Heritage Complex, Kapurthala

From Milan, the GEN Z Series travels to India’s Delhi NCR to interact with the 2023 B. Arch graduated Indian architect Gurusha Mengi from Gateway College of Architecture and Design, Sonipat, Haryana. She comes from an architecture and science background family. Gurusha Mengi’s father is a practicing architect in Jammu, India. Her mother holds a Master’s degree in Botany. She reveals, “My parents’ academic background had set high academic expectations, so it became second nature to me fostering a determined mindset. The early exposure to the field of architecture was gained through my father. Over the years, though the definition of ‘architecture’ has been continuously evolving for me, yet the unwavering commitment to empower and enhance the veins of society through architecture remains the same.”

Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Montage

Gurusha Mengi adds with a sense of pride and humility, “I topped my Architectural thesis and was the batch-topper. Hailing from a culturally rich country of India, I have been surrounded by art and culture throughout my life. I consider it to be a very strong medium of releasing my emotions and communicating with the world. Engaging in music, dance and exploring diverse art forms allows me to fully submerge myself in creative pursuits.” She worked for a year at her father’s firm Ajay Mengi and Associates in Jammu during her graduation years. Soon after her graduation, Gurusha Mengi traveled to UK to join Extension Architecture in London as an Architectural Assistant.

Master Plan

Gurusha Mengi comes across as a very enthusiastic learner. Her creativity to work on heritage complex reflects her strong faith in religion. A bubbly and vivacious individual, Gurusha Mengi shares her quest and graduation thesis to Johnny D.

What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect? 

Since childhood, my interests were quite diverse. I had a strong inclination towards mathematics and art occupied most of my leisure time. Initially, I felt a career in fashion would be a great fit for me, until I discovered architecture. It seemed like the perfect amalgamation of both mathematics and art, blending creativity and technicality.

Aerial View of the Site

How has architecture influenced your life as a student?

Architecture has broadened my vision massively and opened me up to tremendous opportunities. During my five years, I have learned that it is not about the result, but the process. If one is giving their best during the semester and actively participating in the design studios, the exams would be an easy breeze. As an individual, I have become more disciplined and gotten better at teamwork and team management.

Axonometric View of Master Plan

Briefly tell us about your University and the Course.

I did a five-year professional architectural course at Gateway College of Architecture and Design affiliated with DCRUST University, Sonipat. The college founded on the ‘Gurukul’ concept enhanced communications, friendships and interactions with professors and peers. The program was quite rigorous, with 30 credits per semester including diverse courses like – urban design, architectural design, material study and much more. Prof. Anurag Roy, one of the most promising professors at our college, instilled in students the importance for passive and climate-responsive architecture, which left a lasting impact on me.

Project’s Physical Model

Briefly describe the significance of your project with the ‘Title of the Project and Site Location’.

India is a diverse country, which practices different cultures and religions and is home to various heritage monuments and museums. However, a small-town of great historical and religious significance remains unknown to Indians and people worldwide. My thesis titled ‘Pind Babe Nanak Da – A Heritage complex at Sultanpur Lodhi, Kapurthala’ is an attempt to strengthen the cultural identity of Sultanpur Lodhi, the place where Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the birth-giver of religion of Sikhism spent his life.

Site History and Project Requirements

Adjacent to the site, the ‘Kali Bein River’ not only enhances the historical importance of the site, but also makes it a strategic location for urban development. The main objective was to let this philanthropic ideologies guide the master plan resulting in spaces that are inclusive and diverse, thereby my attempt was to rejuvenate the socio-cultural essence of the ‘faith, city and the State’.

Residential Guest House – Plans

The project also provided a scope for amalgamating contemporary architecture with the traditional heritage and still managing to create a dialogue with the past to enhance human experience. Incorporating intangible considerations like developing a solid-void relationship, promoting pedestrianization by creating ‘bazaars’/ streets through the site and introducing technical innovations were some steps taken to weave a complex that is honest, habitable and harmonious in its nature.

Urban Issues around the Site

Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why?

I am extremely inspired by the projects of the firm ‘Olson Kundig’ and firmly believe in a quote by their principal architect, Tom Kundig – ‘Architecture is evolutionary – not revolutionary’. The firm deeply understands the site and the client’s interdependence on nature and designs spaces that are sustainable, comfortable and calming. 

Ground Floor with Site

As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learned from senior architects, while being a part of a project?

‘He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.’ This quote by Mark Twain is what sums up my internship lesson. As an intern, I feel one should not shy away from being inquisitive. My mentors at RSP Design Consultants were extremely patient, guiding and empathetic, which made it a smooth-learning ride for me.

Site Zoning Process

What role do you perform as Architectural Assistant at Extension Architecture, London?

Working at Extension Architecture and Interiors Ltd. as an Architectural Assistant is one of my first work experiences after completing my graduation. I have been actively involved in working on proposal drawings for varied-scale projects, putting together planning applications, working on 3D modeling and conducting client meetings. The firm believes in optimizing maximum efficiency in their projects and adheres to Revit for modeling and Asana for seamless project management – together enhancing the work experience. Being a graduate from India, all the members of team are actively involved in ensuring my continuous growth in understanding UK planning policies. 

View of the Gallery Blocks

Hostile architecture is an eyesore and fast changing the urban landscape of prominent cities around the world. Architecture is meant to benefit the people / users at large, but the effects of hostile architecture are targeting people and depicting wickedness of the society and the architecture field. Elucidate your perspective about this unwanted trend in urban landscape.

Any form of architecture should be designed for the people, uniting them and filling the gaps of the community. Hostile architecture goes against the beliefs of ‘diversity and inclusion’ and increases the cases of discrimination within a country. It just puts a curtain over the actual situation of homelessness, showcasing a false identity, often forgetting that a country and its culture is known by its people. Instead of architects and urban planners showing their wickedness through hostile architecture, they should actually create shelters for the homeless using urban design principles, in a way that it merges with the current urban landscape without disturbing the image of the city and empowering communities. Another solution could be resorting to adaptive reuse of old structures and converting them into habitable spaces for the needy.

Section through Open Air Theatre

Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?

‘zerobeyond – the new frontier’ is developing a community of like-minded and talented young architects, which gives an interactive platform for collaborations and in turn, birth to newer ideas and concepts.

Local charm of cities has diminished due to Modern Architecture as every city looks alike and similar. How should architects / urban planners / landscape architects modernize cities, while maintaining the local charm intact?

Modernizing cities, while maintaining their local charm is indeed a challenge for upcoming architects, urban designers and urban planners. Interestingly, the question above aligns to the focus of dissertation titled ‘Cultural Identity of a City’. Architects, Urban Planners and Landscape Architects should work in collaboration and delve deep into the history of cities before embarking on a project within the area, so that culture remains relevant through its architectural styles, streets and plazas. Preserving the heritage monuments and further, reintroducing historical elements in a modern dialect can immensely help keep the local charm alive as these elements help in developing a strong mental image of the city. 

Site Study and Urban Context

Looking at the past in the current present, what are the futuristic architectural changes you would like to see in your home city / town? Elucidate the reasons for your vision.

A few futuristic architectural changes I would like to see in the city of Jammu are an active use of sustainable materials and vernacular architecture that promote passive design strategies instead of relying on HVAC.

Honours and awards related to architecture, if any.

Academic Excellence Award for Semester 10th – Gateway College of Architecture and Design, Sonipat; and

Design Excellence Award for Semester 10th – Gateway College of Architecture and Design, Sonipat.

Exploded View of Gallery Block

Image Courtesy: Gurusha Mengi

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