Architect Rooshad Shroff transforms an unoccupied building into a fresh and contemporary space filled with a startling juxtaposition of geometry and textures.
The great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer once said: “Architecture is invention.” The transformation of an old building into a cutting edge, contemporary and useful space is also an invention of sorts. Designed by Mumbai-based architect Rooshad Shroff, the new Jaipur Modern store is an excellent example of this thought.
Born in Mumbai, Rooshad Shroff studied at Cornell and Harvard Universities and has work experience with leading architects including Zaha Hadid in London, and OMA/REX in New York. He founded his multi-disciplinary firm in Mumbai in 2011. In addition to architectural and design projects (most recently, the Christian Louboutin store in Mumbai), the studio also creates furniture, products and graphic design.
The 1940s building in which the Jaipur Modern store is situated was unoccupied for a while. The redesign involved a complete overhaul of the rooms and courtyard. Structural changes, however, were kept to a minimum. Jaipur Modern is a simple single storey L-shaped structure divided into the store and the café in one wing and the kitchen in the other wing, a new extension to the property. “Every single design element has evolved from the building. It’s about respecting the old structure and not imposing superfluous design elements,” says Shroff.
The attention to detail is visible right at the start. Marble predominates as the material of choice in this project. The custom-made gate is white marble and leads to the entrance which is a grid of lawn and Kota stone, inset with embedded lights that create a charming pattern at night.
A striking black and white inlaid marble verandah floor sets the tone – you see more of this monochromatic pattern inside. The Louise Bourgeois inspired floor “was handcrafted by artisans in Agra, using 2” strips of locally sourced black and white marble.”
A Marigold sculpture by Jaipur-based artist Prashant Pandey adds a spot of local colour and leads the eye inward. “The carefully considered space is designed to encourage a perception shift within the Indian market; from the local marble inlay flooring, hand embroidered walls, and an in-house textile range to a selection of India’s strongest contemporary design voices.”
The retail outlet is small but elegantly decorated. Clothes and jewellery by leading brands including Rajesh Pratap Singh, Valliyan and Pondicherry-based Oh La La by Agathe Lazaro stand out against whitewashed brick walls. Jaipur Modern retails home textiles under its own labels and incorporates traditional techniques such as embroidery, Indigo, Shibori and Ikat weaving in their products – once again putting the traditional craftsman front and centre.
The changing room doors are also inlaid with marble with a wooden frame, effortlessly carrying the monochrome theme inside. Shroff’s beautiful marble Heart Tables find pride of place in here. The tables are hand carved from black and white blocks of marble resulting in a cantilevered form that sets the basis for the heart shape. For contrast, the tables have a glossy interior and a matt exterior.
In the all-day cafe (called ‘The Kitchen’) traditional Italian food is served on black and white tables. The tables all have different eye-catching inlaid patterns. But what makes your heart really skip a beat is the gorgeous embroidered wall. Embroidery on wood for commercial use is a new idea and Shroff’s patented version of it spectacularly combines old wood with traditional craftsmanship.
Tiny holes are created in 400 teak wood ‘bricks’ through which the embroidery thread is “stitched”. Each brick required three hours to embroider. The result is a colourful and very tactile piece of furniture that not only warms the room but also invites a discussion on craft and forgotten techniques.
Another interpretation of the idea is an elegant sofa made from old Burma teak with 50,000 hand-drilled holes forming a hand-embroidered seat covered in Zardozi and a design made out of French knots.
Jaipur Modern’s happy blend of colour, texture and traditional materials is an accurate foretelling of Rooshad Shroff’s sensibilities. His interest in combining traditional craft with contemporary shapes is resulting in interesting experiments and this is one young architect to watch out for.
The decor in Jaipur Modern is a mix of things but all together it feels warm and welcoming. Even popular touches like a brightly coloured African Juju hat on one of the walls fits in perfectly with the monochromatic brick and wood.
Traditional craftsmanship, hi-tech tools, geometry and texture; all these elements come together to breathe new life into a formerly unloved space.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Fram Petit Courtesy The Architect