From In­dia's love for an­tiques and car­ing for tex­tiles to new prod­ucts in the market, here's all you need to know about fur­ni­ture and fab­rics

India Today - - HOME - HUGO WEIHE CEO, Saf­fronart, Mum­bai, New Delhi www.saf­

The 1950s, a pe­riod im­me­di­ately af­ter In­de­pen­dence, marks a critical time for de­sign in In­dia. It cov­ers a spec­trum, from the sim­ple yet pow­er­ful aes­thet­ics of form and func­tion, to the long-thriv­ing indige­nous tra­di­tions of In­dia’s folk and tribal art.


Art Deco char­ac­terised by clean, geo­met­ric de­signs, is de­void of or­nate em­bel­lish­ments. Flora, fauna, nau­ti­cal and cos­mo­log­i­cal mo­tifs ac­quired an indige­nous flavour in the hands of In­dian crafts­men. Art Deco de­signs that were all the rage among in­flu­en­tial fam­i­lies were recre­ated in the In­dian con­text us­ing lo­cally avail­able teak and rose­wood. The in­flu­ence of Art Deco can be seen to this day in some of Mum­bai’s most iconic build­ings and fur­ni­ture.


Soon af­ter In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence, the coun­try had to build its eco­nomic and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture. Jawa­har­lal Nehru in­vited architects and de­sign­ers from around the world. Ar­chi­tect Le Cor­bus­ier and his cousin Pierre Jean­neret trained lo­cal car­pen­ters and fur­ni­ture mak­ers in Chandi­garh and Ahmed­abad, to achieve the fi­nesse and at­ten­tion to de­tail that was es­sen­tial to their de­sign. Cor­bus­ier fa­mously re­marked, “chairs are ar­chi­tec­ture,” and this ap­proach trans­lated seam­lessly across their de­signs.


In April 1958, Amer­i­can architects and de­sign­ers Charles and Ray Eames wrote the In­dia Re­port, mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­ven­tion in the field. The Eames iden­ti­fied prob­lems of de­sign within In­dia and made rec­om­men­da­tions for a train­ing pro­gramme that mar­ried in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary ap­proaches. Their find­ings were the ba­sis for the ped­a­gogy adopted by the Na­tional In­sti­tute of De­sign (NID), set up in Ahmed­abad in 1961. Amer­i­can ar­chi­tect and wood­worker Ge­orge Nakashima was an­other im­por­tant fig­ure. Nakashima first ar­rived in In­dia in the late 1930s, when he worked on a dorm at Auroville in Pondicherry, and in the 1960s was in­vited to teach a work­shop at the NID. The chairs he made in In­dia were exquisitely crafted from lo­cally avail­able ma­te­ri­als. Un­der­ly­ing his de­signs was a de­sire to com­bine in­ner con­scious­ness with the ma­te­rial world.


Cor­bus­ier, Jean­neret and Nakashima de­signed ar­chi­tec­ture and fur­ni­ture formed a part of In­dia’s tryst with moder­nity. How­ever in par­al­lel, In­dia’s indige­nous art tra­di­tions, side­tracked dur­ing the Bri­tish Raj, were also be­ing re­vived in the 1960s. Tex­tiles, wood­work­ing, paint­ings, pot­tery and other lo­cal arts and crafts were en­cour­aged by the gov­ern­ment and in­di­vid­u­als who be­lieved that this knowl­edge must not be lost. To­day, col­lec­tors look­ing to bring the el­e­gance of the 20th cen­tury into their homes are adopt­ing a holis­tic ap­proach by seek­ing out fur­ni­ture as well as folk and tribal art that form In­dia’s liv­ing tra­di­tions. As buy­ers are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly aware of In­dia’s his­tory of cul­tural ex­changes and indige­nous lega­cies, the fu­ture of de­sign ap­pears promis­ing.

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