Architect interior designer from Navi Mumbai, Yashoda Fernandes shares her journey and insight on current trends…
- What motivated you to study architecture and later interior designing? Did any family member/ role model inspire you?
I inherited need for education, culture and values from my family. After fleeing from Pakistan post-partition, my family faced a tough time financially but my family never compromised on our upbringing. I wanted to pursue psychiatry but could not due to less percentage. My father then advised me to study architecture from LS Raheja School of Architecture, Bandra. I consider myself lucky as I had good professors and unconditional support from my family, despite having no godfather from the field.
- Please share your early experiences of working in a male-dominated industry. How did you cope? Have attitudes changed now?
I never felt insecure inspite of the rigid attitude of my male colleagues. Ego clashes were common but things have improved today as more and more women join the field. Monetary discrimination continues.
- What are the important points you keep in mind while designing a building?
I ensure living space flows subtly in to private spaces and functional areas like kitchens. Privacy and accessibility are key factors. There should not be sudden sharp turns, edges. High windows, safe openings, functional inbuilt closets blend and enhance the beauty of a structure. In cities, space is premium. Instead of huge decorative facades, a simple utility home is what clients want. I suggest high roofs, natural light, easily available and easy-to-maintain material.
- You have studied both architecture and interior designing. What do you enjoy more and why?
I enjoy both. I have supervised more than 300 construction projects. I strongly believe an architect should be able to design as well since both are complimentary. I play with textures, subtle plasters, paints and wall finishes.
- What changes should be incorporated to make the industry more professional?
I have been in this profession since 1989. I am not against financial gain or commercialism but not to the extent of cutting corners to risk people’s lives and health. I have seen people selling their gold and life time savings to buy a proper home in cities like Mumbai. Surely, they do not deserve sub-standard construction. Owning a home remains a dream for many.
- They say life begins at 50. How do you keep yourself energetic and active to balance your professional and personal life?
Life begins when you want it to begin. Honestly, I have not enjoyed to my heart’s content but no regrets. I have a resolution to fulfill. I wish to resume Kathak classes and have even enrolled for Radio Jockey class. I wish to write several books on designing and human relations and have already started penning one. I wish to be a mind reader too.
- Does your family, especially children, support you? Do the children realize their mother too can have aspirations beyond the kitchen?
I am blessed with a very supportive family but my teenage child takes a lot of my energy and time and does not acknowledge my work and commitments. He gives more importance to his father’s work and takes my work for granted. May be, we woman are at fault.
- Is this field suitable for women?
Yes, because we are like nature. A mother creates.
- Star wives like Gauri Khan, Twinkle Khanna and Sussanne Khan have joined this industry. They definitely have good taste but do they have sound technical knowledge as well?
They have gained professional knowledge by studying courses related to the industry. They stand apart due to good contacts and hence command the respect and price they ask for.
- You are a collector of idols of lord Shiva and Ganesha. Is this a hobby?
I am a devotee of lord Shiva and always marveled at his various forms and manifestation. My clients have gifted me most of the idols. I want to go to Kailash Parbat and actually see the abode of lord Shiva for myself. I also collect pen stands and artistic paper weights.
- The volume of books in your office tells us you are a voracious reader.
I like to read thriller and detective novels. I even have a good collection of books related to Vastu and Feng Shui.
- Tell us about your prominent projects. Any new projects underway?
Currently, I am doing a large factory design, townships in Karjat, Khopoli and in Devad-Panvel and lobby interiors for buildings in Vashi and Ghatkopar. Many home buyers insist on vastu compliance.
- Has your research in Gujarat been of help? Can those learnings be implemented in a seismic-prone city like Mumbai as well?
I visited Gujarat and witnessed for myself how negligence and indulgence on human part results in such disaster. Total lack of ethics within the professional fraternity is to be blamed for such disasters. Structural stability of the buildings should not be compromised at any point. Navi Mumbai too is sitting on an earthquake bomb. Mumbai is moderately seismic, as it is located in zone-3 and an earthquake of 6 or above on the richter scale is possible here. A study conducted by geologist and ex-professor of IIT, Mumbai V. Subramanyan has revealed that minor shocks on a regular basis indicate Mumbai and its surroundings are seismically active.
Pics by Farooq Sayed