Armed with master’s degrees from The Ohio State University and eight years of professional experience at local architecture firms, Bhakti Bania and Bharat Baste decided to go out on their own, opening BBCO Design in October 2009.
Both Bania and Baste have parents who own businesses, so working for themselves was always something they talked about. However, that’s not to say that their entrepreneurial journey has been without surprises.
Bania says its been “quite a roller coaster ride,” but one the husband-and-wife team wouldn’t change for anything.
“Like any other startup, we have had moments of of great joy and also periods of uncertainty,” she adds. “I think, in retrospect, what got us through the rough times was our attitude towards our situation. We had decided early on that we would not panic, keep a positive attitude, and keep pushing forward. We believed very strongly in our work and our abilities. We knew that we had to wait for other people to recognize that as well.”
To learn how Bania and Baste’s hometown has influenced their design motto, what they think of Columbus’s design community, and which question they get asked most, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: Your firm’s motto is “Build Less.” Why?
Bhakti Bania: The current design trend in very strongly going in the green direction, and we have always felt strongly about that ourselves. However, I think the emphasis on using sustainable products seems to miss the main point, which would be just to use less to begin with. So we decided to make that statement our company motto.
We think that if you inherently are careful about how much space you need, or think you need, then you are already on the right track and from there on it is simply a matter of following through with the materials. We believe that good design can make the most of a smaller footprint, and by creating spaces that do more than just one thing, you can get tremendous efficiency from a smaller space. It is a change in the way most people think, but it is the most critical aspect of being sustainable.
[M]: If you had to pick a favorite among the projects BBCO has worked on, or is working on, what would it be?
BB: I think that is a tough question to answer. We look at each project with a different lens, as it comes with its own set of constraints and objectives. How successfully we are able to negotiate those constraints and exceed the goals of the project− that is what defines success to us. We like many aspects of different projects, but I cannot honestly pick one from our current list. I think we have been extremely lucky to be involved in so many exciting projects that will have big impacts on different communities when they are completed.
[M]: Do you think being from Mumbai gives you a unique perspective on architecture in Columbus?
BB: I think growing up in Mumbai is a big part of the motto of our firm being “Build Less.” Mumbai is a bustling metropolis with about 20 million people and, as you can imagine, space is at a premium. Bharat and I have both lived in really small apartments growing up, and that has given us a unique appreciation of space and what can be achieved with good design and attention to detail. Every square inch of space is utilized to its utmost capacity.
We bring that to our design sensibilities for all of our projects, and try to show our clients how to maximize their spaces. We have also been taught to design using natural elements like the sun and the wind, with most projects relying on those aspects in Mumbai. So we bring that attitude towards the work we do here as well.
[M]: How would you describe the local design community?
BB: The design community in Columbus is very vibrant and has tremendous potential to make this city even more dynamic and have a bigger presence in the country. Having been involved in the Wonderland project for the past several years has given us a unique opportunity to meet with many individuals and groups that are doing some very creative and unique work in town. We believe that the Short North area is a great start, and hopefully when the Wonderland facility is completed, we will have a true artist incubator that will help the city make the leap into that next stage.
[M]: There are numerous design firms in Columbus. What do you think separates BBCO from the rest?
BB: I believe our approach to projects is very different form other firms in town. We start all project design by modeling it in 3D and working on it with client input and using that as the basis of all design discussion. This leads our design process, and once we establish the aesthetic approach to the project, with client buy-in, then the process becomes very smooth.
A majority of our work is in and around downtown, and we are often presenting to area design review commissions, where the three dimensional views we generate for our design have been very successful in presenting our work, and we have heard feedback that it is not the common practice among other firms. We are also a small firm and pay attention to all details on projects, so we believe that we have a very high quality product in the end, which is harder to achieve for bigger firms.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
BB: As a husband-and-wife team, we get asked the question a lot, “How do you manage to work together?” We really think that is our biggest strength. We understand each other and know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and balance each other out, so the end result is better than if it had been just one of us. At times it is hard to separate work and life, but we enjoy that it is so seamless, and we love what we do, so it really does not feel like work most of the time.
To learn more about BBCO Design, visit BBCODesign.com.
Photo by Pam Reece. Renderings via BBCO.