THE FIRM Architecture: An Artistic Reflection of the Mind’s Symphony

THE FIRM Architecture
Sundeep Gwas | Principal Architect Head | Design and Technology | THE FIRM Architecture

An artistic reflection of the mind’s symphony exponentiated into the visual panoramas of designing excellence is the basic tenet of Architecture. Unwavering forms and shapes which blend in harmoniously into the inhabitant’s personal spacetime giving them a lifetime of sheer vibrancy define the soul’s firmness into the bodily monument also called the interior designer’s brilliance.

This forms the basis of the philosophy at THE FIRM Architecture, founded in 1999, by Sundeep Gwash, Principal Architect Head -Design and Technology and Vishal Shah, Sundeep’s friend.

Sundeep shares, “My very early experience includes working with architects in Jammu, followed by work with Arch. Shekhar Bhargava in Delhi and later with Arch. Sanjay Puri at Mumbai. From working on very large and lavish farmhouses in Delhi to making matchbox architecture in Mumbai, the young passionate architect in me was evolving. Since our commencement in 1999, there has been no looking back. The journey so far has been nothing but enriching.”

Their maiden project was the corporate building for ‘Shemaroo Entertainment’. Interestingly, post that, The Firm got on to the media facility industry in a big way. It got associated with the best like Pilchner Schoustal International, Canada and Recording Architecture London, and we worked for the best clients in the Indian film industry like YRF, Whistling Woods, Filmlab, Navketan Studios and more. Thus, it also diversified its realm by providing specialized services to the media facility industry in India as well as abroad, as a separate focus since 2003.

Sundeep states, “Our aim is a constant endeavour towards always being the highly respected design firm, known for its design excellence, great organization and, of course, happy clients.”

Today, The Firm has grown to become a well-established, multi-design practice offering integrated architectural design consultancy services for new construction as well as redevelopment projects.

Sundeep reveals, “We always love to work with well-informed clients, who share our passion for design and innovation. Clients, who are socially conscious and who believe in preserving our natural resources. We work undeterred, towards a dream, where we are able to make a remarkable difference towards the betterment of the world around us.”

The practice broadened its scope with the inception of ‘THE FIRM Projects’, offering ‘Design and Build’ services to its clients, with a promise of quality and timely delivery of projects.

In early 2008, the practice consolidated its global presence by establishing its first international office ‘THE FIRM ASSOCIATES UK LIMITED’ in London.

Sundeep adds, “We established our first international office in the UK while working to make media facilities in Doha, Moscow, London, Kiev and Istanbul amongst other places around the world. This variety of experience and international exposure gave me an edge to understand architecture from different perspectives.

I share my knowledge and experience with my team while they explore the best skills and design acumen. I thrive on the shared steady learning curve in design and technology, with our design teams. I have been passionately involved in software enhancement user programs in my studio.

  • We got ‘The Autodesk BIM Experience Award’ in 2007 when it was in the initial adoption stage in India.
  • We won the national design competition floated by MEDA for their headquarters and campus in Pune and
  • Got the state-level award for Excellence in Energy Conservation and Management by them in 2016.

Alas, the project was halted due to political differences in the new government formed at that time. However, undeterred, we are a team capable of delivering globally the highest client aspirations.”

Further highlights of Sundeep’s candid discussion with Insights Success for its edition ‘India’s Most Reliable Architectural Firms in 2022,’ are given herein.

Sir, please brief our audience about your firm, its USPs, and how you are currently positioned as one of the best Architectural Designing Solution Providers.

As already shared, THE FIRM was started by me and my partner Vishal Shah in 1999. Today it is a well-established, multi-design practice, offering integrated architectural design solutions for new as well as re-developments. We are a great team of partners working passionately towards the common goal of delivering the best for our clients and society at large.

Tell us more about your firm’s offerings and what aspects make it stand out in the cutthroat competition.

When the clients walk in with their project, whether they have a vision or not; we are there to support them in their entire journey i.e., genesis-focus-design-build-operate. This journey applies to all projects irrespective of their scale. We have iterative processes for moving through this process from start to end. ‘We realize that simply fulfilling the basic functional needs of a project often results in only mundane solutions. But, including the more elusive and less utilitarian aspects, paves the way for higher architectural quality. We embed Sustainability as an intrinsic part of our design philosophy. We continuously scrutinize our work. We look for any shortfalls. We correct them. We invest substantially in research. This endows us with the ability to deliver globally competent solutions to our clients.’

My partner, Vishal, leads the projects for their government sanctions wherein I lead the design team. We collaborate in-house and our clients don’t have to liaison with multiple firms during any stage of the project. This saves time and effort on their part and also results in the seamless progress of projects. I think this differentiates us from many other architectural design practices. We also use 3D modelling in our studio, as part of our design process, so the pre-construction visualization benefits our design and our clients alike, through all stages of our projects.

We cater to ‘design and build’ too, as opted by a few clients, to ensure quality and timely delivery of projects. We have an exclusive team under ‘THE FIRM Projects’ to manage that part.

I would not like to miss to mention that we have some great associations built over years, with the best consultants in their fields like Structure, PHE, HVAC-R, LEED certification, EC, Façade, Landscape, Marketing, Finance and Project Management. We believe that the quality of the end result depends on the collaborative efforts that we put in, for each project.

Being an experienced leader, share your opinion on how the adoption of modern technologies like AI and ML is impacting the Architectural Designing Solution space and how is your firm adapting to the change?

We always like to keep ourselves abreast with the latest software, but AI is still at a nascent stage in its application in drafting software like CAD. Though we do have BIM for a long time now, there are some functions and plugins like GBS that use AI in helping us to analyze the project data and the results of its simulation.

Similarly, IES modelling and simulation results are analyzed using powerful and easy-to-use AI tools. We still look forward to realizing BIM’s full potential in the coming years. We are happy to have invested in VR technology since it takes our clients’ understanding of their spaces to a different level altogether.

Considering the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face and how did you drive your firm to sustain operations while ensuring the safety of your employees at the same time?

We were very prompt in getting group vaccinations arranged for our teams. We already had the infrastructure in place for cloud sharing, long-distance networking and document management systems hence it was not very difficult to have to opt for WFH for some time, but we were one of the earliest firms to resume regular office, with necessary precautions.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Architectural Designing Solution space?

Sincerity in work always pays. Short cuts don’t work. Don’t forget to keep your team in good spirits. Have gratitude for the opportunities, don’t waste them.

How do you envision scaling your firm’s operations and offerings in 2022 and beyond?

We have been up-scaling and down-scaling with changing scenarios. We opened an office in Qatar at one point in time and later shut it too. These things happen but we always were up-front in handling the challenging situations, including the recent pandemic.

Having done some educational projects, skywalks, markets, bus depots, pan-India gyms, spas, and resorts, we are currently working on some interesting mixed-use projects like Integrated Bus Terminus cum Commercial Complexes at different locations in Navi Mumbai.

Then we are working on a City Auditorium while we are also working on residential redevelopment projects in greater Mum-bai, apart from the residential projects in 27 villages of KDMC, Thane and Navi Mumbai. We are doing some residences in Kolkata and Raipur and projects in the pipeline include a couple of corporate houses, corporation headquarters and townships. Looking forward!

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