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In conversation with Shefali Balwani and Robert Verrijt

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The duo behind Architecture BRIO chat with us about their earliest memories of architecture and what’s keeping them busy these days

Shefali Balwani and Robert Verrijt started their architectural journey in Sri Lanka, immersed neck deep in the genius of Geoffrey Bawa. (Browse through Geoffrey Bawa’s home in Spaces we love)  And much like him, Architecture Brio’s growing repertoire of work is bold enough to be timeless. Set up in 2006, their Mumbai-based, award-winning practice is rooted in design, technology and environmentally conscious innovation. We caught up with the couple to discuss their work.

When did you realise that architecture was your calling?
On a school trip to Konark and Puri. I think that’s my first memory of how impactful architecture could be; especially how it was calculated so precisely and determined by the sun path, and how that changed the way you perceive it. In the last few years of school when my parents were renovating their house, the process of visualising a space, seeing it come to life and impacting our lives was intriguing to me.
Robert: I am not sure but when I was about nine, I used to fold thin orange A4 paper into something resembling a typical Dutch house, complete with chimney and a dormer window. I’d stick it together with some cello tape and glue. When my parents saw it, they told me back then that I should become an architect. It was the first time I heard that word and learnt what it meant.

A pet peeve…
Excess. Too much or too many things in one space.
Robert: Broken pavements.

Architects or interior designers who inspire you?
 Axel Vervoordt, Vincent Van Duysen, Marcio Kogan and Tom Kundig for their understated yet bold designs.
Robert: I’m inclined to name a few of our contemporaries working in extremely challenging conditions such as TYIN Tegnestue Architects and MASS Design Group as well as a bit more established firms like Rintala Eggertsson, Elemental and Vo Trong Nghia.

Shefali Balwani and Robert Verrijit, the duo behind the award-winning practice, Architecture BRIO.

Tell us about the most challenging and most rewarding projects you’ve worked on?
The House on a Stream was our first project and one where we encountered all possible challenges... The fact that it had to withstand a gushing force of water coming down the mountains in a stream added an extra dimension of complexity.
Robert: We’re currently working on a small public park in our neighbourhood with a group of like-minded architects in the Bandra Collective. We have discovered that logic and reasoning doesn’t help you much further in getting things right in the execution here. Some of the systems in the functioning of the municipality need a complete overhaul. At the same time, we’re happy that we’re able to build on the awareness that design thinking, needs to become part of projects executed in the public domain.

Beautiful Homes are…
Shefali and Robert:
 … are designed to last. We love homes that have stood the test of time, but also those where you instantly get the feeling that everything’s just right. Those kinds of homes require thought, conceptual strength and a deep engagement with its position in place and time.

You are most productive with...
 a sketchbook and the phone switched off.

The Riparian House in Karjat off Mumbai is located just below the top of a hillock at the foothills of the Western Ghats.

The Riparian House is enveloped with wooden slats that not only provides privacy but also creates a play of light and shadow.

The dining and kitchen of the minimalist House on a Stream, which was incidentally one their most challenging projects till date.

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