Studio Lotus: Delivering Enriching Design Solutions through a Value-Driven Process

India is one of the key places in the world where architecture has the most impact. There has been little crucial reflection on the country’s architectural landscape, and architecture firms are struggling to explain its value to the wider population. Having said that, architecture always takes into account and adapts with the evolution of society and businesses. The most innovative architectural companies are also looking into their crystal balls and pioneering the manner in which the built environment is evolving and Studio Lotus is one of them.

About the Thought Leader

Studio Lotus is a multi-disciplinary design practice that believes in delivering enriching design solutions through a value-driven process empowering all stakeholders and the environment. The company was founded back in 2002 by Ambrish Arora, Ankur Choksi and Sidhartha Talwar. Today, the Studio is acknowledged as a thought leader in the country for their work in the domain of Architecture and Interior Design.

The team at Studio Lotus consists of 60 dynamic people working in a highly collaborative environment. They combine distinct strengths over multiple domains to shape master plans, buildings, interiors and design schemes which are at the cutting edge of design thinking. The work of Studio Lotus is grounded on the principles of Conscious design, an approach that celebrates local resources, cultural influences, a keen attention to detail and an inclusive process. The practice follows an iterative and incremental methodology of innovation and roots its learning in history and local context. It aims to craft solutions that are benchmarks of sustainable design in the way it can address society’s changing ways of living and working.

The Hall of Fame of Studio Lotus

Currently marking its fifteenth year, Studio Lotus has close to a 100 awards in India and internationally. Some of its key recognitions include World Holiday Building of the Year at World Architecture Festival Barcelona and World Architecture News Awards, INSIDE Award Creative Re-Use Category Winner at World Festival of Interiors Berlin and a nomination in the Aga Khan Global Architectural Awards 2013 cycle.

They have also been part of the Architectural Digest India list of the 50 most Influential names in Architecture & Design for 4 consecutive years and received the Grand Jury Prize at Design For Asia Awards, an Honorable Mention at Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards New York, a Special Mention at the DOMUS International Restoration Awards Italy and Silver at the Asia Pacific Interior Design Awards.

Studio Lotus has also won awards in Hospitality Design and Commercial Architecture at Perspective Global Awards and been recognized as the IIID Design Practice of the Year and Inside Outside Designer of the Year amongst several other achievements. The practice has been covered extensively in leading publications across the world including Architectural Review, Domus India, Architectural Digest India, Wallpaper, Elle Décor and the Forbes India Annual Issue.

The Successful Projects of Studio Lotus

The successfully executed projects of Studio Lotus include the internationally-acclaimed hotel RAAS Jodhpur. Other projects in the Hospitality domain include a revamp of all lobby and restaurant spaces for the stunning Raas Devigarh hotel in Udaipur, the edgy interiors for the new Aloft Hotel in Aerocity Gurgaon and a luxurious understated design for the interiors of the public spaces of the new Taj Hotel opening soon in Theog near Shimla. One of the feathers in their cap includes the design of the entire Clubhouse facilities at Max Group’s Antara Senior Living project in Dehradun. In Retail, Studio Lotus has rolled out the Global Retail Identity for Royal Enfield and recently revamped the Retail Design Identity for Godrej Nature’s Basket with a spanking new store in Worli, Mumbai. They are also responsible for the design of the new state-of-the art Kohler Experience Center in New Delhi. Studio Lotus’ past work includes stores for Good Earth, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Ekaya and Gaurav Gupta among others. In Adaptive Re-use, the practice has designed award-winning projects Baradari at City Palace Jaipur and Godrej Imagine Studio at The Trees in Vikhroli, Mumbai and multiple projects at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. In F&B, Studio Lotus has designed the identity for an upcoming brand in Dubai, the first restaurant for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in India and prominent brands such as Hard Rock, Diva and Independent Brewing Co. Their work also includes art spaces such as the Devi Arts Foundation Gurugram and Khoj International Artists Foundation Delhi.

Currently, Studio Lotus is working on projects of various scales and typologies in multiple cities. These include an all-suite boutique hotel near Dharamshala, an institutional building for the Government of Odisha, the new 40,000-sqm Tech Center & Corporate office for Royal Enfield in Chennai, a clubhouse for the flagship Godrej The Trees development in Mumbai, master plan and architecture for Devanya – a fantastic new 88-acre Eco-development in Kumaon, a new Vilas hotel in a wildlife sanctuary for Oberoi Hotels, a boutique hotel in Lavasa, Retail Brand Identity development for multiple brands such as Cottonworld, Coverstory, Tribe by Amrapali  besides several residential projects in different parts of the country.

The firm takes a deeply contextual approach to its work and combines this with a strong focus on the tactile and sensory qualities of the space. The design process looks at sustainability through the multiple lenses of cultural, social and environmental impact. There is an active engagement in integrating localized skills and resources with state of the art materials and technologies.

The Remarkable Trio

Studio Lotus was set up in 2002 by the remarkable trio; Ambrish Arora, Sidhartha Talwar and Ankur Choksi. They started the firm by pretty much accepting whatever work they got, which included a couple of small office interiors. There was a time when all work dried up and they had no money to pay salaries and were considering shutting down. Just at that time they happened to get a job to design a crafts festival at Patiala, where the appointed designers had backed out last minute. The fees from eth project tided them over for a month after which a small stream of work started flowing in. A few of their early projects won some awards and also got some referrals, which helped the trio to start their journey slowly and steadily.

Ambrish Arora is the Founding Principal & CEO at Studio Lotus. In his working career of 30 years, Ambrish has worked in diverse fields including boat building, cinema, museum, & exhibit design before immersing himself in the domain of spatial design. Ambrish has an active interest in the role of design in society. He has lectured extensively at various global design forums and served as visiting faculty and juror at design competitions & institutes internationally and in India. He is a member of the CII National Committee on design and on the governing board of the Jawahar Kala Kendra.

Sidhartha Talwar, Founding Principal is an Architect with a domain experience of over 20 years. At Studio Lotus, he has developed various architectural, interiors, and master planning projects largely in the fields of hospitality/ resorts, public buildings, and residences. Sidhartha has also won the National Architectural Design Competition held for the National Police Memorial. He has been a visiting faculty member and juror at various design institutions and platforms.

Ankur Choksi, Founding Principal has over 19 years of professional experience in handling diverse projects such as retail and hospitality environments, workspaces, brand experiences and narrative-based experiential design for events, exhibitions & Museums. He has designed for and explored multiple media while working at various design firms at the early stages of his career. Ankur has been a visiting faculty at design schools and presented at several design-related events in India.

Delivering Services beyond Expectations

Studio Lotus considers their clients as the most important stakeholders. They say, “In our engagement with clients, we don’t limit our thinking to our role as Architects or Designers but more as partners to their brands in case of businesses or how we could add value to their quality of life in case of residential projects. It is important to us that we deliver beyond what is expected from us, that we are truly able to add value beyond the scope we were hired for. In the process, the relationships we form go beyond a transaction to a deeper engagement. We feel really fortunate that we are able to form lasting relationships with our clients. Today almost all our new projects come in through our existing client base.”

Focusing on the Outcome

For Studio Lotus the process of design and related engagement is very critical and determines that the outcomes have a sense of quality that is more than skin deep. For them it is critical that the process of design and execution be collaborative. This process is often iterative; allowing the project to be shaped in an emergent manner, introducing innovation at different junctures. This also allows the end result to be closer to the needs that emerge as the project is being built and allows for a much greater sense of ownership of the project amongst all stakeholders.

The delightful advice of the company to the building startups is, “Believe in your idea and give it all you have got. Very often, success is just a step away from what seems to be your biggest point of failure. Secondly, do the small things well – very often it’s giving all you have got to those little things you do every day that turn into great accomplishments. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Studio Lotus’ say on Industry Scenario

Studio Lotus feels that the industry is poised at a very interesting cusp. Real Estate developers are facing a very challenging scenario as Real Estate is no longer a speculative industry, which is what had fuelled it in the last decade. The focus is now on projects with a much greater focus on quality, which in the long term will be good for architecture in India. “For us the challenge is how to continue to learn and continuously improve, how can we add even more value to our clients and collaborators and continue to be a firm of choice for our team and clients alike. We are constantly asking ourselves –   what will it take? What further value can we add?”

A Memorable Experience of Studio Lotus

Studio Lotus shared a memorable and successful experience they had with one of their clients. “One of our most memorable experiences was when we were designing our first hospitality project, Raas Jodhpur. It was a very challenging site and over and above that, was the fact that it was the first major architectural project for us and our collaborators Praxis Inc. and the first project the client was ever doing. After we did a full set of drawings, we kept discovering new constraints at site and of the contractors and local artisans. By the end of the project, the drawings were put aside and it was done almost entirely through a collaborative decision-making process with the client, artisans, engineers, architects and designers – arrived at the site through conversations and work on the ground. In spite of this very organic process, to date it remains one of our most successful projects.”

Fearlessly Taking Challenges

Studio Lotus is of a belief that challenges are what helps anyone grow. For them, the most exciting challenge is the nature of the future of the architectural practice itself. They see the emergence of a new kind of practice or organization that is based on the idea of a network held together by core values and processes, rather than owners and employees. They say, “It is going to be the ability and willingness to reinvent oneself ongoingly, which will determine success in the future.”