Step into the imagination of architect Samira Rathod

When you enter Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, it is as if you have entered an imaginary world. Floating black shapes fill the space. In one part of the gallery, you can see a multitude of paintings whose surfaces have been transformed into landscapes. Some feature inverted objects under table tops; others have stairs that turn into drawers; and others in which trays emerge from courtyard-like shapes. “The table has been transformed into an architectural site. I took the idea of ​​architecture and carried it into furniture,” says Samira Rathod, founder of Samira Rathod Design Atelier, of the objects in her exhibition “Dismantling Building: A Kit of Parts.”

The show, on view until August 2, brings forward the ethics of Rathod’s architectural practice. Many of these elements, such as the plateaus emerging from the courtyards, are inspired by the interstitial spaces of buildings, which she considers to be one of the most important aspects of design. Porticoes, porches, stairs, grand thresholds are spaces that help you move between rooms and allow an architect to create dramatic effect. “The rest of the rooms have a specific function, but you can play with those interstitial spaces. And I tried to recreate that in the paintings,” she adds.

In her studio, she and her team do not design buildings in the conventional way. They create stories based on influences drawn from nature and see how this connects with the context of the building. When Shireen Gandhy of Chemould Prescott Road asked Rathod about a display of objects, which had purpose and function and could be perceived as art and/or furniture, she decided to work on it in the same way. that it does for its buildings.

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“We started looking at some of our previous projects. At the studio, we have a vertical that does research and documentation. One of the exercises I gave them was to look at the idea of ​​’architectonics’ or looking at the actual processes and not the brick and cement and the like that go into a building,” she explains. . Each building has been refined and dismantled to obtain different shapes. “Also, the way a person perceived the form or the process resulted in a different form,” she adds.

At the end of this exercise, the team was left with a whole corps of different shapes. These elements were intriguing when viewed without the context of the building – all physical context, site climate, volumes and thickness were removed to result in black shapes. The black floating shapes in the gallery are a manifestation of this. “We reversed the process and the scale. Usually in architecture, we go from the smallest element to the largest, which is the building. Here we have reduced it from the largest to the smallest denominator,” says Rathod.

The exhibition features drawings and 17 models of Rathod’s own buildings, where you can see the connection between built structures and objects

The exhibition also presents numerous drawings and Nolis, which are essentially black and white maps for understanding built spaces, named after the architect and surveyor Giambattista Nolli (1701-1756), who created the first ichnographic plan of Rome. These are now widely used by architects around the world. “The floating black shapes in the gallery come from the idea of ​​a Nolli card,” Rathod explains.

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The show also features 17 models of our own buildings, where you can see the connection between built structures and objects, but in a subtle way. “There is another section called ‘Lost Moments’. During construction there are such beautiful and intriguing moments. However, as you add layer after layer – the final finish or when the windows are added – those moments are buried, so we created a collage of 50 eerie photos of such elements during construction,” she adds.

Rathod’s practice is based on the ideas of sustainability. In their studio, the team follows the philosophy of BLIRS, which means beautiful, local, indigenous, recycled/responsible, small and sustainable. “We don’t start from a predetermined image. If we did that, there would be no more process and you wouldn’t let an idea germinate. As we let the design develop, we incorporate ideas from BLIRS. This means using local materials. In this exhibition too, I only used recycled Indian wood from Maharashtra,” she explains. She tried to eliminate the use of screws and instead used wooden joinery, reminiscent of traditional methods of wood craftsmanship. “After covid, people look at technology differently. U.S. too. For me, the idea of ​​craftsmanship is important because it connects body and mind,” adds Rathod.

Its design studio is divided into three verticals, which are united in their exploration of ideas. It doesn’t matter to him that some of these concepts don’t bear fruit as long as they inspire people to think, pave the way for a better future and help exercise the mind. “Such ideas also arise when you create installations. Take, for example, the Wall as a Piece, which was created for an exhibition at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur. The concept was that everything you use could fit in a space of one meter: a toilet, a staircase, storage, a bed,” says Rathod.

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After working on such installations, she takes the idea to the next step, which is extensive research leading to collaboration with other design processes. The other idea that Rathod put forward is that of “retaining water” or exploring water as a material. She was inspired by old houses, which were once built around a water tank, resulting in very fresh interiors. “What if we could create huge hollow walls that could hold water all year round? We have set up staff quarters in a building like the one in Alibaug, which will be ready soon. My quest is always to find new ways to look at old material,” says Rathod.

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