At a desk in Studio Mumbai you are more likely to see an artisan testing a material than a designer in front of a computer screen or even a draughtsperson drawing on a board. Instead of the conventional air-conditioned office full of professionals producing a set of building instructions (plans and technical specifications) for a construction somewhere else, Studio Mumbai is something in between a yard full of materials and a shed full of handmade prototypes and full-scale mockups where craftspeople and architects together, symbiotically, iterate and test ideas and experiences in an open workshop. This intimate fusion between design and construction, between hand and mind, between tradition and experiment is very rare and consequently results in equally unexpected and refreshing buildings. They have managed to integrate local knowledge and skills successfully into the design process, not as purely intellectual rhetoric but as a way of life. This locally sensitive attitude is usually associated with scarcity of means, only considered admissible in a low-cost, humanitarian context. Demolishing this assumption, Studio Mumbai uses this same approach and makes no distinction between building houses for wealthy clients or a certain elite. The power and intelligence of this approach is that it is known that in order to expand and propagate a certain idea (or product or trend) it is more efficient to go top–bottom than the other way around. The middle class is always looking at the example of the elite, and the lower classes at the middle class. If there is an elite that is ready to embrace local crafts and skills as a sign of quality instead of insisting on global technologies, then the way is paved for the democratization of quality.


  • Rights: Photo by Andrea Avezzù; Courtesy: la Biennale di Venezia, With the support of BSI Swiss Architectural Foundation

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