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April 2010
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ARCHITECTURE

Profile: Zuber Rashid Shaikh Emerging on Pune Skyline
By A Staff Writer
Architect Zuber Rashid Shaikh is a man of few words. Silently at work, the reticent Shaikh allows his landmark edifices to do the talking. Having slowly risen on the horizon of Pune, the mild-mannered architect has, of late, begun to be noticed. Among his most talked about works is the aesthetica-lly appea ling Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Memorial Centre that has come to dot the Koregaon Park area of Pune. The man who must have designed close to four crore square feet of space in the city, is on the middle point of his career and as is customary around that time, assuming an identity of his own.

Zuber Shaikh and his partner Prakash Deshmukh have together designed about 2,000 buildings in Pune and its environs. But Abul Kalam Azad Memorial is unique in that this modern edifice brings together blends of several influences together. Dominant among them is Mughal architectural traits which blend with Rajputana style lattice work and gothic arches from British style. Curiously, the building was sponsored by the Pune Municipal Corporation as a cultural centre (sanskirti bhavan) dedicated to the memory of stalwart of the Indian freedom struggle and first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

Shaikh says the whole plan was prepared in eight days and they had to execute 200 drawings of the various sections of the building. Built in a 2-acre plot, the cultural centre has two halls, an art gallery, a museum dedicated to Maulana Azad and a computer centre with a few more spaces for multifarious activities. (see pictures). The Memorial is unique in the sense that nothing of this sort had ever been planned in Pune, a rather modern city on the Deccan Plateau known for its intellectual traditions and educational institutions.

Zuber Shaikh says all through his three-decade long practice of architecture, he had been mainly doing commercial space designing. But of, late, he had to design several community projects like mosques and madrassas. He feels that in the Indian context an architect has to strike a balance between cost of construction and spatial benefits. Other elements like ecology, legal restrictions and topography of the location too chip in a major way, though secondarily.

Shaikh also won acclaim for his Azam Masjid in the Azam Campus that houses several Muslim managed colleges in Pune cantt area. The mosque on 160 feet x 120 feet area is spacious and can accommodate nearly 3,000 namazis at a time. It consists of a large pillar-less hall, a rarity in itself for such a large structure. It has been constructed in a way that it entails least expenditure on maintenance.

Creator of such landmark projects in Pune as Mughal Gardens at Koregaon Park, Oxford Village, Corporate Plaza, Haji Ghulam Azam Trust campus, and Mayfair Tower among nearly 2,000 project completed by his firm Space Designer's Syndicate. Zuber Shaikh is a simple man of deeply pious orientation. His partnership with Mr. Prakash Deshmukh, his classmate in the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya school of architecture has stood the test of trying times.

Zuber Shaikh is plain about the demand of his calling and says that aesthetics was not a priority for him as livelihood concerns were the foremost criteria in the formative years. But of late, he and Deshmukh have begun to align their designs to the environmental and ecological concerns. Space Designer's Magarpatta City and the upcoming Nanded City have not only addressed ecological issues but have also set a direction whereby those being dispossessed of their valuable landed assets could also be made partner in the buildings, villas and commercial areas, thereby mitigating their impoverishment.