Parag Dhanani: Studio Nagara

Sunetra Senior Wednesday 23rd March 2022 11:00 EDT

Parag is an architectural entrepreneur and the founder of Studio Nagara: a bespoke macro-planning business with a mindful focus on domiciliary extensions. “I predominantly work with private home-owners who are looking to dimensionally reinvent their property,” he told us. “I especially enjoy purpose-driven conversions that contribute to one’s well-being. This centres on allocation of space and what can holistically be done with it e.g., if you have a cluttered house, building more rooms isn’t necessarily going to solve that. If you want to convert a large penthouse into individual flats, it’s got to be within considered reason in terms of the number. Space is expensive too so it must be used wisely! My work isn’t just about constructing grand designs but further collaborating with clients to create a truly habitable and inspiring environment.”

Thus, strong composition sensitively utilises the area rather than showcasing sheer size. “There’s this misconception that bigger is better,” the architect continued, “but it’s not true. It’s better to be emotionally invested in the conversion and connect to the wider aim of why you’re planning the change.” In short, it's more fulfilling to let personal health lead the way. There’s no point in quirky houses if they cannot ultimately be a real home! “You should enjoy the place in which you are. It is meant to help to serve you.” One must deeply consider how they will feel and what exactly it is that they want to achieve. Happiness must fundamentally shape material choices, reinforcing the philosophy: such modular sustainability is to exude contemporary class. Just check out Parag's comprehensive diagrams! (pictured).His essential transformations extend to improving access to natural light which the founder does encourage much of! “My own home, for example, is very well lit and makes the most of the panoramic view outside. It’s best to capitalise on what’s literally on your doorstep and not to cram in too much extra.” Here, another speciality of Studio Nagara is assessing the surrounding context to mould trendy homes that will aesthetically sync rather than jar with the local vernacular. From the developed shell of the exterior house to the partitions and fittings within, including cupboards and various utilities, Parag meticulously plans bespoke models for each client, also securing approval for it to be built.

“I leave the cosmetic details such as tile choices to the client. My focus is on the overarching model and how open it can be. Architecture is a social trade. You’ve got to get along with many different people and adapt ideas to best benefit them. You witness many colourful ways of being. I’ve learnt so much across variety of cultures – just from talking layouts e.g., a Jewish bedroom must accommodate for one's bed to face north-to-south. It is also important to sleep in such a way that one's feet are facing the door of the room.” Finally, not only does Parag fashion beautiful homes but also helps philanthropically elevate lifestyle. The ethos of Studio Nagara is to meld morality with form. “I take on projects to add genuine value. It’s rewarding to so significantly enhance someone’s life.”

What qualities do you think one must have to be a strong architect?

Patience is mandatory and you’ve got to be curious. Architecture is a very broad subject. It ranges from formulating skyscrapers and penthouses to commissioning blocks of flats and creating smaller extensions. It’s a long game of understanding what to specialise in but there’s also a lot to discover. Planning and spatial layouts are definitely my speciality. There’s also post-planning as an available avenue. You must be able to perfect a niche. Be prepared to negotiate your mistakes and stay calm through it. I’ve been on quite a journey prior to Studio Nagara. I have a degree which took 7 years and worked in several globally recognised practices on large development projects. You’re still learning on the job and it’s a big challenge.

What grabs you personally about architecture?

My skills naturally speak to it. I have always been drawn to maths, art and design. It also helps with life lessons such as the importance of commitment and endurance and concretely rewards you for them! The subject also integrates many different disciplines and experiences. You learn management as well as collaboration and get to dip your feet in creativity and practicality. I enjoy the whole process with home-owners: meeting, understanding them, proposals and the realisation of the plans.

You love to travel too: what designs have appealed to you both internationally and closer to home?

I’m drawn to old buildings which have been regenerated for modern times e.g., the Serpentine Gallery in London. Their Pavilion also showcases different artistic structures as part of an annual series (Pictured: Counterspace).Abroad: I’m drawn to interesting houses e.g., on the outskirts of Paris, there’s a famous home; Villa Savoye, by Le Corbusier. It’s an iconic modern house that challenges traditional architectural conventions. I was in the Czech Republic for six months and there is also a lot of incredible architecture there e.g., Villa Tugendhat. I’m also a fan of the famous Guggenheim in New York.

You’re also a Photographer. Can you tell us about that?

Yes. Again, what I photograph must have a resonant meaning. I go out actively with my camera to do documentary-style street photography. The shots have to have value and can’t be mindless. I think I am coming into my own style.


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