World’s leading architect, Robert A M Stern, known for his Walt Disney projects and renovation of Times Square, New York City is for the first time designing a project in India--- commercial complex, One Horizon Centre in Gurgaon, joint venture between DLF and Hines. Stern tells Dilasha Seth that his firm is also designing a Business Park Twon Planners (BPTP) project and a house in New Delhi. He adds that India should think twice before going the skyscraper way as its infrastructure does not support such high risers. Moreover, the democratic process in India makes development at a large scale more difficult, he says.
Q. Why did you decide to take on this project One Horizon Center in Gurgaon?
A. We were contacted by the international development company Hines to create a master plan for DLF that on completion will bring together offices, residences, a hotel, and shopping. lt sounded like a fascinating puzzle. We knew that DLF was one of India's first-rank developers, with the expertise and ability to get things done, and so we were convinced this was the right project for our India
Q. What are the other projects that you are doing in India?
A. We're currently designing a mixed-use project in Noida for BPTP and a house in New Delhi.
Q. What are the challenges of executing architecture in India?
A. One challenge is the instability of 1ndia‘s infrastructure, particularly the unreliability of the power and water supply. Another challenge is the complexity of the approvals process, very many people have a voice. It's a democratic process, but it does make development at a large scale more difficult. A third challenge is that though labor is cheaper, the materials cost as much in India as in other parts of the world, and the returns are lower, so it's often difficult for developers to afford a high level of quality. However, in One Horizon Center, the quality of the building is absolutely at an international level.
Q. Is it time for India to go vertical? Is India ready for the sky scrapers?
A. Obviously at 25 stories our building is a tall building-but not compared to the super-tall skyscrapers that are being built in the world today, especially in Asia and West Asia. Nonetheless I believe India should think twice before rushing skyward: the country‘s energy infrastructure and other related issues have to be sorted out before super scale development can succeed.
Q. What is unique about the design of One Horizon Center?
A. One Horizon Center distinguishes itself with its simple shape, in particular the broad gestural sweep of its facade. The winter garden that serves as the lobby to the building locks into a stepped plaza that in the future will also connect to the hotels, apartments, and shops which will complete Horizon Center.
Q. Which city or cities do you feel are in need of international architecture?
A. Globalization brings incredible material benefits to very many people, but I believe that in today's world we need to remember and carry forward the character of local culture. Obviously New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore-three cities l've been to and know a little about-are cities that are ripe for international architecture, but in my view unconsidered development has already compromised the character of these cities more than it should have. We need to think global but respect local.