Studio Mumbai – an architecture practice with a difference – Discussion 13

It has always been fashionable to do things differently. And yet, most adventurers who undertake this task buckle under its stress but the few who manage to walk the hard path – often earn respect and criticism in equal measures.

It was one such story that our discussion forum witnessed this Tuesday when Deepak chose to present before us the work of Studio Mumbai – an architecture practice with a difference.

Based out of their quirkily un-conventional office with rusting corrugated metal sheets for a façade, the firm has succeeded in creating architecture of acclaim. What might be more amusing to the architecture community is that this firm has finally freed itself from the darkness of the AutoCAD screen. The buildings are designed on paper and executed on site from the architect’s sketches, supervised by the architect and his associates themselves.

What wonder is it then that the buildings exude with passion?

An example being the Reading room – which is a timber addition to an existing house. The architects choose to eliminate the walls, but cover the structure with an agricultural shade net allowing light and air to permeate the structure while providing view to a magnificent banyan tree on the site.

The elegantly simplicity and novelty of detailing is evident in their most famous work – the Palmyra house. Located outside Mumbai – in a coconut grove, this house is built as a refuge. The main massing being two wooden volumes – the house seems to gel into its surrounding. The plan is simple and open and the structure is primarily of wood with wooden louvers forming most of the façade of the building. Light, airy and simple – this building stands close to nature.

Studio Mumbai also has to its credit the Tara house – which is a multi generation house , the special feature of which being a subterranean aquifer which fills a secret room beneath the garden – with the roof lights creating beautiful patterns over the water.

The firm has also designed in varying climatic and geographical zones such as the Leh 360 guest house in the snowy Himalayas and Trinity Guest house in the tropical Cochin , each building fitting into its landscape and innovative in its detailing – yet simple in its overall character.

The presentation – impressive as it was, gave rise to varying views. While everybody was in agreement that the quality of design was excellent, there was an argument that this unconventional method cannot be adapted for the kind of projects a typical office deals with. The forum agreed, almost unanimously, that if architecture has to be dealt with as a business, the level commitment the architect can give to project becomes extremely limited.

The forum concluded with a renewed energy  towards better design and enthusiasm to pour passion into every activity !

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