Interviewed in Zagreb, 18th November 2010
Mumbai Studio was known only by the connoisseurs... until the Venice Biennale 2009. Their highly original presentation made them globally popular. This ‘human infrastructure of skilled craftsmen and architects’ was founded by Bijoy Jain, who studied architecture in India and St Louis, USA. Mumbai Studio designs and builds, exploring its architectural ideas with large-scale mock-ups, numerous sketches and drawings; builders and architects cooperate very closely, making everyone equal in the building process. The empathy-based architecture of Mumbai Studio certainly belongs to the corpus of contemporary architecture, but it does not deny its peculiar roots.
ORIS: Apart from being original, your contribution to the Venice Biennale this year shows in a very impressive way your art of working, your working methods, in fact your way in architecture. It is far away from spectacular contemporary technologies. What were your reasons for making just this presentation in the way you made it?
Jain: I received an e-mail, I think it was in March or April, quite unexpectedly from Sanaa, asking us whether we would be interested in showing our work at the Biennale. I am not sure where they came across our work. They asked us to send some images, so we sent them some short films and images of our work. Initially we were given some space in the Giardini and then Sejima-san changed her mind and gave us the space in the Arsenale. Amongst the documentation we sent was a photograph of our studio/workshop, and she sent us an e-mail back asking ‘Is there some way in which you can communicate this at the Biennale?’ This was relatively simple; conceptually we had to move the workshop and create the atmosphere of the workshop in our space at the Arsenale. A lot of the work was ready, and we did not have to produce anything specific, but our interest was to communicate the atmosphere of the workshop. The method with which we were working was not a manifesto of mine. It unfolded organically; there were models, materials, drawings etc. all of which we had been living with at the workshop. The wood columns with the lights and the fans suggested a sense of movement. The concrete bases for the lights were made on site at the Arsenale.