Book by Rishav Jain
Published by SID Research Cell at the CEPT University, Rishav Jain’s book on ‘Crafts in Interior Architecture’ takes a critical view of the history of building crafts in the context of space-making while analysing recent attitudes towards their integration in contemporary work.
Historically, building crafts have been an intrinsic part of making architecture in India. We have all known and been intimate with the practice. In the Indian context, the idea of ‘kala’ is rooted in many ways of working with materials and mediums. There is a great significance to the relationship of the artisan with the architecture of our subcontinent. There are, of course, many and complex layers of this relationship. That is where this book dwells.
Richly illustrated with photographs and diagrams, Rishav’s book discusses two independent and related aspects of the practice of crafts in India. While on one hand, the book takes a historic view of building practice: its many and juxtaposed ideas and the contexts in which craft is integrated in practice; on the other, there is an emphasis on reading meanings into the way architects and designers work with craft and the craftsperson. The initial sections of the book discuss the enormity of the role of crafts in architecture.
The book also explores the various levels of engagement – from the objects that are products of workmanship to the surfaces that are adorned by a patina that may not be a permanent but is a vital part of the building language. The initial sections of the book also look at the landscape of the practice of making in India with an analysis of the position of the maker or the craftsman in close and wide contexts. The book presents many resultant definitions from the inquiry.
While the first part discusses crafts in India, the second is dedicated to a repository of space-making crafts. This section of the book presents the ways in which crafts are anchored in the skill of working a material or a technique. With diagrams that support the propositions made in the book, Rishav explains how crafts in India have a relationship to skill, are a medium of expression, have a systemic progression and are inherently connected with the process of building. The book goes further to discuss the idea of an ‘artefact’ – an object against the act of building an environment with integral craftsmanship.
One of the most intriguing parts of the book is the section that deals with the position of a craftsman in the context of society and the various environments in which he works and locates his skill. The author explains how the workshop is central to the transfer of knowledge whereas the site becomes the place of training and sharpening of skill.
A critical highlight of the writings in the book is Rishav’s narrative style that poses arguments rather than judgements and thus, prompts a reader to think and question the prevailing and popular wisdom. One such argument revolves around the known and understood notions of design, craft, skill and labour.
The book further discusses the themes, materials and purposes in which craft is employed in the interior space. The closing section of the first half of the book deals in attitudes towards crafts in the domain of design and the many ways in which a designer / architect can engage with the practice of making. Rishav Jain makes some interesting observations on the nature of collaborative work and the interface in this section.
A noteworthy text in this section deals with four very important relationships: 1. Designer Designs – Designer Creates, 2. Designer Designs – Craftsperson Creates, 3. Craftsperson Designs – Designer Creates and 4. Craftsperson Designs – Craftsperson Creates.
Rishav’s writings in this part of the book address some ‘Critical Issues’ that affect both – crafts and architecture / design in contemporary practice especially at the interface: an area where the both meet and overlap.
The pages that follow, draw from many recent works by architects and designers who have made an impact at many levels and set terms of engagement with crafts in building practice. While some works are seen as examples within an idea-system, some are analysed in detail to understand the depth and rigour of employment of crafts in them – the many layers of increasing engagement thus become clear in this part.
Some case-studies in this section are lengthy and tedious for a commoner to read in detail but help in articulating credible arguments for the final and the most critical chapter of the book – the one where Rishav Jain discusses present and prevalent rules of engagement.
This part sums up the analysis and the most important assessments from all the observations made in the previous sections of the book. The ‘Emerging Modes of Practice’ are succinctly presented by Rishav Jain in five postulates – Continuation, Standardisation, Apposition, Translation and Denotation. The author presents the extent of integration of craft and the degree of its presence in architecture in these five modes of practice – a wonderful crystallisation of the propositions of the book.
Overall, the book is a scholarly work and has a linear progression so one may not be able to start in the middle or flip through. But the book lends itself to anyone who wishes to understand the roles that craft and craftsmen assume; and contexts in which craft locates itself in India. The language is refreshingly simple and the ideas expressed in the book are well-articulated. This book is also a very valuable resource for individuals who wish to study crafts from other perspectives [anthropological, sociological etc.]
For architects and designers, the book is a good resource to understand the systems, roles and most importantly – values of engaging with the incredibly rich landscape of craftsmanship and the heritage of making that is intrinsic and fundamental to built environment in India.
Rishav Jain is an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Masters of Interior Architecture and Design at the Faculty of Design, CEPT University and a Research Expert with the Design Innovation and Crafts Resource Centre [DICRC] at CEPT.
Title: Crafts in Interior Architecture; India. 1990 Onwards
Author: Rishav Jain
Publisher: SID Research Cell, CEPT
Guide: Yatin Pandya
ISBN: 978-81-904096-6-7 
Year of Publication: 2015
Review by: Ruturaj Parikh
Photographs: From the book; Courtesy Rishav Jain
Spreads: From the book; © SID Research Cell: School of Interior Design, CEPT University
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