this stepwell, using it as it was in past centuries: for drinking, washing, and irrigation. It's large scale, huge entry towers, and architectural details make it another of my favorites -- an unexpected treasure way out in the countryside." Hide Caption 15 of 18 I always show this baoli, or stepwell, as an example and reminder of how a unique, awe-inspiring, formerly essential monument can be reduced to rubble. I had to climb on a roof to even see the extent of this marvel, one of the largest I've encountered, and which must have been an incredible sight hundreds of years ago. Now it's surrounded by buildings, used as a dump, and no-one has any idea it's there. It made me cry." Photos: Derelict Baoli, Fatehpur, Rajasthan – I always show this baoli, or stepwell, as an example and reminder of how a unique, awe-inspiring, formerly essential monument can be reduced to rubble. I had to climb on a roof to even see the extent of this marvel, one of the largest I've encountered, and which must have been an incredible sight hundreds of years ago. Now it's surrounded by buildings, used as a dump, and no-one has any idea it's there. It made me cry." Hide Caption 16 of 18 "I'd read about Vikia Vav in Morna Livingston's book "Steps to Water" from 2002 and was determined to find it on a search mission in Gujarat. It was by far the most difficult to locate and get to. Even local villagers had no knowledge of it, seemingly, and I was eventually led to it along a dirt track by a sympathetic fellow on a motorcycle. (The road) had so many rocks that my driver lost a tire. It's (from the) late 13th century, in the middle of nowhere on a former trade route, and nearly destroyed by the horrific earthquake in Gujarat in 2001. But marvelous still." Photos: VIKIA VAV, GHUMLI, GUJARAT – "I'd read about Vikia Vav in Morna Livingston's book "Steps to Water" from 2002 and was determined to find it on a search mission in Gujarat. It was by far the most difficult to locate and get to. Even local villagers had no knowledge of it, seemingly, and I was eventually led to it along a dirt track by a sympathetic fellow on a motorcycle. (The road) had so many rocks that my driver lost a tire. It's (from the) late 13th century, in the middle of nowhere on a former trade route, and nearly destroyed by the horrific earthquake in Gujarat in 2001. But marvelous still." Hide Caption 17 of 18 "This is another example of a kund, small but powerfully sculptural. The gradation of hues from pink to white to green (from algae) makes it one of the most colorful of all the stepwells I've visited, and it's a particular favorite." Photos: Mahila Bag Jhalra, Jodhpur, Rajasthan – "This is another example of a kund, small but powerfully sculptural. The gradation of hues from pink to white to green (from algae) makes it one of the most colorful of all the stepwells I've visited, and it's a particular favorite." Hide Caption 18 of 18 More fromSTYLE Iceland Golden Circle tour: Big attractions and hidden secrets Iceland Golden Circle tour: Big attractions and hidden… How gay artists expressed forbidden desire in code How gay artists expressed forbidden desire in code Why ivory antiques are so controversial Why ivory antiques are so controversial Inside South Africa's most prestigious ballet Inside South Africa's most prestigious ballet Victoria Lautman takes tips from drivers, villagers, and pores over old maps to find India's ancient and abandoned stepwells. In the following images, she discusses her journeys and the stepwells she has stumbled upon. Photos: India's hidden stepwells – Victoria Lautman takes tips from drivers, villagers, and pores over old maps to find India's ancient and abandoned stepwells. In the following images, she discusses her journeys and the stepwells she has stumbled upon.

Zahra Jamshed

April 17, 2017


India


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