Tearing up the blueprint

Concept & Photography
Gaurav S Thombre

Words Sandra Edmonds

Praveen Bavadekar, founder and principal architect, ThirdSpace Architecture Studio, has designs on you, literally and metaphorically speaking! Give him an empty space and his imagination runs riot


The Vitruvian principles of architecture are fundamentally based on Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas. Which, when translated from Latin literally mean firmness (that is, the building is designed keeping in mind structure, light and space), utility (the design should be functional) and delight (be aesthetically appealing keeping in mind the plan, eurhythmy or harmony and symmetry). Walk into Praveen  Bavadekar’s, ThirdSpace Architecture Studio and chances are you will see that the gentleman has used these principles liberally and are most likely to be rendered speechless by the sheer genius of his space.

Strong foundation

Growing up in a small quaint town on the cusp of the Western Ghats and the Deccan plateau, Belgaum will always be home for Praveen. Hosting the Chikki Basadi, which was once considered to be a remarkable piece of Jain architecture, Praveen reminisces, “Belgaum is a tight-knit community with a sense of belonging that is sometimes missing in the bigger cities.”

A town with severe monsoons and a verdant cantonment that hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years is what Praveen feels has had the greatest influence on him. With strong male personas like his father, Sharad Bavadekar and uncle, Dr A V Bavadekar – a renowned surgeon in Mumbai, Praveen had the liberty and encouragement to dream big and then fight tooth and nail to see his dreams become a reality. Apart from these two pillars of strength, Praveen believes people are multi-faceted and tends to selectively choose traits he wants to emulate and be influenced by.

The perfect blueprint

As a young child, his teachers from school shaped him into the person he is today. “They instilled good habits and values in me that I live by even today,” reflects Praveen. After receiving his degree in B.Arch from the University of Bangalore, Praveen earned his Masters in architecture and urbanism from the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London where he attended lectures of many great architects, philosophers, artists and thinkers, like Koolhaas and Tschumi, to name a few.

Success has many levels

For most youngsters fresh out of college, being thrust into the workforce can be tricky and during this transition, we tend to find ourselves at crossroads, spoilt for choice with the myriad career paths and opportunities. Some decisions that we have taken may work for us whilst others do not. However, for Praveen, he knew right from the get-go that he wanted to be in a profession that allowed him the freedom to express his creativity and individuality. With his vision firmly in place, Praveen was ready to go places. So it comes as no surprise that down the road, he was shortlisted as one among the Top 100 Architects in India by Architecture and Interiors, India (A&I India) magazine.

A whole new space

With assistance from his architect-brother-in-law, Praveen dove headfirst into the world of creating beautiful landmarks. Like most creative minds, he swears, “the inspiration for any design comes from the design itself. Furthermore, it is a very nebulous process, sometimes involving research into the problem we are trying to solve/resolve. Every design can be said to be an answer to a set of questions, and the more interesting the questions you pose, the more interesting the answers can be.” Cut to the present and within a span of 15 years, he has led ThirdSpace across a range of scales, typologies and geographies, with his projects garnering a myriad of accolades within 10 short years. He confides, “The studio seeks to explore the third space that exists between seemingly defined oppositions, and embraces and celebrates the in-between, through their projects.”

Built to last

At the end of all the hard work put into a project, for Praveen, it’s a mixture of emotions. He believes that one needs to stevedore the project from conception to execution, because the process of building has a long timeline and can sometimes stretch over years. In retrospect he adds, “Sometimes it’s a nerve-wracking process but very rewarding when you finally get to see and go through the spaces that once existed only in your mind.” For Praveen, his best project is “the next one”. However, the process of designing and building structures does change something within him. “When you complete a project you come out as a different person and a more evolved one from the person who had gone in to design a building. Most times, a completed project often doesn’t measure up to your standards,” he wryly grins.

Being inspired

He believes that the Flatiron building in New York is an iconic presence and it exemplifies the vigour of the city at the turn of the last century. “Most buildings are the result of complex processes that are unique to time and space, and bear the mark of the people who designed it and people who were involved with it.” When asked if there is any building he would like to credit under his name, he says, ”If I had designed that building, maybe it wouldn’t be that building at all, not worse or better; just a different building.”

Unity in diversity

For Praveen, architecture in India is complicated and diverse. Although he does feel there is room for improvement, “For a country that has produced some of the greatest architecture of the world in ancient times, architecture and urbanism is not occupying the cultural mind space of people as it should,” he rues.

Of icons and iconic moments

With so many achievements to boast about, Praveen cites his meeting with the late Gangubai Hangal as one of the most memorable points of his career. This was when he was commissioned by the government of Karnataka to design the Gangubai Hangal Gurukul at her hometown in Hubli. Praveen recalls, “She was well into her 90s and regaled us with stories from her past. We spoke about everything from the mundane to the esoteric.”

Back to school

Praveen believes in the “knowledge shared is knowledge gained’ hypothesis. During his free time, he involves himself in classrooms where he holds lectures and conducts workshops in various colleges of architecture. He also actively encourages many members of  his team to teach in architectural schools.

Into the future

The dictionary defines architecture as ‘the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings’, this requires an architect to be a constant learner. With technology making our lives easier, each passing day, “young architects nowadays have so much access to information, the whole world is so connected. They should take every opportunity they can to be informed about everything from philosophy to art to literature and science,” advises Praveen. Looking at the future Praveen says, “ThirdSpace is still a work in progress and we are very proud of what we have created in the past 15 years. For the next 15 years, the focus will be on being bigger and better than what we already are.”

A lot of work with a little play

An avid reader since a tender age, Praveen has always maintained his love for literature and writing, which he owes to his schooling days at St. Paul’s. Owing to this, he has been published in Domus magazine, Archdaily website, of the Indian Architect and Builder magazine as well as A+D magazine to name but a few. A man of wide ranging tastes, he! Apart from being academically inclined, Praveen is quite the outdoors URBANE man as he enjoys getting his hands dirty at his ancestral farm, swimming and cycling, getting lost in nature and the forests near Belgaum.

In the end, Praveen believes that the success of an individual lies in the legacy he leaves behind at the end of time. The mastermind behind ThirdSpace architecture studio believes to succeed in life one needs a combination of hard work with a little bit of luck, “hard work without luck can give you results wherein the opposite is rarely true.” On being asked whether he likes to bend rules, Praveen chuckles, “I live by the rules, but every few years I rebelliously make a new set of rules and then live by those for a couple of years, till I reframe them again!” Judging by his success graph, we’d say that it seems like the right way to take on life!



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