Reclaiming New Delhi
“There is so much confusion in India about how to improve the landscape,” says New Delhi-based designer Alina Vadera 11 IA. “It’s a country with such a vast history that you have to stay true to your initial concept in order to make a space come together. That ability to conceptualize and focus is something I learned at RISD – along with how to respect the original structure and landscape.”
She initially thought about moving to New York after graduation, but Vadera reconsidered when she realized that her home country was where things were really happening in the world of architecture – especially given the economic downturn in the US. “Construction is booming in India,” she says.
In 2011 Vadera returned to her hometown of New Delhi, where she now freelances and handles projects for the award-winning firm Studio Lotus. “I completed my first retail space last March – for well-known Indian fashion designer Gaurav Gupta,” she says. “Since his Western and Indian collections belong to two very different worlds, the concept was to create a sense of duality. We divided the space with suspended concrete panels so that shoppers can catch glimpses of the other world as they meander through the store.”
Vadera’s concept for Gupta’s store also expresses the duality in her own life. As an Indian citizen schooled in the US, she says that her RISD degree still makes a huge difference – even on the other side of the world. “It really helps. When you say you’re from RISD, it instantly inspires respect and trust.”
Vadera’s experience as a RISD undergraduate was inspiring itself. “I fell in love with the place,” she recalls. “I loved being surrounded by so much creativity and passion.” Although she started as an Architecture major, she quickly switched to Interior Architecture. “That’s when I came into my own as a designer,” she says. “I’m very interested in reclaimed spaces. And I realized at RISD that I was a lot stronger as a person than I thought I was. The experience gave me a lot of confidence.”
Vadera also made lifelong friends at RISD and found the environment to be more supportive than competitive. “We all had a common goal – to create amazing, interesting spaces,” she says. “And we helped each other. There are so many different cultures and people at RISD. You learn from all of them.”
Vadera has also found that the time management skills she learned in school are more important than ever in the real world. “The rigorous work culture at RISD prepares you for whatever you want to do,” she says. “In school we had one major project each semester. Now I work on many projects at the same time and have to think about many overlapping ideas.”
But playing with ideas and entertaining multiple options was all part of the RISD experience, Vadera says. And there’s one idea from her years working around the clock in the Interior Architecture studios that keeps coming back: “It’s something a professor said to me during a crit,” she recalls. “He said that when you walk into a space, you should subconsciously feel at peace. I always think about that in the spaces I create.”
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