The year gone by has been a rewarding one for multidisciplinary design studio Abraham John Architects (AJA). There have been awards aplenty, and a chance to take on challenging proposals that will improve connectivity and open spaces in Mumbai; the principals of AJA, father-son duo Abraham John and Alan Abraham describe their work as “creating a city for people, not just for cars”.
Among the areas in Mumbai that they’ve focused on are Shivaji Park, Mahalaxmi, Bandra and Juhu beach. All this is in addition to their high-profile Bombay Greenway Project (which looks at creating 1,000 acres of green space above local railway lines).
Of what’s helped them carve a niche in the Indian design space, Abraham John says, “I’d say it’s our attention to detail and customisation, honesty to design and sustainability, and the ability to explore and evolve.” Since its inception in the late ’60s, the studio has combined architecture, interiors, landscaping and urban planning. Abraham says the design team thrived on “holistic planning” for all their projects. “Architecture, interiors, landscaping and lighting design — these help us deliver the ideal product to our client, in a way that we imagine could improve their lifestyle,” he says.
Keeping that approach in mind, it’s not surprising to note that many of the studio’s best-known projects, including the seaside duplex they created for B’wood star John Abraham (Abraham John is the actor’s father, Alan is John’s older brother) and Monsoon Retreat (a luxury home in the hill station of Khandala), all share “signature” elements: An emphasis on sustainable design and green materials, a seamless merging of the “inside” and “outside”, open floor plans and a neutral colour palette.
Says Alan Abraham, “Reconnecting architecture with nature, making optimum use of space, natural materials, lighting and landscape to reinvent and transform living environments and urban spaces — this is part of our approach. And we do live in a tropical climate. So appropriate open spaces, natural light and ventilation — these are important aspects to be thought of while designing any space.”
Nature, say Abraham and Alan, has been the “biggest and best influence” on all their works. We not only incorporate landscape into our projects, we also use natural materials in construction,” Abraham John says.
Apart from the great outdoors, several public spaces are inspiring these designers. The architecture from the old Bombay, especially, is something both men admire. “Several spaces in our old city are so iconic and impressive,” says Alan. “Be it the approach to Chowpatty, where you suddenly come into contact with the Queen’s Necklace and the island city, or the spaces from Churchgate to VT which define the heart (of Mumbai), the architecture all stands out given the sense of space and perspective. The open spaces preserve our city’s heritage and bring function to these forms.”
In 2015, Abraham and Alan want to focus on designing more urban spaces for the people of Mumbai, creating cultural and lifestyle-changing spaces. “We hope to create living spaces, not just enclosures,” says Alan. “We’re striving to create design that inspires; approaching each project — regardless of size and scale — with an understanding that architecture has the power to influence lifestyle and society.”...