Don't surrender to "standardised products"
says Indian architect Anupama Kundoo

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Architect Anupama Kundoo discusses the power of craft and working with traditional stone masons, in the second of our series of movies from BE OPEN's Made In… India Samskara exhibition in New Delhi.

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
BE OPEN's Made in... India Samskara exhibition

In keeping with the brief of the Made In… India Samskara exhibition, Indian architect Anupama Kundoo worked with Indian stone masons to produce the exhibition.

Curated by Fashion Design Council of India president Sunil Sethi and creative think tank BE OPEN, the show celebrates collaborations between contemporary Indian designers and skilled Indian craftsmen.

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
Architect Anupama Kundoo, who designed the exhibition

For architect Anupama Kundoo, being surrounded by work made using hand-crafted techniques is a reminder that there is an alternative to the "standardised industrial products", people have become used to.

"We are all different, we are all unique, and it's very strange that we have to be adjusting ourselves continually to standard products." she says. "We have just accepted and surrendered ourselves to this future: it doesn't have to be like that."

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
The granite slabs rise up from the floor to create plinths to support the exhibits

She describes her installation as an undulating landscape, made from three principle elements: ferrocement slabs, pools of water and modular slabs of hand-levelled granite. This landscape hosts the homeware, lighting, clothes and furniture on display.

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
The granite slabs were hand-levelled in Tamil Nadu

Kundoo teamed up with stone-cutters from Tamil Nadu in the south of India to produce the slabs that dip and rise throughout the space. These long granite strips make up both the floor of the space and the surfaces for displaying the exhibits.

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
Detail of the granite slabs, here supporting a terracotta speaker

"These heavy slabs flow through the space like ribbons," says Kundoo. "They frame the space and the undulations come out [of] the function: to raise the slab to the level required to display a particular object."

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
Exhibits raised on plinths above one of the pools in the exhibition

"The actual elements are modular. The pieces rest on a sand bed and they can be reassembled in a wide range of ways and it can all be directly reused," she says.

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
View of the entrance to the exhibition, showing the granite floor in the foreground, the ferrocement to the rear of the image

It took the masons six week to level the granite used in the exhibition, through a painstaking process of hand-levelling, a technique normally used to make stones for grinding masala paste, says Kundoo.

Anupama Kundoo Made in India exhibition design interview
The exhibition contained two pools of water

Seeing the exhibition design, with these familiar techniques used in unexpected ways, had a dramatic effect on the craftsmen, said Kundoo.

"They've been making stone slabs for generations. But when they see [them], in this kind of composition, they realise that that they can make anything." she says.

Three pieces by designer Gunjan Gupta on a ferrocement plinth
Three pieces by designer Gunjan Gupta on a ferrocement plinth

Kundoo works between Spain and India. In 2012 she exhibited her Wall House project at the Venice Architecture Biennale. This project also used the skills of Indian craftsmen — she brought a team to Italy to construct a full-size replica of a house inside the Arsenale.

Samskara, which ran from 10 to 28 February at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi, launched BE OPEN’s Made In... programme, a two-year-long project focussing on the future of craft in design.

The music featured in the movie is a track called Bonjour by Kartick & Gotam on Indian record label EarthSync.