From a time where the word ‘architect’ was unknown by the majority, to the day and age of today where it is one of the most respected professions of all, Ar. Zuber Shaikh has not only witnessed but also played a major role in the timeline of architecture in Pune. Gifted with mathematical skills and a keen interest in design and drawing, Mr. Shaikh could very well be a born architect. However, coming from a family of businessmen and pursuing education in a time when there were hardly 100 architects in the city, he has had it far from easy, creating a prodigious firm from the ground up.
Space Designers’ Syndicate, well known today as an established and award winning architectural firm, came to Mr. Zuber Shaikh and his partner Mr. Prakash Deshmukh as an idea back in 1976 in their 3rd year of college, a mere dream that they would give their blood, sweat and tears to turn into a reality. Upon Graduating in 1980 after picking up part-time jobs to pay for education, they faced a good few years of struggle, realizing what it takes to attain success. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and neither was the reputation of Space Designers’ Syndicate.
Ar. Zuber Shaikh looks back on days when he would be working 14-16 hours a day, working through Diwali without any breaks, and picking up small jobs, in the initial years after starting his firm. Built on ethics such as honesty and trustworthiness, Ar. Zuber Shaikh even today accredits the success of Space Designers’ to their many commendable qualities- designing according to their client’s preference, timely delivery of all their services, and new innovative designs with every project. Being involved in helping their clients advertise and successfully completing projects within the decided budget has led the firm to where they are today- having worked with over 200 builders, and completed roughly 5 Crore square feet in Pune.
When asked about his favorite projects, Ar. Zuber Shaikh is quick to dismiss the idea, claiming that after so many years of designing, it would be impossible to pick a favorite. He reflects on projects such as Lunkad’s Sky Vie and Kolte Patil’s Life Republic, with well executed designs. However, he explains how each project undertaken by them has been done justice, from big projects to bungalows. His word can be held true, of course, on the basis of the impressive list of awards that have been credited to Space Designers’. Speaking about the awards, Ar. Zuber Shaikh modestly elucidates the fact that the firm has never worked for or even submitted for an award- and are grateful for every one they have received. He mentions the Architect of the Year Award by the Accommodation Times that they received back in 2002 at the hands of the Sheriff of Bombay, and the 2016 Green World Samaj Bhushan Award he received for his services in architecture as well as social work.
This immense success and achievements are the product of years of hard work and struggle. Ar.Zuber Shaikh tells the story of how, when they started, business was mainly dependent on word of mouth. Having experienced an initial 6 years of struggle, 10 years of working painstakingly to achieve their goals, no stable income, and many people doubting and demotivating them, Space Designers’ has risen against all odds to reach where they are today. Even after overcoming the initial struggles, they continued to encounter hurdles even during the later phases, such as in 1997-98, while launching Margarpatta City. In contrast to good wishes and luck, the were receptors of doubt, as people were not able to visualize it. Even so, the firm stuck with the project, and sure enough it paid off. The project went on to win the Government of Maharashtra Award for the Best “Technology Park” in Maharashtra. Despite all hardships, Ar. Zuber Shaikh fondly says, he never once felt the urge to quit.
Ingraining qualities such as honesty, hard work, dedication, patience, cleanliness, time management, health management, how to speak to people- or “tongue management”, as he calls it- within himself was Ar. Zuber Shaikh’s “success mantra”. He salutes his parents for sending him to an English medium school even in 1960, a period when it was the less conventional choice to make. He emphasizes on the importance of education, and tells us that the reason he is where he is, is due to the education he was lucky enough to receive. This is also a major reason why he focuses his social work on education as well.
On leadership, Ar. Zuber Shaikh says that his way of keeping the firm together is by treating everyone that works with him as a family. With 80 dedicated professionals, Space Designers’ is an amalgamation of competent architects. Ar. Zuber Shaikh does not believe in “bossing” people around, and rather focuses on taking responsibility, treating them with respect, and making sure everyone is at ease, as he believes high pressure destroys creativity- the most important aspect of architecture.
A busy man, Ar. Zuber Shaikh does not get much free time. However, even in that time, he tells us that he likes to sketch. In fact, he explains, that most of his plans have been designed on small rough papers in the comfort of his bed after dinner, when everyone is asleep, and not in his office. He likes to travel in the little time he gets off during Diwali, and says that after long years of hard work, he is finally getting some time to catch up with relatives and friends.
He believes that Pune has immense potential for development, as does any place with employment opportunities. He stresses on the relation between the development of infrastructure in a locality and its capacity for development, and says that the government must focus on infrastructure development in order for architecture to reach its maximum potential as well.
From a personal point of view, Ar. Zuber Shaikh is looking forward to cutting down on the number of projects he undertakes, as compared to roughly 100 projects that he is currently handling. In the near future, he hopes to design only a few projects, but in a qualitative way. Being able to defer some of the work he has to his son, Architect Imran Shaikh, who has gotten into the same line of work and is taking on responsibilities, he now hopes to focus more on quality. He talks about exploring Dubai and maybe undertaking a few projects overseas, or even outsourcing from Dubai in India. No doubt reminiscing about old days, Ar. Zuber Shaikh claims that he wants to finish things he has left behind.
An inspiring story of how passion and hard work can go a long way, the life Ar. Zuber Shaikh has made for himself can act as motivation for not only those pursuing architecture, but anybody who is chasing success.