For Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh was planned to human scale, where the “radiance of nature and heart are within reach”. He called his government buildings “magnificent and terrible”. London-based designers Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien were interested in how his projects were portrayed in architectural photography and the reality of the buildings as they are now used. It prompted them to make an offering of design, borrowing elements from Corbusier’s Chandigarh.
Made as limited edition pieces for Paris-based Galerie kreo, the floor lamp and daybed are part of the designer couple’s “Objects of Devotion” collection. “The project involved visual research and interpreting architectural details of the High Court and Assembly buildings. The collage composition was translated onto a jacquard fabric made in Italy for the daybed,” says Levien. The motifs include a manhole cover with a map of Chandigarh, a brise soleil, which was Corbusier’s way of diffusing light into the building, a door handle and detail of the Assembly building portico. There is the famous wooden chair by his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and also the glasses worn by Corbusier. Set in solid lacquered wood, the daybed is a nod to the traditional charpai.
The couple have mastered a hybrid vocabulary in their design, be it the Kundan console, the Rabari rugs, or the Charpoy daybed for Italian furniture company Moroso. “Objects of Devotion” is a case in point. Doshi, who grew up in India, studied at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, while Levien trained in fine cabinet making, followed by industrial design in London. Having met at the Royal College of Art, they set up their studio in London 16 years ago. Since then, they have melded Indian iconography with English industrial nuances.
“The floor lamp pedestal is an anthropomorphic shape, a recurring theme in Corbusier’s murals and architectural drawings, where he explores the interplay of contradictory elements, of geometric forms versus fluid forms as an expression of male and female,” says Levien. The lamp can be rotated to reflect a lighter and darker side. This collection is a personal dialogue that Doshi and Levien seem to have with the modernist architecture of India. “The modern masterpieces by Le Corbusier are well recorded and documented by eminent photographers. In contrast to the images, often in black and white, the physical experience of these buildings is multilayered and dynamic, temporal and emotional, chaotic and colourful; experiences that are absent in the images portrayed,” he says.