WeBe Design Lab is a multidisciplinary architecture practice with offices in Chennai, Coimbatore and New Delhi. The firm was established a decade ago by a vibrant team of eight partners coming from different walks of life, having varying interests and strengths. WeBe is currently involved in various range of projects from unit scale residential designs to large-scale urban-centric projects. WeBe has won a range of accolades as awards and publications for their neat, precise and contemporary outlook to design rooted completely in its context. As a firm they believe that their work is a ripple that continuously shifts and reorients, creating objective and subjective realities.
Current Partners: Karthikeyan, Madhumitha, Malli Saravanan, Padmakshi, Satish, Udhaya Rajan & Yogesh Chandrahasan
What is the meaning of WeBe? Also share your firm’s architectural journey.
We observe, experience, express, empathize: WE LIVE; We interact, engage, review, respond: WE BREATHE; We negotiate, persist, connect, sustain: WE CONTINUE; To ‘BE’ is the verb that can be interpreted as anything we can do and WEBE is everything that we decide to do as a collective to live, breathe and continue. Understanding the wider possibilities, a creative thought process and being in a place where the need for design is questioned and its value distorted, it has been an additional task to educate, converse and travel along with many we had worked with. Surprisingly, the collective journey has been enriching for everyone who has now become a member of WeBe’s large family.
You are a team of eight partners in your architectural firm. What are the benefits and are there any challenges that you face?
It is a team of 8 friends turned partners. More than an organisation it is a platform that facilitates each one to do what they would want to work on. It widens the scope from urban to product scale. It helps us talk design, history, polity or philosophy equally. Still it is not an easy journey professionally and personally. It is a microcosm in itself. Everything can’t happen a certain way for anyone. There is constant negotiation and support parallels. As a team, we cherish the highs and lows equally.
What remains WeBe’s design philosophy that you infuse in every project?
Every project begins a clean slate. Based on the ingredients brought in by the client, the context and the designer the design evolves. Every project ignites a unique idea that is very specific to the project. It carries a character and behaviour of its own. The connection built with the user and the setting is the core for any project to be appreciated, used and interacted with through time.
Surfaces Reporter wants to know your experiences while creating the National War Memorial.
It’s a privilege to work for the nation especially at the historic Capital complex. We were not in a great circumstance when we took up the project in 2017. After demonetisation and floods, things had taken a hit for us financially. Taking up a humongous project like this was a big deal that demanded great responsibility, commitment, time, cost, collaborations and great teamwork. Since the requirement was an integrated service in a limited time the collaboration with various expert teams became very critical.
The same helped us greatly in achieving our imagination. It was a lot about the art of negotiation in such a huge team. It is a good example for how co-learning and being inclusive can culminate onto a larger outcome. It was an overwhelming moment when the sketch stood real and magnificent in front of our eyes.
The memorial was a void in the lives of many. The space and the outpour of emotion in it affects anyone being there. Especially observing a soldier’s family paying tribute to their beloved one. As a designer, being one among the visitors, this place surprised us too to see how a space can manifest its own character. A space with such strong human emotion goes beyond all design thoughts.
What is the latest project of the firm?
One of the latest projects is an apartment interior in Chennai in which we had explored patterns and the 2.5 D translation of the pattern juxtaposed with each other on the surfaces. The translation was through varied materials, techniques and joineries that came together to communicate a unified story. The New Year will have few of our long waited architectural projects gaining completion. We are eagerly waiting for the same as much as the clients.
Technology is bringing ease in the field. Will it eventually replace people?
Technology is important, but it is a tool. When we start replacing people with technology, we are also isolating ourselves from our surroundings- people, nature and culture. A place devoid of life around will kill us slowly. Sometimes unknowingly. Even in an auto generated setup you would need professional assistance to pick the right option for you. Knowledge can be converted into algorithms. Wisdom cannot be. The wisdom to bring in emotion, appropriate experiences and connect culturally. People who know the difference will always value professional consultation.
Knowledge can be converted into algorithms. Wisdom cannot be. People who know the difference will always value professional consultation.
What are your expansion plans at WeBe?
We are a civilisation deep coded with design and creativity within us. The market and the society have overpowered our choices and sensibilities in many cases. We as a team very strongly believe in the collective as the scope of design goes beyond bringing creative solutions. As we strengthen co-creation and co-existence through our design and collaborations, we have also extended the WeBe platform for every other creator and enthusiast to be a part of this process through one of our initiatives called The Soapbox.
Anyone can propose (post curation) and conduct multi-modal sessions here at our own venue in Chennai to interact with people ‘for Real’. Through this initiative we wish to bring back the sensitivity towards ‘Design thinking’, to value the nuances of those small things by people who have realised it for people who will realise it soon. Otherwise, an idea today will be a plan for tomorrow. Not sure what will hold good for us tomorrow.
Any favourite material or style, as an architect or as an architectural firm?
It is a changing answer based on where and how it would be used. What we would consider would be the relevance of the material for every choice. ‘Using it in a way the raw nature could still complement any setting it gets into,’ is what we do.
Your views about Surfaces Reporter Magazine.
It is very essential to look at things at the basics even before they get incorporated as a part of something bigger. Having a magazine focusing on materials, surfaces and back end stories is refreshing and ‘Surfaces Reporter’ is doing a great job in this.
Paying Tribute to Protection, Sacrifice and Bravery - The National War Memorial, Delhi
Either I will come back after hoisting the Tricolor, or I will come back wrapped in it, but I will be back for sure. -Vikram Batra
Great sense of pride and victory at the cost of the brave soldiers’ life! The National War Memorial, Delhi is a gestation on the idea of rebirth of those unsung heroes through their stories, journey and struggles translated as spatial expressions. A culmination to the historical Rajpath extending through the India Gate, the National War Memorial is an open landscaped public space spread over 42 acres in the C-hexagon. Mostly invisible but strongly present, it is a semi-subterranean design remaining a peoples’ place but with a different dimension of emotional weight. Progressive act of protection, sacrifice, bravery and becoming the immortal translate as a concentric arrangement of which the ‘Tyag Chakra’ holds the name of each fallen soldier who become another brick in the nation’s defensive wall.
The National War Memorial, Delhi is a gestation on the idea of rebirth of those unsung heroes through their stories, journey and struggles translated as spatial expressions.
Name: Punarjanm, National War Memorial
Services: Architecture, Interior, Landscape & Project Management
Area: 42 Acres Location: India Gate, New Delhi Photography: Maniyarasan
Art of Sound Decibel, Chennai
L ocated in the bustling city of Chennai, Decibel, the art of sound is an adaptive reuse project that creates a dynamic canvas for the display and experience of sound systems. This commercial interior project is treated in a way that reflects and presents a familiar warm connect, due to the usage and context. Adapting an analogous approach of the old with the new, in both the interior palette and landscape reflects durability and timelessness. The user experience is further accentuated by the solid wood in the interiors, the prolific greenery and grills that break down the stark evening sun.
The primary function is to create a space that allows one to be enthralled by audio and video. Abstracted designs of decibel sounds converted into contemporary geometric patterns is the core design vocabulary which further accentuates this user experience.
Abstracted designs of decibel sounds converted into contemporary geometric patterns is the core design vocabulary which accentuates the user experience.
Programme: Experience centre
Services: Interior & Landscape Area: 2500 sq ft
Photography: Karthikeyan, Phx2917
The sit out space exuberates energy in all seasons, be it the dark shadows it receives on harsh summer days, the soaked aromas it senses during the monsoon or the gentle warmth of the winter sun. This augments into the lobby space that is treated with subtle grey tiling and perforated openings. The existing structure is differentiated by the colour tones used while the designed patterns starkly grow into the interiors. The transition of the interiors is complemented by varied treatments of wood supported by cove and task lighting that engulfs one into a state far from the hustle and bustle.
A COHERENT FLOW OF VISUAL APPEAL TUT House, Tuticorin
TUT -The house, in the heart of Tuticorin has a very deciduous character which can be felt as one moves from the rustic exteriors to sleek finished interiors. The layout of the built in the site is consciously distinguishes the inside and the outside. The built is broken down in between three courtyard spaces - the front, centre and the back court. The use of these courts throughout the day is an effortless symphony.
The mornings are occupied and served in the front court with the daily dose of news and tea. The afternoons and evenings are split in the levels of the centre court with music, chatter and laughter amidst the sound of nature and water. The back court is private and is overlooked by the sleeping spaces. The perforated custom wall and ceiling in the centre court giving a sense of outside inside makes way for light and shade that moves with the sun giving a feeling transience in the space. The spaces in the house are layered to overlook these open spaces creating a unique feeling of inside outside. The striking signature of the house is in the material that has been used - contrast of concrete, copper, brass and wood.
The striking signature of the house is in the material that has been used - contrast of concrete, copper, brass and wood.
The outdoors is characterised by the raw rustic look of concrete, stone and wood with varying textures that layers to form harmony.
The landscapes are kept to minimum but enough to accentuate the raw texture of the materials used. The interiors personify a subtle richness with the use of copper and wood in the background of white marble. The textures are sleek and smooth almost making you miss the rustic exteriors.
The interiors are designed with a neutral palette and are susceptible to redecoration, whereas the exterior is rustic and raw that will age gracefully with time.
Tut House builds a coherent flow of visual appeal which gives the house a feeling of richness and a warm tone for a family dwelling. It is a celebration of seamless juxtaposition of materials, textures and colours.
Name: Tut House
Services: Architecture, Interior & Landscape
Area: 6800 sq ft
Photography: Karthikeyan, Phx2917