Accompanied by Programme Leaders, Joseph Van der Steen and James O’Brien, BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design students discovered Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi. Being affected by both cultural and architectural peculiarities, students invested thoughts and ideas into work at School’s studios.
India in its vastness presents to the observer, the designer and the maker huge nuances in its landscapes, climates, built forms and ultimately the human response to these conditions. It is this variation in response and the heterogeneity and tolerance that it breeds that was aimed to discover throughout the trip. Fr om the sprawling odorous streets of Mumbai to the Arid landscapes and bustling bazaars of Ahmedabad and finally the cooler reaches of Delhi with its planned colonial past.
Mumbai in its insomnia provided the students with a glimpse of a city with worlds within worlds, a poly-centric, hot, sticky conurbation wh ere all religions, races and casts, rich and poor live in a strange yet beautiful harmony. The weekend houses by Nari Ghandi and Studio Mumbai in Alibag provided an even greater contrast and glimpse into the tranquility and calm.
Visiting the newest and most ambitious project of Studio Mumbai, Saat Rasta, a 19th century warehouse students experienced the most tranquil place away from the city, ironically at its heart. The warehouse fell derelict and has been re-inhabited with seven courtyard houses and studios.
By contrast Ahmedabad appeared as an arid, dry (no alcohol), and largely vegetarian state. Students studied its rich history reflected in its crafts and built heritage strongly influenced throughout the centuries by religious and trading routes that stretched across the Arab world and Persia. Visiting Sarkhej Roza on the edge of the city young architects discovered ornate palaces and the grand mosque perched over a vast water tank, now dry because of the high summer heat, and being used by local farmers to graze their goats. Most overpowering however were the Modhera Sun Temple and the Adelaj Stepwell, almost untouched in the 1000 years since their inception, and still acting as places of solace, shade and prayer.
While Old Delhi provided much of the same richness and chaos of Mumbai, New Delhi, planned and built by Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century welcomed students as a stark contrast with its grand boulevards and diplomatic enclaves providing a slightly uneasy sense of calm in such a huge nation.
Joseph Van der Steen, Programme Leader: «The IAD Filed Trip 2015 provided a great stimulus and richness to the ongoing work of our students and this is already seen in the work and enthusiasm that has been instilled in the studio since our return».
Ekaterina Oleynikova, BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design student on the Mill Owners Association Building and the restoration challenges it provided: «The Mill Owners Association Building in Ahmedabad is a revealing example of a famous building’s story in India. Built to symbolize innovation it faced the reality of expensive modern buildings being abandoned to their fate as soon as their owners ran out of funds to care for them. During our visit to this famous building of Le Corbusier, CEO Abhinava Shukla told us about its history and restoration. The latter has been performed with an extremely restricted budget which could not but affect the quality of renovating. As Abhinava Shukla said they only replaced the missing parts such as concrete rails corners or parts of the walls that had fallen apart with the materials available at that moment in time. It means, the restoration team did not get into the process and understanding of the original making of the building but did their best to imitate the look of original elements. New materials cannot boast a good quality: yellow paint on the wall at the entrance falls off and the new concrete handrail corner is showing cracks. Odd looking nails sticking out of stair handrails appear to have been put there in order to hold huge posters for a Le Corbusier exhibition opening; rather than get rid of these nails it was decided to leave them there and use for the same purpose again and again».
Elizaveta Lartseeva, BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design student on Mumbai and diversity: «For me Mumbai was the most remarkable place, which began with a smiling Indian porter, who brought my bag to a hotel room full of cockroaches, and finished with fourteen hours in a sleeper bus to Ahmedabad. Mumbai dipped me into an Indian atmosphere, showed the harsh life of Indian people fr om the lowest caste to the highest one and introduced me to the contrasting architecture of slums and posh villas. Our study program there was very inspiring, first of all because we visited buildings by Studio Mumbai as well as two of their workshops. Furthermore, we had a very informative visit to a timber market, wh ere our group was told how to work with different types of wood, and finally we went to the ruins of a 15th century Portuguese fortress».
Evgeniya Kashimova, BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design student on Studio Mumbai office and interior design: «Entering an unremarkable gate on one of the bustling streets of Mumbai you enter into the territory of a traditional Indian house. More precisely, you are at its heart – the inner courtyard surrounded by the wings of the building from every direction and with a crooked tree in the center. Such a structure is called a naalukettu and very common for the traditional domestic architecture of this country. There is no sign or billboard on the entrance so the first impression is as if you find yourself in residential house, even the minimal but cozy interior initially seems domestic with its atmosphere of simultaneous isolation and intimacy. Actually, in the conditions of a busy and noisy city the place on the whole felt like a kind of shelter with different levels of seclusion which you can choose by yourself through adjusting screening elements, sliding wooden windows and folding doors or moving from the ground floor which is more transparent to the first one which has separate zones. What is more, all the glass in the of doors and windows are fluted and strengthens the feeling of privacy through diffusing the light, greenery, urban scenery and other details of the city creating the illusion that the outer world doesn’t exist at all. Enjoying the atmosphere of privacy, so unusual for dynamic Mumbai, you don’t immediately realise that all of the architectural models of different scales and qualities arranged in the rooms are not decorative elements and that these rooms are not living rooms and that all the people occupying the space – some of them reading and drawing, some working on computers, some doing something in the yard – are not a family and, finally, you enter not a residential house, but Studio Mumbai itself».