How do we celebrate our Living Heritage

How contemporary design and local craft can enrich each other?

In our hyper-globalised world, we carry a homogenised set of aspirations, which are then projected onto the buildings we build—so much that a building in Gurugram starts to resemble one in New York or Hong Kong. These buildings disregard the profuse diversity of our country's culture, climate, and geography, following benchmarks that belong to contexts vastly different from ours. Against this backdrop, local craft can emerge as a tool we can harness to create spaces with a perceptible spirit of place. India's diversity—11 climatic zones, 55 soil types, 122 major languages, and hundreds of cultures—presents a unique complexity that needs to be referenced and represented through design. At Studio Lotus, integrating local crafts into contemporary architecture can carve a way forward that is new-age yet rooted in context.

We begin with accepting technological innovation and local techniques as two sides of the same coin—that of building responsibly. Just as vernacular wisdom can supplement or supplant tech-intensive interventions, technology can aid the efficacy and scalability of local skill-sets without replacing them.

Our design process is very closely interdependent, involving continuous and iterative engagement with masons and craftspeople. Rather than directing them, we discuss the regional context and design intent with them and then work in tandem in a mutually beneficial engagement. <rt-red> The idea is to avoid the traps of pastiche and create a unique vocabulary for the crafts and skills—something contemporary—which is exciting, graphic, and relevant to today's design aspirations and that a machine/ mechanical process will not be able to replicate. <rt-red> In this way, we challenge the craftspeople and ourselves to reinterpret existing skills and give expression to forms that are anything but traditional.

For instance, at Krushi Bhawan, the Government of Odisha's Department of Agriculture & Farmers' Empowerment in Bhubaneshwar, the built mass was enriched by the fine detailing brought in by over 150 highly-skilled local artisans. The tribal craft of dhokra (cast metal craft) was adapted to create hand-crafted metal screens that fine the building corridors. Similarly, the floral hand carved-stone lattices in locally-available Khondalite stone borrow from regional art forms.

At one of our landmark adaptive reuse projects, the Baradari at Jaipur's City Palace, the newly designed areas draw from the city's rich history.

Age-old traditional crafts like thikri work, bespoke casting and foundry work are reinterpreted to complement the contemporary interventions in novel ways. The skilled artistry of local artisans also features in the design of the flooring, dado work, benches and more. These strategies not only help to keep local crafts alive and relevant but also tie our designs to the cultural fabric of the region.

For us, incorporating craft in architecture is about discovering how it can add richness and dimension to a space. It is about exploring these skills in a contemporary idiom-- giving new meanings and dimensions to these regional skills, so they become relevant for the times we live in. <rt-red>The idea is never to replicate existing craft forms but to reinterpret them and explore new avenues rooted in context yet forward-looking.<rt-red>

Attached Projects