Book Review – Studio Mumbai

Posted on August 27, 2013

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Image Source: Moleskine.com

I was recently offered the chance to review one of Moleskine’s new books in their Inspiration and the Process of Architecture book series. I have yet to do a book review for my blog and I was interested in the books so I jumped at the chance. I chose to review their monograph on Studio Mumbai. I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of them before I saw this book, but their sketches drew me in. So without further ado, Studio Mumbai…

Studio Mumbai

Studio Mumbai and their founder Bijou Jain have a heavy focus on materiality and craft, with a studio that more closely resembles a workshop than a modern architecture firm. Jain speaks of having up to 50 people working for the studio at any one time with only three of them architects. With that kind of manpower and wide array of skill available, they’re able to build and experiment in ways that traditional US architects can only dream about.

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Image Source: Archdaily

The book speaks of a “third space” that’s created in Studio Mumbai’s built work which can only be understood by looking at their sketches or experiencing the space itself. This is the essence of a place. It’s the concept or form that draws everything together. It’s maybe because of this that the authors chose to only show a very small amount of images from projects after they’ve been completed. By taking an image of a place, you lose that “third space”. This “third space” is often evident as an organizing structure or central theme. In many of the houses, the community spaces seem to reach out into all others and become planted in its program.

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Image Source: Archdaily

The sketches form the basis of this book, showing the process of Jain and the others working in the studio. They are chaotic yet structured, almost like watching a line of ants form from nothing but scattered scouts. There is a movement to the drawings that show ideas being worked out within the sketch. It is in this way that you start to see the “third space” emerge.

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Image Source: Archdaily

Jain discussed starting a project with the act of making before drawing. In particular he talked about having a blank site and using chalk to create space within it. Talk about creating architecture by feel! It’s a one-to-one scale drawing that allows you to occupy the space before you even begin to put lines in a computer or on paper. They even go to the extent of creating a full-scale mocks up of the space. One image shows 2x4s and fabric being used to create a proposed buildings volume. It’s that kind of simple thought and craft which is missing from a lot of US architectural practices.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. As an object it has the same high quality of other Moleskine books. It’s a great resource to peek into the mind of another architect as he works through design problems and to be able to see the process through his sketches.

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Image Source: Archdaily

*I tried taking pictures of my copy but they turned out terrible. That’s why I “borrowed” other images.

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