Joining us this week for this week’s Feature Friday is Gurvinder Khurana, Director & Co-Founder of align – a dynamic, innovative and multi-award-winning interior architecture and design practice.
WOD: Thanks for joining us. Could you start by introducing yourself and your background?
GK: “I was born and grew up in Birmingham, which is a very friendly city and gave me a lifelong ability to chat to anyone, anywhere about anything! Everyone talks to each other there and I think that’s a great life skill – even if it took me a while when I first moved to London to realise how different the south is and to learn to dial it down a little.
After school, I did an Arts Foundation course at Bourneville Art College, part of Birmingham University, with the intention of going into fashion and textiles, but I soon realised it wasn’t quite the right fit for me, even though I still very much love the world of fashion. I was also interested in furniture and the idea of designing great spaces, so I switched direction and did a BA in Interior Architecture and Design at The Polytechnic of North London instead.
I began life in the design world working on kitchens and bathrooms with CP Hart; a really fun environment, full of genuine, down-to-earth people, before moving into workspace design by chance, via a contact. I have to be honest and say at that time in the mid 90s, I wasn’t hugely excited by the sector, because so many schemes were prescriptive and formulaic, essentially about the number of workstations you could fit into a particular space. It would be fair to say it was the poor relation of the design world at that time, but oh, what a transformation we’ve seen since! I now think it’s one of the most dynamic and interesting areas of design, with major cultural and sociological dimensions in terms of where and how we want to work. I’ve always been fascinated by the interface between people and business and now I get to work in that ever-changing area every day.”
WOD: We agree! And how about your current role – could you tell us more?
GK: “Together with my husband and co-director Nigel Tresise, I run align, a boutique design agency, which we founded in 2012. We’re specialists in workplace but like to work widely both across different client sectors and also other areas of design, including mixed-use, hospitality and residential. The variety feeds us and feeds into our work as we cross-fertilise influences. Whilst Nigel comes from a more strategic and technical background, I tend to be the one focusing on colour, art, textures and fabrics to really make projects sing. It’s a great partnership.”
WOD: And what does a typical day in your role tend to look like?
GK: “My workdays are the art of juggling. I might be considering strategy, direction, workflow, cashflow and pipeline with Nigel or dipping into our team’s designs, often evaluating a clutch of projects at one go, adding value and direction and helping stimulate creativity. I may need to spend time with one individual team member in a mentoring capacity or I might be out and about, seeing clients or creative partners and visiting showrooms or else working on marketing and PR with our PR consultant – anything from panel appearances to interviews, project press or attending to our website or social media. Communication and connection are the common thread.”