Sunand Prasad, a distinguished architect and former director of the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), prefers to work like any ordinary individual, allowing his work to speak for itself.
“For me, the recognition received for doing something worthwhile matters more than fame. The test and merit of my work’s effectiveness rests in the kind of appreciation that our designs receive from others. The recognition and respect I receive from my colleagues is very important to me,” he told BBC Hindi.
In 2007, Prasad was chosen to be the president of RIBA —the first time in its 175-year history this honour was given to a person of foreign origin.
Speaking about his stint at RIBA, Prasad said, “It was a great experience. As president, I tried to turn RIBA into a campaigning mode.”
Climate change was on top of the agenda. “We acted as a pressure group, urging the government to consult architects and hold discussions with them while making planning policies. This would ensure that public money is best spent because we believe that good design improves people’s lives.”
Prasad’s life has been deeply influenced by his father’s inclination towards Gandhian thought. This perhaps explains Prasad’s special interest in community projects. He has built healthcare centres, flats for the homeless, homes for the elderly and multicultural art centres.
But when asked about his favourite building, Prasad said, “I will give the same answer as Ted Cullinan, a leading British architect, used to give that, ‘my favourite building will be the next one’.”
“They (buildings) are like children. It is hard to choose between them,” he said.
For the environmentally aware Prasad, the first 12 years of his life spent at Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram were significant.
Prasad was educated in Britain. Though enrolled in a university to study engineering, an adjoining school of architecture fascinated him.
He said, “The moment I started studying architecture, I realised this was me.”