Sasaki is delighted to congratulate Romil Sheth on his promotion to principal. As an architect and urban designer with over 15 years of experience in both domestic and international projects, he brings a unique perspective to bear on his projects. Sheth's work spans campuses, student housing, K-12 facilities, urban revitalization, innovation districts, and waterfronts. No matter the typology, in his practice he aims to harness the insights of diverse disciplines to strengthen the solutions he and his teams bring to a design challenge.
Below, Sheth shares some thoughts on his design approach and background on his path to leadership:
Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: Growing up in a big city, I was always fascinated by the collisions of people, systems, spaces, cultures, and landscapes. I would spend hours walking through Bombay exploring hidden neighborhoods and buildings primarily out of an unconscious desire to better understand what makes a city in constant flux work. It’s this curiosity that drove me to study and practice architecture and urban design—two realms that I see as intrinsically interconnected, which is a perspective fundamental to my approach to design.
Q: What are you most excited about in regards to your new role as a principal at Sasaki?
A: For a long time I have been a firm believer in the power of the collective practice as opposed to design practices driven by singular personas. Sasaki has an incredible diversity of talents, skill sets and people and is unique in the manner in which it brings together planning, architecture, landscape, among others. I find this incredibly powerful and cannot wait to harness our collective talents and collaborations further.
Also, given my interests, experience, and skillset as an architect and urban designer, I am very excited to perhaps bring a different approach to weaving urban design and architecture more seamlessly together. To me, the power of design lies at the intersection and synthesis of architecture and urban design and the blurring of boundaries between them to affect change. Ultimately, I would love to see more of our planning work implemented.
Apart from a deep interest in cities and campuses, I am invested in engaging with emerging and established economies, especially in Asia and the India sub-continent, to tackle critical issues of equity, resiliency, and access to education.
Q: Who or what has had the greatest influence on your approach to design/planning? In what ways?
A: Reflecting back, there are two aspects that have had a profound influence on my design approach: the first was going to architecture school at CEPT University, formerly the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, in Ahmedabad. The school was established by Balkrishna Doshi (winner of the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize) and the faculty, many of whom had worked directly with Kahn and Corbusier. This education opened my mind to radically new ways of thinking about the world and the power of good design.
The city, which has a great legacy of Hindu and Islamic architecture, a strong urban form, an incredible array of contemporary modern architecture, and claim to numerous works by Corbusier and Kahn, was also a powerful force in shaping my thinking about cities and contextual architecture. Coincidentally, I am now working in Ahmedabad to design and build a new university of design that will hopefully be as influential to new generations.
The second has been working at Sasaki over the last nine years, which has expanded my world of design thinking to be inclusive of various disciplines. I think we often take for granted that we work in this integrated manner at Sasaki. It’s something to celebrate!
Q: Hideo Sasaki once said, "Contribution is the only value." What do you contribute?
A: Sasaki has the advantage of being consciously structured to minimize hierarchy to inspire internal collaboration and generate fresh ideas. I firmly believe in fostering a culture that prioritizes the value of a strong idea—no matter who it comes from. I will continue to be firmly embedded with the teams—still drawing, making 3D models, presenting, marketing, managing clients, etc.—bringing different viewpoints together to create powerful work.
Q: In retrospect, what advice would you give yourself ten years ago?
A: Travel more—much, much more. There are a ton of places that I can't wait to get to!
Q: Where is your favorite place in the world?
A: I don't have one specific favorite place, though I enjoy exploring dynamic, walkable cities that have a vibrant culture. It’s always great to go back to New York or Bombay or Ho Chi Minh City and discover new things. I find visiting these cities to be both energizing and relaxing and tend to spend hours walking around exploring, visiting museums and galleries, and making pictures.
Q: Whom do you admire?
A: People who can go beyond themselves to see the potential in others and who harness those talents to create a culture of inclusivity and empowerment. I have benefited from so many mentors who have displayed just this kind of leadership.
Q: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: Throughout my high school years I was an avid hiker, undertaking long treks through the mountains of India with a group of friends—something I miss very much and hope to go back to once our kids are older. This may not be a big surprise to my teams, but I am a bit of a night owl and am always ready to go out after the kids go to sleep, which in our case is often not till 10 p.m.!