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Stark simple

Joseph John designs amusement parks and joyrides. He loves simplicity as well as the complex, Priyadershini S. learns



Multifaceted Left, Joseph John in his house. Top, the frontage of his self designed home and below it, Veegaland, of which he is the architect

Joseph John belies the fantasy worlds that he creates. The architect of amusement parks, Veegaland in Kochi, Wonderla in Bangalore and Vismaya in Kannur, Joseph is unassuming and reserved. That his mind should conjure up the fantastic from the regular baffles you. “This is a bit of fun I have away from serious architecture,” he says, smiling and shows sketches of a scary ride through a cave. Here skeletons tug at the cart and rattle it violently as it trains through, then crocodiles attack it while it rushes through low water. The script below reads: There should be a sense of fear, panic and distress among the riders.

“It is a concept that we create and engineers do the rest,” he explains and recalls how he got into designing theme parks. “A client of mine wanted a castle like building, which I made. Kochuouseph Chittilapilly, MD of V Guard Industries saw that and felt I would be the right person for the amusement park, Veegaland.”

School in Colombo


Once on the project Joseph toured several theme parks (along with his client) across the world, learning and visualising. “Veegaland was my big break but I have done several interesting works,” one being the building of a British School in Colombo, after his entry won the competition. “The brief was to build a city school with the primary, junior and senior sections together including all sports facilities. My drawing was a building that took everything to the top. There are three tennis courts, a basketball court and an indoor swimming pool on the terrace. The school stands there today.”

But then Joseph is not new to awards. Earlier he won a mural competition held by the RBI and the 15 ft layered metal mural stands in Kochi as a testimony to his talent.

An architect by default, art is Joseph’s first call. Admission to a graphic design course in Shantiniketan was disapproved by his parents. That made him turn to architecture. Joseph did his masters from University of Texas at Austin. It was a real good decision for architecture allowed his art to flourish. The sketches on Kerala, in a series called ‘homesick fantasies’, drawn in Texas, led him to conceptualise a fantasy world, a palace for Mahabali, Mahabali Smarak, for his thesis.

And so, was ornate, decorative and traditional his style?

“I follow no style, I am an artist and what I make should look good. I am happy to do what the client wants, what his budget permits,” he says and shows pictures of his recently built house at Thrikkakara. “Designing my home I had the freedom to do what I want,” and Joseph with no briefs to follow, no blueprints as such, built a unique house. “The composition is done very carefully. I wanted a desert kind of space outside so that when you are inside it feels very nice.” And so the stark front façades the drama behind, a mix of tradition and modernity, of greenery and lushness. After all for Joseph, “Architecture is good if it makes people happy.” With such a simple rule to follow Joseph has achieved the heights of complexity. Ask him who his inspiration is and the reply reveals the foundation of his fantastic works. “Antoni Gaudi, Gaudi of Barcelona.”

Gaudi, his idol


Well, that clears the picture why creating fantasy worlds is easy for Joseph for his hero is no less than the eccentric Gaudi, a man whose incredible works have amazed people all over. “I would like to be like him,” he says his eyes glowing with excitement. “Do you know Gaudi used to be on site 24 hours, but I have a family and I cannot do so.”

Joseph’s family is two young kids and an architect wife, Iby. And their firm rightly called j&i architects, after them.

And when away from the fantastic Joseph is busy erecting malls and buildings in the city. But he worries that the masterplan of Kochi is going amiss. “The masterplan of the city is going amiss. While giving sanction to high-density buildings, no one is bothered about the traffic impact,” he laments. For he sees the bigger picture.

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