Founded by Nitin Barchha and Disney Davis with their shared passion for design, the Mumbai-based practice ‘Material Immaterial Studio’ indulges in the sheer joy of crafting and the process of experimenting with the character of materials. The studio forges unconventional handmade curiosities which appeal to the architectural intellect as reductions of spatial scale by “exploring the bare beauty of materials”.
Every once in a while, one entertains an idea of a peculiar venture; the grounds of which tend to be less pragmatic and more whimsical. While these ideas end before they take off, Nitin and Disney fostered their fascination with materials into a unique endeavour which celebrates craftsmanship. The practice, located in the interface between architecture and sculpture, conceives work that is idea-led and process-driven. Handcrafted products that are one-of-a-kind: the artefacts produced by the studio can be labelled as collectables. With an inclination of designing objects that gravitate more towards art than functionality; their work refers to the taste for quirkier things in life, reflects the mentation of everything that relates to architecture. The duo confess their love for creating products that are not always utilitarian in nature, explaining that the notion of functionality sometimes dilutes their interest of making. Nitin says: “Before Material Immaterial became a formal identity, we were doing things because we just wanted to do them and that urge of doing something had already superseded any sensibilities of marketing or saleability.”
Barchha talks about the antics of looking for designer-oriented gifts and novelties. Fed up of the narrow window in this particular domain, the partners decided to pour their ideas into a mould and craft them, heedless of their bankability. Elimination of the ghost of economy from the process made their work a form of expression. The products come across as engaging visual and tactile objects that compel one to tinker with it, feel its texture and weigh it to wonder on the process that has made it. The influence of Peter Zumthor, Carlo Scarpa and John Pawson is evident in Material Immaterial’s work. There is an aspirational connection. There is a general emphasis on pushing the possibilities with the material at hand, and this engagement with the material leads research for the designers. It is de-stressing to witness the work culture of a liberal and intrinsic design process, detailed through drawings and process models.
As an architectural practice, their Mumbai-based studio ‘The White Room’ is in constant dialogue with the objects they design. The scale models and drawings enable them to envision the design and engage with the object on a real scale. The ‘Spaces’ collection is a fine example of an additive and reductive process that enables crafting of complex architectural objects. The pieces – each a variation of the theme assemble in an organic formation on the plate to generate multiple permutations and combinations in configuration.
‘Mirage’ captures the essential quality of light-and-shadow: the negative and the positive in a tribute to the works of Carlo Scarpa. The assortment (consisting of robust concrete handles), is characterised by crisp edges, reducing planes, and a set of ocular pieces. ‘Elements’ is a collection of micro-concrete cufflinks and earrings. With designs that are minimal and sharply designed in form, each pair is unique and each pair refers to the genesis of the idea. They acutely reflect the makers’ fascination with concrete, characterised by the material’s malleability, formal strength and signature finish.
True to its title, the ‘Organic’ series tests the flexibility of paper-maché to capacity with its fluid form, stretching the possibilities of the material at hand. The collection of lamps and furniture takes inspiration from earthy elements like flowers and mushrooms, revealing the natural colour and texture of paper pulp. The tactile quality of the products of this collection is used in their architecture projects like ‘Organic House’ and ‘Rooftop Garden’. Being able to produce good design all the while working within the constraints is a critical ingredient of practising design. Over a period of time, the venture has developed products that are beginning to have a functional aspect to their personality. Yet, at the core of the work of Material Immaterial, there is a consistent desire to create non-objective things – things that have their own distinct identity that is disconnected from the limits of use.
At the heart of it, the practice is driven by the elegance in simplicity – of both form and material. The designs hold a refreshing candour in crisp lines and bare colours. The absence of any additional layer of finish on the products extends the purist idea to the whole. The process of design is rigorous and at the core of this design approach, there is a reluctance to subscribe to the confines of the eventual utility of the products. The joy of the design process is evident in its many manifestations. “Tireless repetition” is intrinsic to what Nitin and Disney seek and the outcomes are certainly rewarding ♦
Founded by architects Nitin Barchha and Disney Davis in 2015, the Mumbai-based design practice MATERIAL IMMATERIAL STUDIO is responsible for creating objects of desire for architects and design-oriented individuals. Beyond this, Nitin and Disney also head ‘The White Room’ – a Mumbai-based architecture firm with a passion for exploring innovative ways of approaching fundamental problems of space, proportion, light and materials.
OBJECT documents inanimate articles that inhabit the space- products, accessories, furniture, and lighting, while engaging with the designer/s on the processes that make them.