Monday, June 29, 2009

(Hoping for ) Indian in design

India's design heritage is magnificent. Whether in terms of architecture , interiors , textiles - the beauty , functionality of our earlier creations is superb. A visit to the Calico museum had me wondering if with the advent of technology we had actually regressed in terms of craftsmanship in textiles and clothing.

Recently we worked on a hand embroidered range inspired by the Taj Mahal. While discussing it we realized that in architecture and interior design the modern day buildings in India - residential and commercial - seldom reflect the wisdom and beauty of India's heritage. Layouts , materials in construction and interiors can be influenced by India's rich heritage creating spaces that are environment friendly , creative and have personality.

When working on the interior design for our office one of our requirements was for the space to reflect India in a unique way while creating an inspiring workspace. Over innumerable discussions I discovered that the interior designer equated Indian with ornate. One of his (many) problems was that he did not seem to know of any precedent of such design in a work space. In the many months that it took to create the space I realized that it's possible to weave interesting Indian elements into the design of an office or home in a cost effective way. It's also possible for a space to be designed to be reasonably versatile.

This extends to restaurants , spas , retail spaces , hotels, educational institutes, public spaces as well . When the design of a space is unusual it automatically draws the attention and interest of visitors , customers. It's an important step in differentiating one's brand / company. One that's often overlooked in the zeal to be 'me too' , 'modern' and (in case of multiple outlets / chains) creating a standard look across the country that ensures a degree of commoditization. 

Done thoughtfully the design of a space can enable it to be an ally.

The Neemrana hotels are a case in point . One might argue though that they are a heritage hotel and therefore their hotels will reflect the heritage of the region. They do so tastefully and beautifully. Each of their hotels has a unique look while offering a certain quality of service and experience. The design and feel of the space adds immeasurably to the experience. 

There are restaurants in India that offer speciality cuisines . Yet the design of many of the restaurants is done in a bland , neutral way . The food and service experience has to be that much more powerful for it to transcend the banal surroundings.

When one travels to another city in India the malls start to blur and look like the long lost twin or at least cousin of the mall in one's suburb. Likewise , national retailers . A Shopper's Stop or Lifestyle or Westside in one city looks pretty much like the one in one's city . While the merchandise may have some local flavor the design of the stores does not inspire a sense of discovery. 

Unusual (in a contextually relevant way ) design offers benefits to a single store as much as it does to a national chain . This is an area where India's design heritage offers a treasure trove of inspiration to create beautiful , memorable , fusion spaces that blend the ancient with the contemporary.


neelakantan said...

How much can be written about this? Start at airports, end at offices. Start at railway stations, end at hotels. Start at malls...I could go on and on.

It is sad that India is not an inspiration in India. We want glass and granite everywhere.

Titan has a good "India" with watches themed on India - Kurukshetra, Jantar Mantar, Konark etc. Other than that, I havent seen too many...

Savitha Rao said...

Yes , the obscure we eventually see . The completely obvious seems to take longer .

In the country with a spectacular design heritage the banal , tasteless environments we mostly have should qualify as a criminal offence.