As an architect graduated from the Washington University in St Louis, USA (1990), Bijoy Jain (born in Bombay in 1965) worked with Richard Meier in Los Angeles before returning to his home country and establishing Studio Mumbai. Upon his return, after a 10-year absence, he discovered that India had become an economic giant and that his native city had become a megalopolis with 15 million inhabitants advocating hasty construction. Confronted with the anxiety of a booming city, Bijoy Jain decided to go against the grain, against soaring urbanisation, and to take the time to reflect on his projects, while being influenced by architect Laurie Baker (1917-2007). This British architect and naturalised Indian, famous for his architectural principles focused on eco-friendliness and sustainability, has produced a particularly diversified and extensive oeuvre (in Kerala alone he has constructed over 2000 buildings).
In other words, Studio Mumbai is not your typical architect’s firm. The concept development team consists of American architect Samuel Barclay, a carpenter and two masons. The constant interaction between architects and craftsmen is the most important aspect of Studio Mumbai’s work. It is an infrastructure essentially based on the human competences it consists of. Knowledge is exchanged, through imagination, complicity and modesty. Indeed, its philosophy is to re-establish a genuinely productive and creative dialogue between the different parties involved in a building’s construction. The workers, whose know-how is often passed on from generation to generation, are closely involved in each design phase. The architect considers them partners above all, and not just people who do the work. With this approach, everyone is ensured of the dignity and acknowledgement they deserve. Based on a pragmatic approach of architecture, Bijoy Jain’s ambition is to show that it is possible and even necessary to build, relying on this collective dialogue.
Ingeniously meeting the challenges posed by the limited resources, Bijoy Jain and his team have built houses with perfectly designed and mastered details over the past fifteen years. To visualise spaces, they prefer a plywood model of a small part of the building, as it will be designed, rather than an exact design, unlike most of the firms who develop a concept well before making a model.
Without wanting to return to Arts & Crafts, Bijoy Jain pursues a building ideal which goes against the flow: « It is important to continue doing the small things well, day after day, it is a slow process. Why are we fascinated by old things, by traditional methods? Maybe it’s because we have lost the ability to make disciplined choices. » The objective is not just to create a new building, but to capture the spirit of the place by choosing the right materials and by respecting the surrounding nature.
Driven by international recognition of the quality of his architectural work and the surprising maturity of his ecological principles, Bijoy Jain now takes up another challenge: he wants to work on major projects without changing the conditions, while maintaining an eco-friendly construction process. Nor does he want to run a firm of 200 people. « My head carpenter is the most important person in my studio. He works with dignity and has an eye for detail. I want to foster such people. To create this type of infrastructure which is open to the industry, that is what the studio is all about, » he confesses.
1 Bijoy Jain
© Prabuddha Das Gupta
2. Reading Room, Nagaon, Maharashtra, 2003
Protected by a large banyan tree, a wood skeleton building is integrated in an existing house. Shading encapsulates the structure, allowing light and air to penetrate the space.
© Michael Freeman
3. & 3b Tara House, Kashid, Maharashtra, 2005
Shared by several generations, the house is centred around a garden.
© Helene Binet
4 Leti 360 Resort, Uttaranchal, 2007
Located on a promontory in the Indian Himalayas, the site is accessed via a narrow path. Five stone, wood and glass structures open onto unobstructed mountain vistas, forests and river valleys.
© Ryo Yung
5 The Palmyra House, Nandgaon, Maharashtra, India, 2007
Built in a coconut palm plantation an hour away from Bombay, Pamyra House is made of palm tree wood – an abundant resource – which is transformed on site and combined with recycled teak. The house is in osmosis with nature.
© Helene Binet
6 Research Center Pune, Maharashtra, 2008
A concrete structure houses eighteen laboratories connected by overhang footbridges on the outside, with a view of the two courtyards.
7 & 7b Belavali, Maharashtra, 2008
A single roof spans a series of mango trees. The undulating design follows terraced rice paddies, giving out on a large terrace, pool and mountain view.
8 House on Pali Hill, Bandra, Maharashtra, 2008
An existing house on a narrow plot was stripped until only the concrete skeleton remained. The surrounding trees and wood screens create an intimate setting and ensure protection against the urban environment of Mumbai.
© Studio Mumbai
9 Trinity Guest House, Kochin, Kerala, 2008
The project is a five-room extension of an existing bed & breakfast, within the historic setting of Fort Cochin. The extension is connected to the existing building by a narrow concrete causeway, designed to preserve two magnificent trees on the site.
10 & 10b Utsav House, Satirje, Maharashtra, 2008
On an open plateau, four black basalt walls surround a shaded courtyard with pools, pavilions and gardens.
1) Bijoy Jain
2) Reading Room, Nagaon, Maharashtra, 2003
3) Tara House, Kashid, Maharashtra, 2005
3b) Tara House, Kashid, Maharashtra, 2005
4) Leti 360 Resort, Uttaranchal, 2007
5) The Palmyra House, Nandgaon, Maharashtra, India, 2007
6) Research Center Pune, Maharashtra, 2008
7) Belavali, Maharashtra, 2008
7b) Belavali, Maharashtra, 2008
8) House on Pali Hill, Bandra, Maharashtra, 2008
8b) House on Pali Hill, Bandra, Maharashtra, 2008
9) Trinity Guest House, Kochin, Kerala, 2008
9b) Trinity Guest House, Kochin, Kerala, 2008
10) Utsav House, Satirje, Maharashtra, 2008
10b) Utsav House, Satirje, Maharashtra, 2008