They are the new artists, living on the edge of their mediums, looking for ways to push the envelope. One space in which the context of design is being redefined in gradual ways is in the meeting spaces of architecture and art. Why shouldn’t a building be seen as a sculpture and the artistic temperament work just as well in the architectural context? asks Ranjit Hoskote, an independent curator and art critic. He points out that Jnanapravaha, an artistic community and forum in Mumbai, features projects that are taking tentative steps in this direction. Artist Bose Krishnamachari points to the work of arguably India’s most illustrious architect, B.V. Doshi, founder dean of the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology, Gujarat, whose artist-architecture projects are more at the grass-roots level. In the international sphere, the beginnings of such collaboration with Indian architects can be seen in the work of the team at Philippe Starck with Panchshil builders, Pune, to design the space for their joint endeavour, the YooPune high-end residential complex, launched in December. Starck’s artistry at YooPune is still confined to interior design, but Starck, as an artist who plays with architectural spaces, himself stands squarely in the overlap of these two sets. In the context of these new movements, we asked London-based Mark Davison, head of design at Yoo, which works with partners such as Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders, Jade Jagger, etc, to elaborate on where the two mediums meet. Edited excerpts from the email interview:
Starck has always been an architect who has pushed the boundaries. Do you see new movements within architecture that are pushing it more towards art?
I think the boundary between art and architecture is one that has long been debated many times; some believe architecture should always be more practical, while the other view is that architecture is the synthesis of the arts, music, sculpture and painting.
Mark Davison, Head of Design, YooPune
At what point does a building become sculpture?
All buildings are sculptural to a degree, though I think that degree is a subjective one. I see some of the decaying concrete gun emplacements along the English coast as wonderfully sculptural, but are these architecture? I’m not sure. Corbusier said that “Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light”. So I am afraid the question is very wide.
What elements of art and architecture can and do draw from each other?
I think there can be a conflict sometimes between both when the building or interior is trying to compete with the art displayed within. So for this reason we never really choose to display art unless it is used in an unusual and sometimes irreverent way, we may crop it or use it at a giant scale or fold it around a corner. So we tend to use prints of photographs and paintings from unusual or historical sources. Philippe Starck tends to prefer to frame views through windows and /or set up a design dialogue of spaces and experiences made up of a number of objects and furniture.
We have had a number of clients who have extensive art collections and ask for these to be accommodated within our projects, and we are fine with that, but tend to leave it to them to decide how and where these are incorporated as we develop the design.
How do you view India in terms of architectural movement, especially as Indian structures have been through a few decades of increasingly functional design? How does YooPune mark a difference in that flow?
India has more than a few decades of functional design—there are lessons we can learn from thousands of years of architecture. For YooPune, we designed the interiors and were not so involved in the architecture of the buildings, but we did request that certain well-worn principles of design in hot climates be observed. It was important to get the balance of what works in the local climate, which meant overhanging roofs against the midday sun, cross ventilation and good orientation were essential.
Have you ever collaborated with artists? Or do you believe this is unnecessary as an architect is an artist himself?
We have not collaborated with an artist so far. I believe some architects are certainly also artists, but I also think as architects we should understand the difference between our own individual skills and those of an “artist”.
Do you take an interest in or inspiration from Indian contemporary art or otherwise for your work (this is also with reference to YooPune)?
There is always an abundance of inspiration when designing in India. There is such a strong appreciation for traditional culture and history. So, collaborating with local teams and extensive research of local culture and customs allows us to create something unique but relevant to the local culture. One of our more whimsical designs in the YooPune interiors is a turban wall feature in the entrance hallway. It’s traditional with a contemporary twist, and it’s quintessential “yoo inspired by Starck”.