Guwahati & the North East: On the Cusp of Breaking Free and Seizing the Moment
India’s north east in general, and Guwahati in particular, is an interesting place, from interior design and architectural perspectives. Frequently seen as somewhat traditional and cut off, for long, the region hasn’t been at the forefront of new design and path-breaking architectural creations in India.
The New Trends
The situation is changing increasingly, or so it appears. Nowadays, with many local people getting more exposed to the outside areas and new trends, new buildings, with the latest designs and forms, are coming up. This is changing the face of the area.
“People are more aware and more exposed at present.”
Ar. Ritul Sarma
As per Ar. Ritul Sarma, Aakriti, “Clients today are well-travelled and well-informed. Their choices aren’t restricted to local style designs but what they have seen in other areas, especially in the metros and even abroad.” He added, “People are also more aware and exposed at present. They know about the latest trends and want their projects to be based on those”.
When asked about the choice of building materials today, he said, “Nowadays, we find lots of changes in the kind of materials that are being used for construction as we are exposed to new building products not seen and found earlier. Besides, at present, solar lighting and solar heating systems are used for sustainability.”
Guwahati in particular, and the northeast in general, is witnessing a change in other ways also. While earlier there weren’t too many high-rise buildings, say, with 10-plus floors, today the region has no dearth of such structures. As per Ar. Ritul Sarma, “Earlier, most buildings weren’t too high and structures with 10-plus floors were rare. Nowadays, Guwahati has many buildings with 10-plus floors.”
“Guwahati is a place influenced by entire India.”
ID Ashish Agarwal
Indeed, Guwahati isn’t what it was, say, 10-15 years ago. Speaking about this, ID. Ashish Agarwal, Ashish Agarwal Interiors, Guwahati, said, “Guwahati is a place influenced by entire India. It’s not northeast-specific”, adding, “people here are simple, they prefer simple things.”
When the BMR Team asked him how the place is changing and what kind of new developments are taking place in the area, he said, “Overall, developments are taking place in the area, roads are coming up and so are flyovers. New government infrastructures - including housing schemes, sports, and hospitals - are coming up”.
ID Ashish Agarwal also spoke about the availability of new products for building purposes and the opening of new tile galleries, which he said has improved the field over the years. “Opening of tiles and interior galleries by big brands has improved the situation, if we talk about the products required. Today, the availability of big-sized tiles has made making better and more beautiful interiors easier”.
“Trends depend on the clients basically.”
Ar. Buddhin Borthakur
The BMR Team also checked with Ar. Buddhin Borthakur and sought his views on the new trends in the area to which he said, “Trends depend on the clients basically” he said, adding “in the office areas, we are only going for simple trends”.
No doubt, the designing and architecture trend is changing, for the better, in the area, thanks to several factors. But the region is still battling some limitations and finding it tough to cope with them for many reasons.
“Lack of skilled workers is an issue.”
Ar. Alpana Sarma
For example, the area still doesn’t have the skilled manpower in the desired numbers it needs for construction and designing purposes. Sharing her frustrations over this, Ar. Alpana Sarma, Aakriti, said, “Lack of skilled workers in the preferred numbers is an issue that needs urgent attention as it often delays building projects”.
She also spoke about the difficulties presented by the long rainy season in the area and how it affects and restricts the work and scope of architects and designers in the region. “The area has many Assam-type sloping roofs as it experiences lengthy rainy seasons, stretching to 7-8 months in a year. The long season often restricts our creativity and scope, and so, in the majority of cases, we have to make ‘Assam-type houses’ (structures with sloping roofs) for our residential and even commercial projects”.
As per some of the architects and designers who spoke to BMR, sometimes, finding the right kind of new building products and materials is also an issue that needs urgent attention.
The Good News
“Local people are going for higher-end products.”
Ar. Pankaj Phukan
Despite all this, thanks to increased awareness and the opening up of new galleries, according to Ar. Pankaj Phukan, Pankaj Phukan Associates, “the local people are going for higher-end products. They are now oriented towards good designs as well”. This is something that needs to be celebrated and the architect-designer community should seize the moment to change the architectural and design landscape of the region for the better.
It’s already happening and the place seems poised to emerge as a hub for new architectural and designing wonders in the country, thanks to the enterprising and innovative architect-designer community of the area who today are exploring new trends and products to break free from the past and define the designing and architectural landscape of the area--for the better, of course.