RISING STAR: Ar. Vignesh Sekar, STO.M.P, Chettinad

RISING Stars: VIGNESH SEKAR Principal Architect, STO.M.P, Chettinad

Ar Vignesh Sekar is a skilled designer with a passion for creativity and confidence gained from the successful completion of numerous architectural projects. He has previous professional experience at WEBE DESIGN LAB Chennai, CADENCE ARCHITECTS and DOMINIC DUBE INGE RIECK ARCHITECTURE STUDIO, Bangalore. He credits a lot to Architect Dominic Dube for his guidance on timeless design ideas with the sense of Modernism and Practical Aesthetics. Vignesh has over 3 years of experience in all phases of Architectural design, encompassing interiors, renovation projects, and ground-up construction, which has resulted in the knowledge necessary to proficiently engage projects from beginning to end.

Studio for Modernism & Practical Aesthetics (STO.M.P) is an Architecture Practice largely influenced by the Modernist Principles in alignment with practical aesthetics.

SR: STO.M.P. believes in ‘juxtaposition of form-based functionality integrated into the collective conscience of the greater community.’ Please explain the thought behind.

STO.M.P believes in the idea of modernism, the idea of following the adaptiveness towards the architectural aesthetics to the context of our built environment. Also, we believe in practical aesthetics. Like the saying, “Form Follows Function”, our ethos is aligned towards bringing in the aesthetics through the practicality of the space, not only for the sake of it.

SR: What has been your inspiration behind choosing the profession of architecture?

I grew up amongst structural engineers and architects, as it has been a family business since generations. So, I believe architecture is in my blood.

SR: As expressed by you, how much has your thoughts and work been influenced by Architect Dominic Dube?

During my undergraduate internship, I was fortunate to work under Architect Dominic Dube. Being a big admirer of modernist stalwarts like Le Corbusier, Mies, Charles Correa, I happened to see the magic happening in real life at his small studio, as Dominic worked in collaboration with BV Doshi. Also, Dominic had worked in Auroville for years where you can see the perfect blend of Indian Modernism and Practical Aesthetics. He is an artist, who gives attention to every detail possible. He inspired me to be what I am today.

SR: Any project that has left a lasting impression on you?

Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe - it is the most controversial project in his career but still stands like a real-life bible for architects to learn the details. The house, for me always poses like a mystery every time I visit it. You can learn new detailing every time you revisit the project.

SR: Tell us about your dream project.

We have completed only a few residences. ‘House in a Grove’ is our most favorite of them all, the one that dragged International attention to our studio, as it is the only project from India to have been featured in Habitus Living House of the Year Award. That project itself has been a dream come true for us, but to be specific, we are looking forward to building more individual residences, as people at STO.M.P love to create spaces for individuals. In our opinion, residences are the easiest as well as more complicated projects for the problem solvers. It is easy to provide the aesthetical elevations for a plan which has been drafted by the client’s Vastu consultant. But it takes a niche group of people to provide better livelihood to a client by understanding what they want.

SR: How do you feel the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the architecture and design industry?

We sure are in crisis with the COVID-19 Pandemic around. All of our projects have been stalled, and it is difficult to operate from home as well. But I am sure that there will be a steep rise in the industry as the majority of the people are staying indoors, they will figure out the existing problems in their own built environments and they will know the importance of living in a strategically designed sustainable built environment. With this pandemic, it is clear that the only way to have a good life is to live in a self-sustaining fashion and at this point, we believe that we are here to help them have one.

SR: Do you feel the pandemic reminds us of the importance of conscious & sustainable living? How can the architecture industry contribute to creating a stronger ecosystem?

Keeping the Business side of architecture aside, we always thrive to create a self-sustaining built environment with the careful juxtaposition of traditional and modern-day materials w.r.t the clients’ needs. With this situation, all of us have come to an understanding that we co-exist on this planet along with the living and non-living creatures. So introducing Biophilic designs to the built form will be easier for an architect aftermath this pandemic.

SR: Which practices, especially in material choices do you follow to make your project environment friendly?

We believe in the blend of the traditional, sustainable yet modern-day techniques in all our projects. As we are already living in the plugin culture, being a progressive practice is the only way to move forward. That is, providing bespoke environments w.r.t the context in the future. For creating such environments, we will have the support of the energy management simulations using the CAD to make it more technically environmentally friendly. Also, we try to incorporate the existing resources available with the client and around the site.

As a young architect, my message would be to stay hungry and to stay creative to learn whatever it takes to empower themselves. This is definitely the most challenging, yet more interesting in the field of business.

SR: What do you enjoy more - commercial or residential projects?

We are recently entering the commercial sector, and we would say that they are equally enjoyable as well. The difference is that, in commercial projects, the decisions will be taken rapidly as time means the money in it. We are strategizing our services for commercial establishments like we will do the architecture, interiors, branding as well as marketing. For this kind of projects, we believe that, creating the built form is one eye, selling the same in a way how it was intended to be is the other. So we will try to apply creativity in the built form as well as to the business for our clients.

SR: Your message to architecture students. How do you think they can make themselves more future-ready?

As a young architect, my message would be to stay hungry and to stay creative to learn whatever it takes to empower themselves. This is definitely the most challenging, yet more interesting in the field of business.

SR: Your views about Surfaces Reporter magazine.

We have been following the curated articles of the SURFACES magazine for quite a long time. We love the mix of the information about the new market material and the curated articles of the architects we admire the most. Also, it is a very unique effort for a magazine to focus equally on covering the works of young designers as well. We wish SURFACES REPORTER best of luck in its ventures!

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Heritage is this gamut of inherited objects, ideas, culture, and traditions. Not to be confused with preserving or restoring old things, values and ideas; it is often the collective of the tangible and intangible that has been passed on over time.

Chettinad in Tamil Nadu is a city known for its wealthy merchants that were once hosted to wealth from across the globe. But the Great Depression of the 1920s’ led to their gradual downfall. Even the opulent homes crumbled as the inhabitants couldn’t afford its upkeep.

The city today, perhaps, resembles a discoloured painting. A standalone palace haunts a desolate land with impressive exteriors but disintegrating within. In the case of Chettinad and alike, what does the current time inherit?

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The answers are many and multi-layered. And amidst these questions, stands a home in Chettinad that reflects a fusion of traditional cultures, some heritage, and contemporary ideas. The clients wished for a modern home steeped in the cultural essence of glorious Chettinad past. The fundamental elements entailed massing, accommodating an open plan, and the hierarchy of spaces connected through corridors and projected eaves to house indoor-outdoor spaces.

House in a Grove

To combat solar radiation and facilitate cross ventilation, the architects developed a façade skin of terracotta jaalis, that thermally insulates and keeps the spaces ventilated with natural light. Two major light-wells, façade jaalis and skylights engage the interiors in a constant cavort of light and shadow. The lounge on the first floor made of filler slab, witnesses the play of light and shadows at sunrise, accelerated by the terra-jaalis and skylights endows a fleeting and shifting quality to the interiors through time.

House in a Grove

The light and shadow configurations are further complemented by the rustic finishes used throughout the house. Exposed concrete is used on the ceilings, marble plaster on the walls and the floors are a mix of natural wood, Jaisalmer and Kota Marbles and Athangudi tiles. Athangudi tiles are manufactured from a village that has lent its name to the handmade cement tiles, which have been a part of the Chettinad legacy, since the British era. While the decision to use Athangudi tiles is to incorporate a slice of the Chettinad heritage, but the core intent is to procure materials from within a 50-kilometer radius of the site.

House in a Grove

House in a Grove

Even the terracotta pots used in the filler slabs were made with soil excavated from the site. Similarly, deteriorated trees on site were cut and its wood was used for concrete shuttering.

House in a Grove

In retrospection, the house does not imbibe the architecture of Chettinad, if one compares both entities side by side. Not in aesthetics or even the grandeur that the mansions encompassed. And the intent was perhaps never to mirror ‘heritage’ or revel in the nostalgia of the past. But the Chettinad architecture lay the seed of an idea and the architects trailed their journey from the house from thereon.

House in a Grove

Project Details

Name: House in a Grove
Location: Thiruppathur, Chettinad
Completion Year: 2018
Gross Built Area: 365 m2
Design Lead: Vignesh Sekar
Team: Sekar, Balaji Pandiyan, Shoba Sekar, Shamini Lakshmanan
Client: Suresh Veerappan
Engineering: STO.M.P Engineering
Photo credits: Prithvi M Samy


House in a Grove

House in a Grove

The project's inception was with collaboration with like-minded people with consciousness towards a good life. CK Motors aims to positively impact the way you move, both now and in the future. Inspired by its profound respect for the environment and its future, CK Motors wishes to make motor electric bikes a part of everyone’s lifestyle and start a revolution of clean transportation by providing eco-friendly ways to travel. With the intriguing brief, the experimentation started in STO.M.P’s studio along with the branding designer as the intention was to bring in the brand experience in every way, entitled from the brochure to the showroom experience.

House in a Grove

The decision of using natural materials such as Oriented Strand Boards, Polished Plywood, Terrazzo and Handmade plasters were the part of brand experience as we believed that the motorcorp should be selling the lifestyle, not only the product.

The threshold was made of seamless mirrors that not only accentuate the space along with the tropical green but also acts as a selfie corner. The composition was of natural materials, Biophilic features along with the eVehicle they sell.

The Showroom also features entertainment zones that feature contextually sourced display of materials. For their first showroom project in Chennai, the architects used 2 tons of rubble stone lifted from the nearby shore.

House in a Grove

The ceiling features seamless perforations that mimic customer service transparency. To ensure the same, the private discussion room is rendered with fluted glass. The polished plywood adds more natural appeal to space.

House in a Grove

The idea of natural therapy flows through the space with customer interaction, continuing its trail to the branding elements with print collaterals as such envelopes, manuals made out of handmade sheets, and block prints. The Project, on the whole, empowers a business to sell a better lifestyle as well as to empower the local crafts by taking them to a commercial scale.

Project Details

Name: Natural Therapy
Location: OMR, Chennai
Completion Year: 2020
Gross Built Area: 1500 sq ft
Design Lead: Vignesh Sekar
Team: Shamini Lakshmanan, Vignesh Sekar
Branding Consultant: Prithivi M Samy
Client: CK Motors
Photo credits: Srinath

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