FACE TO FACE – Kalpana Kuttaiah

We talk to Kalpana Kuttaiah, Batch of ’80, a Research Knowledge Mgr., Associate Principal at PERKINS&WILL on her passion for Architecture, and what OL’s who would like to pursue a career should have in mind.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in architecture?

Growing up in India, surrounded by magnificent historic architecture, I was just fascinated and inspired by the craft of building, and the legacies these environments leave behind. They are works of art, done with an acute attention to detail. The field of architecture ranges from the microscale to the macro, informed by so many influences, which affect an individual, a community, society and the planet. All of which inspired me.

What’s your favorite part about being an architect?

…. Is the THINKING that goes into the endless possibilities of conceiving ideas! Design for me is “reflective art” It is something I enjoy immensely. The contextual relationships that design addresses in order to create something UNIQUE … and that is only applicable in that particular context. This where my passion lies. As an architect, I realize how important it is to the everyday functions of space and place.

What motivates you to go to work every day?

I know in the core of my senses that DESIGN MATTERS. It MAKES A DIFFERENCE. It can resolve complex problems in very elegant and sophisticated ways, whether it is of space, place, a society or the environment. Design has the power to transform lives… and I enjoy making my humble contributions to be a part of that effort, which can only be accomplished through a collaboration with others, who do the same.

What’s your dream design project?

… to partake in any design project that can bring comfort, healing and solace to others.

What advice would you like to give OL’s just after graduating from design school: *

Be curious. Be confident. Be Bold. Be inspired by many things. Be a well-rounded design professional. Write. Speak. Teach. Respect yourself. Respect others. Whatever you achieve, make sure there are others who have done it along with you. We cannot practice in our profession as individuals, but we can THRIVE as a team, through humility and collaboration.

You have to do the science subjects while you are at school.. as there is a lot of structural and civil engineering to understand and comprehended (you won’t have to do it)… but would have to understand weight-bearing structures… balance, flexibility, bending moments… and forces and tension associated with all kinds of material. Nowadays there is a consultant for all of that… but, it’s important to understand it from what design opportunities you could have. The education in itself requires you to understand historical precedents, context of place, climate and landscape, cultural influences and the demographics the design intervention will have to serve.

The profession is informed by numerous fields and orchestrating all possible great ideas into implementable solutions is where the skill in the profession lies. It’s always good to have an interest and passion for materials, sustainability… resilience … community… and so much more. Having a good sense of aesthetics always helps… understanding durability and how things are put together makes a difference… all of which requires a creative bent of mind.

There are always issues around cost, liability, risk and material management, that you will have to keep in mind. By-laws, codes and standard, need to be adhered to for every jurisdiction based on where you practice. Throughout your career, you will have to learn new things, and constantly innovate and improve the way you practice and think about your work and profession.

Kalpana is a Research Knowledge Mgr., and an Associate Principal at PERKINS&WILL


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