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How a Young All-women Team is Reforming Indian Architecture

The Design Charrette, TDC, is an architectural firm and interior design company. It is founded by four youthful designers.
Team – The Design Charrette

The Founders

TDC Founders

The four co-founders embarked on TDC’s journey as early as they were at NIT Bhopal, pursuing a career in Architecture. While, Astha Khare (1) & Apurva Singh Bhadouria (2) hail from Indore, Sakshi Jain (3) & Ajanta Dube (4) grew up in Bhopal.

After completing graduation, they all set out to different specialized Architecture fields to acquire the skills required to run a company.

Post three years of graduation, and relevant experience in their respective fields, this proficient set of Architects, Project Managers, and Conservation Architect sculpted ‘The Design Charrette’ or TDC (5) on June 3, 2017. They were equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the construction industry, design expertise, and site management skills because of the varied ground experience, which allows them to offer a satisfactory final product. TDC now takes up projects across India.

Scrutinizing The Design Charrette

The Design Charrette or TDC is an Architectural Firm that takes up projects under the umbrella of Architecture and Interior Design, extending to Workplace Design, Clinic Design, Landscaping, Heritage Conservation, and Set Design. They provide Design Consultancy, Project Management Consultancy, and Design-Build services.

In a literal sense, a design charrette is a short, collaborative meeting during which members of a team explore and share a diverse range of design ideas. As its name suggests, the firm is a place where everyone who is a part of the project is a contributor and author of the design.

To plan the project in the most productive way, the whole team charrettes before a project with all the parties involved.

The quartet strives to design spaces with timeless experiences. Due to the shortcomings of taking turnkey projects in India, a lesser number of projects are architect-led design-build and largely contractor-led design-build. Therefore, in the construction industry, there is a contrast between the design and the final product.

The idea was to bridge this gap with an experienced team equipped with profound knowledge of the design process, site execution works, and intricate design details to have a satisfactory final product. As a renowned architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said,

“God is in the details,”

TDC highlights that the individuals’ expertise in different project stages helps them in the betterment of the overall process.

Another major setback is time and cost overrun in the construction sector. TDC sets itself apart by working on every project, considering ‘time is of the essence,’ and aims to create the perfect balance in the iron triangle of time, cost, and quality.

The team considerably acknowledges stakeholders’ preferences to achieve the best context- & user-centric timeless design solutions. They believe that knowledge has no boundaries. Apart from practicing, they also educate/train young architecture aspirants to share their knowledge and uncover new things.

The Driving Force

It is believed that the idea for design charrettes have derived from architectural students’ stories in Paris in the 1800s. As the study goes, their exams were collected in a charrette, and some of these students continued to sketch together madly since their designs were gathered for evaluation. Thus the name Design Charrette represents a collection of ideas created with intense hard work.

Their charretting days in college inspired the quartet to consider their work futures together. Since their architecture school’s early years, the founders always used to team up in college projects, competitions, and conferences. They knew well that they worked robustly together because of their different approaches to tackle a problem.

During their charretting times, it didn’t take them long to realize that they were stronger as a team, and it gave them the confidence to work in their Architectural firm. Hence, after graduation, they improved their skills to run a company with confidence and capability.

Their idea was to participate in the metamorphosis of their cities and cityscapes via implementing innovative, efficient, and timeless solutions through teamwork and collaborations. The team believes that the best tool for reforming cities are buildings. Many architects in History have changed the way people live and think with their iconic building designs, and the quartet intends to do the same.

Overcoming Skepticism and Gauntlet

Starting an Architectural Firm with no client base or investment was an uphill struggle for the quartet. It was hard for them to find their stepping-stone since they did not have any work to showcase as TDC even though they had ample prior work experience.

At first, their clients were also apprehensive about entrusting large scale projects to a young all-women team, assuming that they lack the desired experience. The gender bias was not only client-specific; their contractors also had reservations about working with an all-women team.

Also, they found that understanding the market is also not an easy task. One of the most difficult tasks for them was quoting their fees since there is always someone else who would do it at a lower price. According to the team, making the client understand how quality and time play a crucial role in the cost is still difficult. At the same time, they believe that they are getting better at it with experience.

Their skill sets paid off sooner, and their confidence to commit to time and cost has helped them acquire projects. They were offered their milestone project of major venture capital at an early point, which allowed them to showcase their ability to pull off a capacious design-build project in a strict timeframe.

From then on, they have continued their journey to working on interesting projects in several sectors without turning back to their early-struggles.

They still believe that the biggest challenge while starting any project for TDC is to work out the ‘Iron Triangle’ or the ‘Triple Constraints.’ The basic premise is that there are three primary factors; time, cost, and quality in all decisions. One can have or control any two of them.

Identifying the best hierarchy based on the client’s preferences and managing the project accordingly is the TDC team’s mantra.

Collaborations and Alliances

According to TDC, every project has an array of requirements and constraints. When these are put on the table, it becomes easier to effectively design a strategy to fulfill the requirements and mitigate the hurdles. The outcome can be most efficient when all the parties are involved.

The Oculus - by TDC
The Oculus – by TDC

TDC completely drives on collaborations and has collaborated with several professional teams such as designers, contractors, service consultants, vendors, and the likes.

“If there is clarity in the vision and delivering the requirements, the final result is always good.

– The Design Charrette.”

Global Dental Centre - by TDC
Global Dental Centre – by TDC

The team strives to be as sustainable as their best ability and promote the local creative entrepreneurs by collaborating with them. They have worked with Imperial Interio, KCT Infra, Kadi Patta, Motivation, Imagery Pictures, to name a few.

The Chalet - by TDC
The Chalet- by TDC

They collaborated with Gulmohar Lane, Hermosa Studio, to tailor-make furniture pieces to harmonize with the interior and exterior spaces. It served as a great experience to TDC since the collaborators were game with any form of finish that the team proposed and offered their valuable inputs that shaped the project.

The Chalet- by TDC
The Chalet- by TDC

The most significant collaboration of TDC was with Architect Krati Jain (6). They have partnered together for a few Interior design projects, and the experience gained was invaluable. TDC always considers charretting sessions with Krati constructive.

First Tipping Point

JC Ventures - by TDC
JC Ventures – by TDC

TDC started its journey with conceptual design projects, a small design and build and renovation projects. The interior fit-out design-build for JC Ventures Pvt. Ltd. (7) and Fairconnects Solutions Pvt. Ltd. was their breakthrough project.

JC Ventures Workplace was a Design & Build project of 12,000sqft; time was essential in this project. It included an array of spaces like Reception, Workstation Area, Cabins, Meeting Rooms, Executive Cabins, Conference Room, and Break-out Space. Each space was designed with its intent and hierarchy. Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) was used, a resource (people, equipment, physical space) oriented method of planning and managing projects. A project plan or Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) was created on Microsoft Project software. The plan is worked backward from the completion date, with each task starting as late as possible, recognizing that tasks are more likely to take more time than less.

It helps in evaluating and working towards the estimated finish date more accurately. Also, BIM (Building Information Modelling), a 3D modeling technique, was applied using REVIT software for clash detection of services and seamless delivery and maintenance.

As a result of these techniques, among other factors, JC Ventures Workplace was completed in a record time of 70 days. The client was delighted, for he didn’t need to change his launch party date even by a day. JC Ventures was completed before TDC completed its first year.

Since then, TDC has been working on various projects like set designing, which is an entirely different game. And then, there was a clinic design where requirements are specific and technical. There is also Heritage Conversation when one needs to have intensive knowledge about the materials and techniques.

With each project, TDC faced different hurdles. And hence, the team considers each project a milestone itself, a stepping stone that would take them up on the ladder.

Present Growth Status

In three and a half years of practice, TDC has been a part of 60+ small and big projects. They believe that with the scale and quality of projects they are getting, they are on the right trajectory.

The Porthouse - by TDC
The Porthouse – by TDC

They have also initiated working on government projects, and it’s a big step forward for their company this soon.

The TDC employees also have a good experience and can take care of the projects they are assigned with sincerity and professionalism. The company is also upgrading itself digitally more to be able to walk hand-in-hand with the future.

In 2013, Apurva, Astha, and Sakshi presented a paper on “Sustainability in Building Design: Passive and Active means to achieve Energy Efficiency” at the International Conference on Sustainable Technologies held at New Delhi, India, and their paper was published in “International Journal of Sustainable Development and Green Economics, IJSDGE.”

Moreover, the co-founder Sakshi was one of the 50 finalists in Schneider Electric’s International Case Challenge, ‘Go Green in the City | Paris June 2012’ held at Paris. The competition is required to provide innovative ideas for efficient energy utilization. She had teamed up with Siddhart Pillai (8), presented an idea of an Upgraded Building Automation System, and termed it as POD, Power on Demand (9).

Astha had presented another paper on “Maheshwari Handloom Weaving Tradition: A living Cultural Heritage” in InHERIT 2018, ‘International Heritage and Cultural Conservation Conference’ at Sarawak Malaysia in December 2018. The paper was published in E-Bangi Journal in 2019 (10).

TDC has also featured as the cover story in Swiftnlift Magazine in the November edition ’10 Most Inventive Interior Design Startup 2019′ (11).

The high spirited quartet’s project was also featured in October-December 2020 edition by Interior Exterior Magazine (12).

They were also the Top Three Best Rated Building Architects in Indore by Threebestrated (13)

Future Dynamics

TDC has set several goals for itself. The most important ones are expansion and diversification. The team is working hard to spread its business across pan India.

The quartet believes that India gives a great opportunity to explore innumerable domains with its diversity, like different architectural styles, varied cultures, and essentially the varied way of living.

There is no denying that the TDC team is always looking for various projects and aiming for a broader portfolio with such enthusiasm.

Their other indispensable goal is to be environmentally and socially responsible. The quartet believes that enlighting its clients and the contractors about the benefits of sustainable design is the first step towards it.

They value trust and integrity. That’s why TDC wishes to make its team self-sufficient. Moreover, they also have a passion for learning new technologies and methodologies while disseminating the power of design to the world through social media outreach, community involvement, and mentorship.