WORDS Michaela Stehr PHOTOS Govind Vishwanath, courtesy of American Hardwoods
Five of India’s leading architects have released upgraded designs of the traditional jhoola (an Indian swing seat) at the INDEX design show in Mumbai.
In collaboration with American Hardwoods Export Council (AHEC) and THINK! Design, the five creatives – Annkur Khosla, Naresh V Narasimhan, Prem Nath, Sanjay Puri, and Sonali and Manit Rastogi reimagined a contemporary version of the classic chair using American Hardwoods.
Bringing collaboration to the forefront, the project was overseen by mentor Adam Markowitz and manufactured by Bram Woodcrafting Studio in Mysore.
“Jhoolas, which were a common sight in many Indian households, seem to have fallen out of favour in recent times,” explains Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director. “Nonetheless, they continue to have an allure on account of the memories they carry. For REIMAGINE, the architects were asked to draw on their childhood memories of playfulness, their teenage years of angst and to temper these with ‘grown-up’ elegance in a furniture piece for a contemporary context; a limited edition, legacy piece made out of American hardwoods. The architects were given the option to select from three species (a single species or a combination), which were American cherry, maple and red oak.”
Each participant put their spin on the original chair design, highlighting the notion of both form and function in creating a piece that is both usable and exists as an artwork simultaneously. The architects got to explore the art of joinery and the adaptability of wood as a medium, resulting in five stellar works.
Mentor Adam Markowitz elaborates on the process and his role, “As both architect, furniture designer and craftsman, my role was similar to that of a language translator, acting between the architects and the manufacturer. As with any good translation – there is a bit of artistry required of the translator to communicate the nuance from one language into another and back again. Architects by nature of their profession need to be generalists in a huge range of areas that comprise the built form, and as a result often don’t have the detailed knowledge of working with solid timber, which is a material that has great complexity.”
Part of the brief asked the architects to be considerate of environmental impacts and human elements such as well-being, comfort and visual enjoyment. Each element of construction needed to be carefully considered, from materials used for joinery to what was used for suspension, with more American Hardwood being used lowering the overall environmental impact of the finished product.