Walking through the lanes of old Ahmedabad on his way to his father’s shop, a young Ammar Shums was intrigued by the surrounding structures and their history. Similarly, the urban character of the National Institute of Design, which he visited a few times, and the luxury of the resorts and heritage hotels he lived in during family vacations, made him question why each space evoked different feelings. “The complexity of how architecture is simple yet eclectic, similar yet unique everywhere is what pulled me towards studying design and architecture,” says the alumnus of Anant Institute of Architecture, Ahmedabad, who also studied bamboo and earth construction of vaults and arches from Auroville.
In 2015, he began his own practice AR Designs in Ahmedabad, where the objective is to “evoke pleasure” through architecture and design. Be it architecture, interior design, landscaping or urban planning, the focus always is to create spaces that embrace the elements of earth. “My work is designed to deliver to these requirements and consciously evolve around the foundations of ecology, tradition and culture.” His design icons Louis Kahn and Charles Correa would be pleased.
As someone who values tradition and culture, Shums had the honour to revive Lal Bahadur Shastri’s paternal home in Varanasi, which was in ruins...but had to be restored keeping its essence intact. “This work is very close to my heart, as it was a great honour to keep the memory of our late prime minister alive (whose stories I have grown up listening to and admiring),” discloses the 28-year-old. Similarly, in his recent project – a store for Isha Foundation by Sadhguru in Ahmedabad – he designed a warm and earthy ambience with natural materials such as stone and cotton spun fabric. “We were not just creating a space, but an ambience,” he explains. These two projects illustrate his ethos towards work and architecture as a whole.
Lack of curiosity and an inability to question the norm are two threats he perceives in the profession. “We have become very comfortable with what we have right now – which, I believe, is a threat to innovation.” So, which design tool helps him stay relevant and innovate? The five senses, he says. One can grow in knowledge by simply observing the world and its surroundings. “Using these senses consciously, make it the most important tool in designing, for me.” With simplicity in thought and approach, Shums is carving a niche for himself where design holds a personal meaning filled with a sense of fulfilment.