The environment in which we live can be a great teacher. Knowingly or unknowingly, the landscape around us shapes us !

Deepthi CB, our next pathbreaker, Landscape Architect , is Founder of Dharitri Landscape, a firm that focuses on nature inspired designs for a diverse range of projects like residences, gardens, apartments, resorts, office complexes, schools etc. 

Deepthi talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the role of landscape architecture in creating sensitive habitats for human beings as well as flora/fauna.

For students, whether it is providing a leisure green space for a residence, developing master plans for large scale projects, landscape conservation, ecological restoration for wasteland sites or developing biodiversity habitats, every project shares the common vision of designing ecologically rich sites !

Deepthi, what were your growing us years like?

My introduction to landscapes is an extension of my childhood memories and associations. 

From a young age, I had the opportunity of staying in different states of India. The changing landscapes of each region were wonderful early lessons for me on how vegetation changed with different geographies and climate. They taught me that nature is organic, alive, growing and yet in constant balance. It creates an interesting theatre with its diverse artists and the ever-changing seasons. 

Apart from being remarkably good in studies, my hobbies included gardening, exploring the homestead garden and fields of our grandparents, building houses with the blocks set, outdoor games and picnic in nature.   

I believe that I was learning a lot about life over the years and these experiences made me more sensitive and responsive to the surroundings, which have played a major role in the development of my designs.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I studied B.Arch from National Institute of Technology [NIT], Calicut  where I bagged a Gold Medal for overall performance, and M.Arch from Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology [CEPT], Ahmedabad. 

What were the influences that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

As a kid, my favorite part of the summer vacation was to visit our grandparent’s house and homestead garden. Right from a young age, I used to find nature and her elements very refreshing and fascinating. As mentioned by my mother, I always used to get absorbed in observing nature. Along with my technical intelligence, she recognized that I had an inborn talent for landscape architecture.

Our house had good land around it, in which my grandfather had developed an aesthetically appealing homestead garden that was functional, yet sensitive to nature. It had a series of interlocking yet distinct spaces: a garden within a larger garden.

The environment in which we live can be a great teacher. These childhood lessons indeed shaped me into becoming a landscape architect. They also made me realize that this profession has a big role in creating sensitive habitats for both human beings as well as the flora/fauna.

Our past lessons, memories and associations can be great teachers: Knowingly or unknowingly, the landscape around us shapes us.

Since I was the top scorer in my school during the board exams, the general perception of the society was that I would become a Doctor, an IAS officer or an Engineer. But thankfully, due to my mother’s constant support and prayers, I could choose the career I always dreamt of- becoming a Landscape Architect. The right support and encouragement from the family is indeed a key factor in choosing a fulfilling career. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Tell us about your career path

After completing my B.Arch in 2011 and M.Arch in 2013, I worked as an Assistant faculty at CEPT, Ahmedabad for the ‘Field guide to plants’ course. During this period, I also used to get a lot of free time to read books from the library. On one such occasion, I chanced upon a book on landscape works of Bevis Bawa in Sri Lanka. Extremely fascinated by the design language and tropical planting, I applied for an internship at “The Brief” and thus visited the Island to get wonderful onsite garden experience.  

After the internship at “The Brief” in Sri Lanka, I worked for 3 years in Oikos, a renowned Landscape Architecture firm based in Bangalore. 

I was involved in projects of diverse scale ranging from small residential projects to 50-acre campus planning sites. Apart from being part of the designing and drawings stages, I was actively involved in the site visits to ensure that the design gets executed as per our vision. This helped me gain good technical and practical knowledge of the field and I could witness the projects getting transformed from drawings to reality on site. 

Having achieved good exposure to projects of different scales and typologies, I finally started my own landscape firm Dharitri, Bangalore. 

Landscape architects play a crucial role in today’s world. It could be as simple as providing a leisure green space for a residence to as complex as developing master plans for large scale projects [like residential communities, Institutes, Hospitality industry, Airport and transit hubs, Urban planning], landscape conservation, ecological restoration for wasteland sites, watershed planning or developing biodiversity habitats and ecological corridors for wildlife sanctuaries. The range of projects are diverse and it is indeed a satisfying experience to make a sustainable contribution to the environment and society.  

How did you get your first break?

My first landscape project was a 500 sq ft residential garden space that was designed for a nature loving couple based in Bangalore. Because of my Architectural background, I thankfully have a lot of Architect friends and colleagues, and thus initially started getting projects through organic referrals.  

We experimented a lot with the local materials and plants which created a sensitive habitat in the available space. It was an interesting and special first project for our firm Dharitri. 

I also started teaching as a guest lecturer for the Landscape Design studio subject for the MArch course. 

These two endeavors helped me keep a good balance between academic, theoretical and practical life. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

I have always been an eternally optimistic person. So, I have always believed in going with the flow and enjoying each stage of the process. 

Moreover, Bangalore is a very receptive city where good talent and skill is always appreciated. There is work opportunity available for every field and budget here. Here in the Garden city, the majority of the people have an inclination towards natural landscapes and are environmentally conscious.  

I am blessed to have a younger sister who is an MBA. She, with her marketing knowledge, keeps me motivated and updated with business trends. 

So, with the right confidence, positive attitude, punctuality, willingness to learn, blessings from loved ones, honesty and charm, I set forward on my entrepreneurial journey. 

Where do you work now? Tell us about your current role

I started my firm Dharitri in 2017, with the main self-satisfying intent of developing my own design language and style. It took a long while for me to arrive at the right name for our firm since I wanted to have a name representing the Nature or Earth in Sanskrit and it had to give a glimpse of our vision. Thus came Dharitri, a synonym of Dharti which means Earth. 

The nature inspired designs developed at Dharitri aim to celebrate the spirit of the place, the culture, beliefs, the locally available plants, the wilderness, art, and thereby make the users ‘feel at home’. 

This informal environment thus creates joy, provides comfort and develops a serene environment where the eye can relax and the mind can introspect and contemplate. – discovering their kokoro [heart, mind, soul].

Thus, for every project, in-depth research about the context is initially done [the location, site natural parameters like soil type, existing vegetation, wind, climate, architectural language, interiors etc]. This is followed by design & development drawings that are good for construction followed by site visits.

We work on diverse range of projects like residences, farmhouses, public garden, apartments, plotted development projects, resorts, office complex, schools etc. 

What’s a typical day like? 

When you love your profession, it doesn’t feel like work but instead a part of your daily Zen routine. A typical day at Dharitri is fun and relaxed, involving interesting contextual design development and solving challenging site issues. 

How does your work benefit society? 

Landscape Architects play a crucial role in greening the region by planting trees, thereby reducing urban heat islands,and developing sustainable ecosystems even in the smallest site available. They focus on landscape conservation of heritage sites, creating public interaction spaces and private nature inspired gardens for relaxation, rejuvenation, reflection and contemplation. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

In 2020, our firm’s design entry won the International Garden festival competition held at UNESCO World Heritage site of Chaumont-sur-Loire, France. It was the first time an Indian entry had won in 28 years. 

The theme for the 2020 edition of the festival was ‘Gardens of the Earth: Return to Mother Earth’. New, contemporary yet culturally rooted scenography glorifying the wonders of Mother Earth and aimed at enlightening, surprising and inspiring the visitors, were invited.

Our design entry was aimed to represent our ancient Indian culture taking inspiration from our harvest festivals and the self-sufficient homestead gardens.

The design gives reverence to Mother Earth for all the life form she supports and celebrates the divine energies of nature. 

It was a very pleasant and memorable experience staying in the castle premises, interacting with participants from across the world and building our garden at the allocated site. The response from the visitors and international publications for the completed garden was very overwhelming and gratifying. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Just follow your heart, give your best and enjoy every stage of the journey. Don’t get taken aback by challenges, observe keenly and identify your unique talent, believe in it and pursue it. A smiling face and a positive belief can work wonders. 

Future Plans?

Future plans for Dharitri would be to have a full-fledged office space and design for Pan India and International projects. Hoping for the best !