Alumni Spotlight: Saket Sethi

Saket Sethi graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Woodbury University. He studied Digital Design at University of California, Berkeley, and Interior Design at New York University. His education began at Rachana Sansad in Mumbai. He founded his own firm Archilogics with offices in Mumbai and Barcelona in 2005 with then partner, Rupali Saple.

Before starting his own firm Sethi worked with KMD Architects in San Francisco and interned at Eric Owen Moss, Los Angeles as well as Frederick Gibson in San Francisco. He began his architectural work in India late 2001 with Talati & Panthaky Ltd., on the Birla Institute of Technical Sciences, Lloyds Steel and Sahara India. Later, Sethi joined Nitin Parulekar as a senior architect and was promoted to director of projects with the mission to developing the firm’s architecture portfolio.

Today, Archilogics is serving clients ranging from Aditya Birla Group, Varun Shipping to Salman Khan, Shilpa Shetty, and Raveena Tandon. Archilogics has a boutique design approach providing building design, master planning, interior design, and individual home design.

Sethi launched and participated in a “Whole New World”, a renovation reality show on India’s NDTV Good Times, and he was also seen on the new NDTV show, “Luxe Homes.” He now divides his time teaching design at Rachana Sansad’s School of Arts in Mumbai and working on new projects at Archilogics in India and abroad.

Interview with Saket Sethi

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments both personally and professionally?

I’ll just keep it simple and say the ability to create and enjoy work every day is probably my greatest achievement. On a personal level I’m happy that I can enjoy daily life with a balanced approach to physical, spiritual, and emotional growth as well as my continuing intellectual development.

How did your time in the BArch program at Woodbury University help you to pursue your work as an architect?

saketsethi-copyI joined Woodbury University because I was attracted to one key element that differentiates Woodbury from other universities: an architecture education philosophy that is free of any overwhelming or rigid architectural history and stylistic dogma often found in design programs. The opportunity to be part of a body of students who – within appropriate parameters – were free to question, instigate and develop their own innovative design language processes in singularity or in a group was a tremendous draw.

Woodbury University exudes a Southern California ambiance with an educational approach to design that is holistic balancing theory, cutting-edge exploration, and practicality. Most of all, a small student-teacher ratio championing critical thinking and collaboration ensured I was acquiring well-rounded architectural knowledge that I still count on every day.

What do you like best about working as an architect?

Everything. Being awake late into the night sketching or modifying 3D models in the studio. I love the process of taking 3D models and transform them to a physical realm, first in scale and then to reality. I enjoy conceptualizing design as much as meeting clients or being on site. Finally, nothing beats the unique mixture of feelings – a surge of endorphin in a bittersweet moment – when you’re handing over a great project to a client at the time of completion.

Your firm, Archilogics, is based out of Mumbai, India, and you also have extensive experience working for firms in the U.S. What is the difference in how architecture is approached in India versus the U.S.?

Buildings, homes and design are considered valuable commodities in the U.S. – sometimes iconic and developed with legacy in mind. A sense of professionalism and respect for the architect as a primary inceptor or creator to evolve the built environment is still missing in India, including financial remuneration. The good news is that the Indian architecture world is changing steadily largely due to global work scenarios standardizing the ways we work both in the U.S. and in India.

What projects have you worked on that you’re most proud of?

Most of my projects are diverse in scale and type. And they are highly exploratory – I really enjoyed them all. Here are a few projects that I’m most proud of: Our first groundbreaking 22 acre Science and Technology Campus for the Aditya Birla Group was extremely challenging and rewarding. We were commissioned to design 450,000 square feet including 100,000 square feet interior fitouts complete with graphics, roadwork and landscape consulting – all without having built anything like that before. A more recent project is a massive set of residential master plans for the Capricorn Realty Group, a Mediterranean beach house for a private client as well as a 3D-printed custom table inspired by the properties of fabric for the Godrej Group.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career? Did your experiences at Woodbury University help you to overcome the obstacles you’ve faced?

The biggest challenges come from your own capabilities or the imagined lack thereof. Woodbury University prepared me for the unpredictability of professional life and life in general. The combination of simultaneously studying for advanced placement in general education classes, working multiple student jobs, taking core architecture classes and experiencing student life – those intense years of studying, learning, working, and hanging out with classmates stay with you for life. The most substantial take-away from architecture school is the ability to think and execute for yourself and to stand up for what you believe in.

On of my professors gave me a sage piece of advice saying that, “Woodbury University gives you a degree in creative problem solving, not just an architecture degree.” I always remember those words of wisdom when I’m confronted with a problem.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?

I think it is very important for students to know who they are as individuals. How do you then channel your uniqueness into the creative professional and/or architect you want to be? It is also essential to extend your education outside the classroom. Don’t underestimate your general education foundation and embrace the challenge of studying subjects that don’t appeal to you. I would advise students and alumni to seek a particular mentor who can challenge and encourage you as you’re developing your career path.

What would you say to a prospective student who is considering the B.Arch program at Woodbury University?

The Bachelor of Architecture program at Woodbury University is highly competitive and still one of the best-kept secrets on the West Coast when it comes to architecture schools. Woodbury University is constantly upping the ante with their rigorous curriculum, technical skill acquisition, and the diversity of education and educators alike on both campuses, Los Angeles and San Diego. All that results in a unique body of student work that is singular, surprising, and sensitive.

What is your lasting impression of studying architecture at Woodbury University?

I remember working in the final year studios on my pre-thesis. The birds chirping at dawn; the smell of glue on unfinished models; many emergency trips to the local art supplies store; streams of drawing rolls, sketches and class books scattered across drafting tables; I also remember electric erasers. Endless nights spent awake, wired on caffeine or Coca-Cola. And when we were getting hungry we took trips to the local Jack In The Box. I don’t know how many showers we took in that final year of studio just to keep our eyes open when working for days and often nights in a row. I also remember the knot in my stomach while waiting for professors to critique your work. But it was all rewarded by the spectacular work produced at the completion of your thesis. That’s what I will remember most about architecture school.

Describe Woodbury University in 3 words.

Vanguard. Iconic. Private.

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