A tete-a-tete with Pranav Kashyap: Mentor of ‘Design in the Digital Domain’

This summer ACEDGE is hosting Design in the Digital Domain! as part of its Summer UNschool. The course discusses the impact of digital revolution on architecture and its future implications. Live webinars will be conducted from 1st June – 7th June 2019. The basic framework of the course is to deduce the relationship of data and technology with design and allied fields by taking examples of algorithm-aided-design , digital fabrication, data informed urban design, sensor controlled spaces, experience design, fashion technology and wearables, smart materials , augmented and virtual realities , game design etc.

Get to know your mentor as he shares insights into his journey as an Architect exploring an uncommon path and also answers questions about the course structure.

This interview was conducted by Sudarshana Pani on behalf of Ethos India on 23rd April, 2019.

Ar. Pranav Kashyap is an advanced architectural designer from Bangalore. He is a gold medalist from BVB College, Hubli, Karnataka and also holds a Master in Advanced Architecture from Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. He is currently a visiting faculty for computational design at SJB School of Architecture and Planning. But essentially Pranav is here for his exciting trans-disciplinary career choices. He is currently collaborating with designers from various fields like fashion design, interaction design and architects for transdisciplinary applications of digital design.

Sudarshana: So to begin with, tell us about your journey from BVB Hubli to Barcelona. When was the first moment that you decided to begin your pursuit to unravel the digital world?

Pranav: I graduated from BVB in the year 2015 and I worked in a firm called Anand & Associates in Bangalore before moving to Barcelona. So, my journey as an intern and an architect here in India was quite a conventional one with many projects that mainly focused on sustainable architecture. At the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, it was an entirely different world with a very different school of thought. To be a part of an institute with students and pioneers coming in from 42 different countries to learn, collaborate and research together was itself a very overwhelming experience. One of the most intriguing moments that perhaps led me to discover the digital domain and its relevance in the design fields was when Carlo Ratti quoted Cedric Prize – ‘Technology is the Answer but what was the question?’, in his lecture at the Responsive Cities Symposium 2016 in Barcelona. 

S: You have worked with Karan Grover Associates before moving to Barcelona. KGA has a traditional and vernacular undertone to most of its projects. So let me ask you, how does being exposed to this philosophy develop a knack for a completely revolutionary idea of digital design?

P: I think this is a very interesting question because just a few weeks ago Karan Sir and I had this discussion when I visited him in Baroda. We discussed how data and technology has changed and the interest I had in sustainable architecture right from the early years of my bachelor’s degree.  Ethos India also added to developing this interest through competitions like Transparence, IGBC Green design competition and Saint Gobain scholarship, which is how I landed at Karan Grover and Associates for my internship. Whenever I attended Green conferences or seminars, I noticed that the panel discussions and debates revolved around the role of technology in architecture, and it was often critiqued. But when I looked at works in IAAC, it was an exactly opposite approach where they questioned the existence of a world without technology. Exploring how data could help achieve the same goals more efficiently and also develop many other iterations of design, fascinated me. 

S: How has your experience at Barcelona changed your understanding of design- its process, ideology and execution?

P: I think one of the most important things that I learned in Barcelona is the power of collaboration. The idea and scope of design expands manifold when it goes beyond its traditional boundaries. When concepts of biology, robotics, big data, material science, astrophysics, performative arts, etc. integrate within the domain of design, it results in limitless possibilities and opportunities for us as designers. These possibilities can only be realized when experts from all the allied fields come together and collaborate to execute the project.

S: You worked with Ar. Vicente Guallart, the former chief architect for the city of Barcelona. Now, he has a very tangential approach towards addressing issues, from what I infer when I look at his projects. What is your take on such approaches in Indian scenario? How does the work that you do gets implemented in real life situations?

Sometimes, a very tangential approach to design helps us go beyond the problem and explore other possibilities. I worked with Vicente, on a lot of Urban Projects mostly based in China. I think the tangential approach is all the more relevant in the Indian/Asian context given that our cities are highly complex and therefore need to be more resilient. Data and algorithms can help understand such complexities in a more resolved manner. The implementation of such strategies is still a challenge. For example, In Barcelona, the biggest strength that the city council has is the proactive participation of the public, of its citizens, the stakeholders of the city. At the same time, Barcelona is a small city with 1.6 million people in an area of around 100 sq.km. Whereas a city like Bangalore has 13 million people living in 700 sq.km area. So, it is definitely quite challenging here.

S: Is the digital domain a trend or a necessity? If it is need of the hour and will help us make better choices as designers, what suggestions do you have to break the inertia in our country against going digital? Both in practice as well as education?

P: It is now a way of life. We all live in a digital world, so it is very much necessary to embrace technology and use it to make the world a better and a beautiful place. In recent years this understanding has picked up and even the Government of India is now aiding this movement in the education sector through NITI Aayog by setting up tinkering labs in thousands of schools across the country. However, this is at a very primitive level and needs to be amplified.  As designers we can help spread the idea and make people aware about their possibilities in the digital domain, and collaborate with field experts to explore new domains to understand and be prepared for what the future holds. There has to be better data policies and more transparency if we have to move towards a digital future. The curriculum of architectural/design education should also be revised to include latest trends, promote speculative theories and advanced pedagogies.   

S: You have begun trans-disciplinary explorations in the design allied fields Fashion, Interaction, Game design and architecture etc., could you tell us more about this?

P: Though I have had the exposure of designing in the digital domain, I have not been able to achieve the execution of this knowledge in different fields of design given that my research line and curriculum mainly revolved around urban design and data driven urbanism in Barcelona. So what I am trying to do now is to explore different fields of design by collaborating with designers and artists here in India and trying to expand that curriculum on the basis of the objectives of this course. It is still at a very preliminary stage and there’s a long way to go.

S: About your one-week mini course on ACEDGE Design in the Digital Domain- can you tell us what this course is about? What the learners can expect to take away from the discussions?

P: As Architects or Designers we have always wanted to design the zeitgeist of the age that we live in. What forms the zeitgeist of the information age? This spotlight lecture aims at discussing how technology has changed our societies and how do we design for such societies. We live in an age where robots are now citizens of the world. From the cars we drive to the spaces we occupy, our physical as well as social worlds have been completely altered by the presence of technology. That is what the course focuses on. So we will talk about augmented reality, algorithm-aided design, digital fabrication, fashion technology, wearables, game design, and data-driven urban design. In short, we’ll take an anti-disciplinary approach to question and critic the role of technology and data in the design process and production.


S: ACEDGE believes in the philosophy of See, Hear, and Do. Hence, the SPOTLIGHT has a format of one hour lecture and followed by feed throughout the week and an assignment to engage with. Can you tell us about this assignment?

P: The course aims at exploring the intersection of two domains. One is the Digital domain and the other is the Design domain. And we will look at what happens at the intersection of these two domains. So the assignments would be directed towards the understanding and defining the attributes at that intersection of design and data. The assignments would be particularly designed to accommodate designers from all fields. It will be useful for us to understand how data plays a role in the design process.

S: Thank you, Pranav. Finally tell us how you think this spotlight may inspire the learners and make them better designers.

P: The most common phrase we hear as designers is ‘to think out of the box’. Through this lecture I want to deconstruct this box itself. The spotlight will focus on how technology has blurred the boundaries of all design allied fields and what are the opportunities this creates in the design domain. So I look forward to the 1st of June and would like to thank ACEDGE for creating such a platform to enable such discussions.  

Dear readers, please join us by enrolling for the ACEDGE Summer UNschool beginning on 12th May. We have special offers in store if you register before 1st May. So hurry up!!


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