Text: Zohra Khan
Conceived in the city that is home to some of the country’s most remarkable design institutions, and hosted within the concrete haven designed by the legendary Le Corbusier, ticked a whole lot of right boxes for Raw Collaborative and the hundreds of visitors that poured through gates over the weekend.
Conceptualised by designer Tanvi Karia and presented by Priyadarshini Rathore and Vishwa Bhatt Weir of The W Project, Raw Collaborative put together ‘the work of Indian designers bound by the philosophy of creating products that are inherently Indian in their expression, process and outcome blending together craftsmanship, design, experimentation and technology.’
With a stellar line up of products by young and seasoned designers, hearty debates on critical and relevant topics and close-knit interactions between designers and students, the show seemed to cater to one and all – from the expert to the enthusiast.
Having opened its maiden show only last year, the second edition already saw transformation by introducing a unique concept of the Design Gallery curated by designer Rooshad Shroff. The idea of the space, as Shroff explained was, “it brings works of 40 designers, Indian or working in the Indian context, displaying in a Gallery format where Design is viewed and appreciated through its process; the narratives are woven through its production process including the craft and the craftsmanship involved to finally see the end product as a ‘collectable’ rather than a mere functional object.”
A striking alchemy of the vernacular and contemporary permeated through the vast array of works at the gallery. Some that stood out were the ‘Muda Walla’ Bicycle Throne by Gunjan Gupta – a quirky ode to the fast disappearing bicycle vendors across city bylanes; a stunning lighting installation by klove Studio in the form of a peacock; Meadow Coffee Table by Rooshad Shroff narrating sweet autumn tales; a chic wardrobe by Aziz Kachwalla; and a festive marigold flush meant as furniture pieces by Design Clinic India.
While the Gallery on the upper floor demonstrated design beyond its commercial aspect, a series of exhibiting ateliers set up shop on the ground floor and across the front lawns to showcase their work to visiting designers, specifiers, buyers and aficionados. These included a range of interior products, home décor and lifestyle artefacts, and practices crafting design sensitive objects of nuanced scales and applications. Highlights include exotic living interiors by Pallavi Goenka Homes, eclectic door handles by Compartment S4, fluid glass vases by Studio Metallurgy and floral origami lamps by Oorjaa.
While there were myriad innovations and explorations alike, there were also hints of nostalgia as seen in the limited edition concrete artefacts created by Material Immaterial in collaboration with STIR. Titled BALLS-EYE, this interactive sculpture challenges the associated notion of the material being appropriate only for load bearing, larger than life structures; and instead illustrates a journey that stirs up a whirlwind of thoughts to define a new normal.
Besides products and showcases, there were many a debate on what goes on behind the scenes in art, architecture and design, as part of the Raw Talk Series. One such discussion that was enjoyed by the audience, and more so by the students was pertaining to the idea of ‘Emerging Roles And Formats Of The Design Gallery And Display’. The panelists included Mrinalini Ghadiok (STIR), Kaiwan Mehta (Domus India), Purva Damani (079 Stories), Riyaz Tayyibji (Anthill Design) and Niharika Shah (Kanoria Art Gallery). While Mehta asserted on the surging misrepresentation of architectural Identity often regarded as art, and architects piggy backing on their alter-egos, Ghadiok emphasised on the growing fluidity between creative practices that often present unique perspectives yet suggested an intrinsic need for organised structure in order to do justice to one’s work. Tayyibji, who also straddles the fine line between architecture and art, highlighted the responsibilities at stake while encouraging others to enjoy their work. It was a fascinating discussion with the three architects in conversation with Shah and Damani, who from the perspective of the art world stressed upon the kind of engagements that galleries and exhibition spaces foster when an architect comes on board as a curator or perhaps exhibits his/her own architectural works as art.
While we sure are living in a melting pot of creative disciplines, being an architect myself who is not practicing as one, I cannot help but agree with the panel that it is important to set our bounds, but what is more important is to ensure that we have fun in the process. And Raw Collaborative was just that – a treasure trove of interesting ideas, products, design practices and narratives, but presented in a way that was intriguing, exciting and a weekend that was truly enjoyable. Strolling in awe within the robust Mill Owners’, munching on some delicious design cookies, stumbling into conversations, people and sights while doggedly trying to document it all – three days at the Raw Collaborative were nothing short of tremendous.
We are already looking forward to 2019!