The Luxury Bespoke Practice- Bespoke Practice 20 years of Progressive Partnership & Projects
Architect couple Krupa Zubin and Zubin Zainuddin of ZZ Architects, have hit upon a rare, exquisite sync that makes their partnership as magnificent as the projects they are called to helm. Vertica Dvivedi, Editor-in-Chief & Publisher, SURFACES REPORTER® gets talking to the duo, who agrees that life and work can often intersect and mean one and the same thing, but it pays to pursue both with a whole lot of love.
ZZA is one of the most consistently growing architectural studios based in Mumbai for the last two decades. The studio’s work is synonymous with quality and luxury, defined by passion, quality, and exclusivity. They design luxurious villas, streamlined corporate towers, residential high-rises, and contemporary interiors for restaurants, hotels, retail spaces, and private homes. The founding partners of ZZA, Krupa Zubin and Zubin Zainuddin believe in constantly evolving and adapting to change.
ZUBIN ZAINUDDIN ( ZZ )
The guiding light and principal force behind ZZA, Zubin’s work is a constant pursuit of a visionary aesthetic that encompasses all fields of design. A voracious reader and an architect with a keen eye for detail, Architect Zubin Zainuddin always wanted to create a firm of repute, known for the extent and quality of their work. His design process is intuitive; he believes that once the client’s trust is established and the concept is clear, everything else ideally falls in place.
KRUPA ZUBIN ( KZ )
The cornerstone and the belief behind the emergence of ZZA, Architect Krupa Zubin has been instrumental in defining the studio’s sleek and nuanced style. She is an indispensable pillar of the firm and brings rigor, passion, incredible energy, and experience to the table. Her extremely refined style, design sensibilities, and striking play of materials with a great deal of panache transform every project. Her idiosyncrasies, young zest, passion, and love for design and tech clearly reflect in her work, leaving an everlasting impression just like her persona.
She often shares her experiences on social media in every field with the sole purpose of inspiring. There is always something to learn and pick up from the simplest of conversations with Krupa.
The duo specialise in luxury projects and are behind some of the swankiest residences, corporate offices, celebrity homes, lifestyle centres, coming up all over India.
Apart from designing beautiful spaces, Krupa has her own fabric line, which is available at 50 stores all over India. She is also building a lifestyle brand, and set to open a gallery space shortly.
They don’t just finish each other’s sentences; they pre-empt each other’s answers—not just scattered slivers but large unfiltered chunks of thoughts and feelings.
Architects Krupa Zubin and Zubin Zainuddin of Mumbai-based ZZ Architects have been married for 20 years and partnered a business together for a few months more than the same length of time. Despite building a flourishing roster of clients and moving into larger spacious offices over the years, the two share the same table at work “We have never had separate work stations. That has been our requisite since the time we started,” says Zubin.
The pair specialise in luxury projects and are behind some of the swankiest residences, corporate offices, celebrity homes, lifestyle centres, coming up all over India. A focussed & commited team of our 75 architects & designers strive towards a unified philosophy at work.
At present, their portfolio is packed with an array of top-league projects, including an office complex for a pharma major in Bangalore; a lavish boutique hotel in Pushkar; Villas across a dozen or more cities in the country, Asia’s largest experience centre for a lifestyle industry leader; an avantgarde lakeside retreat in Pune; a premium school in Jodhpur; and a pharma research centre, a landmark home by the Mumbai seaface for the most revered Diamond group, corporate headquaters for leading Indian & multinational groups.
As much as they enjoy talking about all of it in great detail, they never fail to pull each other’s leg while they are at it. Their conversations on building and design make room for their shared passion for books, travels, and music. Their office is testimony to the life they have built together, where some things like work ethic, team spirit, friendship, trust and respect are imbued with a sacred value that is wholly non-negotiable.
It is amply evident that they are out to build something that can survive the ravages of time. Zubin sums it up just right: “ZZ Architects is not a firm by chance. It is a firm that has purpose, and the purpose is not scale but design and quality.”
Excerpts from the interview:
Vertica Dvivedi: Tell us how and where you met each other.
Zubin Zainuddin: We knew each other from our college days, though we grew really close only in the final year. Later, Krupa worked at Sanjay Puri’s firm and I joined Hafeez Contractor’s office. At some point of time, we got so close to each other that I had to be with her more than architecture itself. I think the whole story began then. We started our practice on January 01, 2002 and got married on June 17, 2002. I still remember the days when I would wait for her at the railway station.
Krupa Zubin: I used to travel by train and wait eagerly to alight at Bombay Central. My life was only about going to work and meeting him at the station, and then going back home with him.
Zubin Zainuddin: Years ago, when my salary was Rs 5,000 and Krupa was making thrice as much, she’d be the one to pay for cabs, dinner, etc
Our connection was devoid of personal ego, and we made sure we always communicated with each other with full honesty.
Our goal was never to start our own practice. The only reason we started was to be together. We came from diverse backgrounds. It was important to us to make sure it works.
The strong bond that you share with each other is obvious. How do you sustain such an extraordinary connection?
Zubin for Krupa: Krupa is somebody I have an incredible bond with. We prefer not to socialize after work as our work days are full of intense interactions. We feel that being with each other is our greatest pleasure. Perhaps, that is also because we are constantly trying to learn from each other. As we work together, we often get asked if that gets to be a struggle at times. However, for us, the whole experience has only proven to be symbiotic.
Krupa for Zubin: In our house, we have a huge centre table— almost the size of a bed. On it, we have tons of books and collectibles acquired during our travels. Every morning, when Zubin sits with any book, you will find him tagging pages for me to go through later. What we started off years ago is about us connecting as people more than the idea of having a practice together.
Zubin: Whether it’s music, books, food, travel destinations, we have always been attuned to each other from the moment we met. In fact, when we met for the first time, we exchanged music. I sent her a CD of an album; I thought that she’d love it and, luckily, she did. It was about this band that not a lot of people had heard about at that point of time. But I had a feeling it would connect with her. It feels wonderfully satisfying to have ‘that one person’ by your side to share your random thoughts with.
What led you to start your own firm?.
Krupa & Zubin: Our goal was never to start our own practice. The only reason we started our own practice was because we wanted to be together. We came from diverse backgrounds. It was important to us to make sure it works.
Zubin, there was a time when you wanted to quit architecture. What led you to come back to it?
Zubin: I had decided to appear for the CAT because I had read far too many articles about people earning a fancy salary in management roles. My plan was to get into one of the IIMs, and restructure my whole education and work.
But fate and Krupa intervened just in time! Krupa plainly told me that if I went ahead with those plans, I would probably make more money but I wouldn’t be half as happy.
Krupa: I was sure there would be a sense of regret eventually— especially because I knew how passionately he felt about architecture and design. Though he did join a management college, he quit in the first week itself and returned to what he loved doing all along—architecture and design.
What do you think were the turning points in your firm’s trajectory?
Krupa & Zubin: A few months after our marriage, we were designing a staircase in our house that we later submitted as an entry for the IIID Awards.
When we won the Award, we were covered by some important publications. This publicity drew several inquiries for staircase design. We took those up, and though we didn’t get to do the rest of the space we’d still be deeply excited designing staircases.
However, while all of it was fun in the beginning, we decided to ask ourselves if we were getting far too comfortable with our work. This tendency to step back and do a reality check remains a habit even now.
How have you balanced life and work, especially at the outset when both your practice and child were little babies?
Krupa: Our first office was a 175 sq ft space with a small mezzanine that served as our cabin. The ground floor was more like an open conference area with a team of five people. In 2003, when our daughter Anaya arrived, we dedicated the cabin to her. I would go check on her and come down to work when she napped.
What makes ZZ Architects what it is today?
Krupa & Zubin: From a tiny 175 sq ft house in the suburbs to a two-storied office area in the commercial expanse of Lower Parel, we have covered a significant arc of success.
However, through all it, our philosophy has always been not to compete. Though we are not into numbers, we still end up doing 70 to 80 projects at a time. It sounds like a lot, but with our current team size and capabilities— everything gets well-distributed.
We are very tech-driven, but we prefer to let technology do its work in the background. At our core, we hold on to that feeling that drives us when a client meets us after 15 years and tells us that the space we had designed for him 15 years ago is still so amazing, and if we can do something like that for him again.
Any special client story you would like to share?
Krupa: Sometime in 2005, we happen to meet a gentleman in a train from Venice to Milan. At that time, we were busy designing multiple fashion studios and health clubs, and were contemplating the prospect of doing more work that required greater detail. The person offered us to get his large villa designed.
From there on, we have designed various high-end residential projects. In fact, post COVID, the client has approached us again as he is planning to expand his villa. It is a great feeling to be trusted and having continued relationship with clients who become great friends over the years.
You believe in structure, process and discipline. Would you highlight key aspects of your personal life that fuel these values?
Zubin: Knowing the goal is important, and being disciplined about it is critical. Since the last 15 years or so, we wake up at 4.30 am and we sleep by 10 pm. We seldom skip our morning exercise sessions. We also have the habit of reading and listening to some crazy music every morning. We reach our office by 9 am and make sure the team effectively clocks at 6 pm. Work life balance has always been an important ideology in the way we work at ZZ Architects.
We have always been intent on being among the most leading firms in the country. The greatest part about building an organization is that apart from the great joy of designing, we enjoy the practice of setting up a firm of this caliber just as much.
ZZ Architects is not a firm by chance. It is a firm that has purpose, and the purpose is not scale but design and quality.
Could you share some of your learnings from your interaction with different clients?
Krupa: It’s like a relationship, where everybody has to be committed and then you can do the best. We believe in being honest with a client about the potential of their space. There have been instances when we have persuaded clients to take decisions that they were not initially comfortable with. For example, we had a client who had a bungalow and he wasn’t too keen on having lawns around it because he felt it would compromise his privacy. But we explained the many advantages that the lawn could present—it’s a huge property. Later, during COVID when the world was holed up inside, the client realized what we had exactly meant back then. He called to thank us.
Likewise, when we design a 500 sq ft bathroom for a client and they feel it would be far too extravagant, we explain that with the lavish scale of their house they will come to appreciate the bathroom space. Recently, we had a chat with them and they mentioned how they no longer find hotel bathrooms as comfortable because they are used to something a lot bigger!
To sum it up, over the years, we have realized that it’s important to stand up for all the possibilities that any place has to offer.
What are your favourite travel destinations and why?
Zubin: We love Japan. We have visited it several times, but we still have not explored any place other than Tokyo because there is so much still left to discover in that city. We don’t go there during the highly popular ‘cherry blossom’ time because our trips are not motivated by tourism but a pure lover for so many diverse, little joys that the place has to offer—the stationery, the chocolates, the remarkable ethics of its people, and even how gracefully they greet each other.
We also love traveling to Europe. By 2019, I made 14 trips to Milan! We can never have enough of the book stores in Europe. The reading capacity and evolution of their society is overwhelming.
Krupa: In fact, every time we return from Japan, we are super calm. For about 2 to 3 days, our teams know that they can come and ask us anything, and we would say ‘yes’ [laughs]. On the other hand, it’s just the opposite when it comes to Europe. We return over energetic. We return with the feeling to do more.
What’s lined up for the near future?
Zubin: There are different verticals. Krupa has her own fabric line, which is available at 50 stores all over India. She is also building a lifestyle brand, and set to open a gallery space shortly.
Krupa: I think it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with other artists. Our goal is to build a bigger entity and also to showcase other talent, whether they are young or seasoned, from India or from overseas.
What is the ZZ Trophy all about?
Krupa: The ZZ trophy is presented to anybody who has worked with us for more than 10 years. We have over 35 to 37 people in our organization, who have received these trophies. Our daughter was given the first trophy for being with ZZ for the first 10 years. She has lived and traveled with us through all our different offices.
I think it’s our biggest takeaway. We feel good to have built an organization like this.
Do you have any message for us, Surfaces Reporter® and WADE ASIA?
Zubin: I think you all are doing a brilliant job. You know how to carry yourself really well which is very important. Just don’t change
Krupa: Over the years have seen the passion with which you have built this unique platform. Its admirable, so be who you are and continue on your path.
PROJECT BY ZZ ARCHITECTS
ELEVEN POINT TWO
Location: Panshet, Pune
Area: 40 Acres
Project Type: Resort
We end up doing 70 to 80 projects at a time. It sounds like a lot, but with our current team size and capabilities— everything gets well-distributed.
‘Eleven Point Two’ is an upcoming avant-garde retreat nestled on the edge of Panshet lake, which reinvents the definition of a resort in modern times. Spread over 40-acres of the contoured site designed mindfully to captivate the essence of subtle luxury. The imposing haven allows one to get lost amidst an experience of calmness and serenity. The master plan of the site proposes various functions in integration with the landscape.
It is now imperative more than ever to foster a greater understanding and appreciation for natural habitats. By designing accommodation within these natural settings, a stronger harmony and healthy relationship are achievable between both worlds. Each room pinion with a sandstone envelope that synergizes with the greens. The amphitheatre at the resort captures the essence of the context. The infinity lap pool facing the mountains leaves one mesmerized with the framed views of the lake and hills beyond.
Category: Office Architecture
Area: 5,00,000 sq.ft
Project Type: Mixed-use (Commercial and Retail)
Conceived as a high street retail scheme and a state of the art commercial building with large expansive floor plates, Sattva Signature has a total built-up area of over half a million sqft. This iconic mixed-use project coming up in the Banjara hills of Hyderabad provides premium office spaces and high-street retail. The facade is unique and has a clear visible character and can be viewed as a different composition from various vantage points around the property. The building skin is conceived as layered screens of complementing materials: glass, stone, and metal.
The spatial and architectural design of this project draws inspiration from the surrounding context. Contours are integrated efficiently in the design of the building. The 2 levels of the basement have been designed in a way that it is very well connected to the existing road levels maintaining proper entries and exits for the smooth flow of traffic.
ZZ Architects is not a firm by chance. It is a firm that has purpose, and the purpose is not scale but design and quality.
Category: Private Homes
Location: Indiranagar, Bangalore
Area: 25,000 sq.ft
Project Type: Residential
The Vriddhii bungalow veritably evokes sophistication that blends with the natural palette of the surrounding. The house is a perfect interpretation of the contemporary and modern tropical home. The effortless arrangement of the indoor and outdoor spaces is clearly experienced when one enters this unique home. The elegant facade accentuated by strategic openings is an expression of the rich dialogue between the two different environments. The atmosphere of the house is flooded with natural light.
The terrace has a uniquely engineered walk-able glass floor and is one of the most important entertainment spaces in the home. Facade is clad with imported White Linen finished travertine. Natural plants are spread through the home and the highlight is a specimen tree that is placed on the first floor deck which passes through a slab cutout on the second floor. Ultra luxurious interiors with the finest furniture and fittings sourced from various corners of India and Europe make this clearly a statement home for the family
KOHLER EXPERIENCE CENTRE
Area: 20,000 sq.ft
Project Type: Retail
Kohler Experience Centre is Asia’s largest and most vibrant experience centre that acts as a cultural corridor to host various events. Located in the commercial hub of Mumbai city, spread over 20000 sq.ft space of an old mill, it spans across two floors.
This sublime and compartmentalized centre is functional, efficient and stimulates the ultimate luxury experience.
The layout creates a unique visual arrangement that elevates and revitalize the senses.
Location: Pushkar, Rajasthan
Area: 80,000 sq.ft
Project Type: Resort
Located in the rolling topography of Rajasthan, this ongoing resort at Pushkar was conceived in a way that’s both architecturally impressive and harmonized with the context. The planning involved huge spatial context given the relationship of the resort to the surrounding area, which was critical in terms of physical and social impacts. The architectural language breaks away from the traditional fort and palace resorts, popular in the area, and follows contemporary vocabulary, unique and one of its kind. The free form of the building with gentle curves has taken its inspiration from the surrounding dunes.
The project houses 47 rooms (40 luxurious suites, 6 one-bedroom villas and 1 two-bedroom villa)
A stunning infinity pool with expansive decks is the main feature of this luxury property. The property has a banquet hall, terrace cafe, two restaurants, a decadent spa and many more such features to make it a luxurious boutique destination property.
Category: Office Architecture
Area: 1,00,000 sq.ft
Project Type: Commercial
It is designed to be an office and research lab of the highest caliber and also to re-establish the brand value of this unique and highly passionate family of founders. After having created a smaller office facility for the family over a decade ago, it was a great opportunity to again collaborate with the Warke family and be part of this amazing project. The building stands out around its environment. As one enters the reception a sense of calm just sets in with the unique use of seamless terrazzo through the space. Even the reception desk just seems to come out from the floor. The helical metallic sculpture designed to camouflage a column behind the desk is a stunning feature.
The workstations have been designed for maximum efficiency while also exuding unconventional lighting and the beautiful wallpaper breaking the monotony. The subtle beige backdrop with the bright contrast makes this reception dynamic and inviting. The flow of materials from flooring to furniture makes it feel so seamless and fluvial. The tropical wall cover helps in breaking the monotony of the material palette within the space. A subtle interplay of terrazzo and stained ash works effortlessly to create a calming environment for a board room. Lighting and comfort is key in such spaces to ensure well being in our work environments. Exploring materials and details for a seamless and expansive feel. With a presence in more than 140 countries HiMedia is amongst the top three brands in microbiology in the world.
Category: Private Homes
Location: Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad
Area: 37,000 sq.ft
Project Type: Residential
Luxury and elegance are synonymous with the work and lifestyle of ZZA that truly reflects in this private villa located in Hyderabad city. The house gives a sense of opulence with a clear affinity to contemporary spatial planning and aesthetic. The home acts as a sculptural and striking visual from the quiet street in the highly affluent Jubilee Hills.
The main entry is approached by a ramp and once inside the front door, the home just unravels as an invitation to take a voyage within the generous spatial planning of the home.
The refined palette politely enhances and adds a lot of character to each space. The house’s atmosphere is accentuated with monotones from the marble floor to walls and soft furnishings. The double-height living area with a glass facade on three sides offers a view of the beautiful garden on the longer side and a 150’ long green wall on the others while welcoming a lot of natural light that echoes the play of light and shadow. From the lawn, the living room gives such a stunning frame to capture with a phenomenal volume of the home.
A melange of materials and finishes has always been a trademark of our work and this site is full of unique finishes and subtle details.One of the highlights of this home is clearly the infinity pool on the highest terrace that offers a gorgeous panoramic view of the city.