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Collaborative Effort

On entering the Bhuramal Rajmal Surana jewellery showroom in the posh locality of Greater Kailash in South Delhi, you would expect to find an interior space as ornate and colourful as its collection of exquisite Mughal and diamond jewellery. What you’ll see instead is a space that spells simplicity without the fuss and the glitter. Far from being a disappointment, the antithetical design is just what is needed to offset the jewellery and play down their somewhat overwhelming effect.

The House of Suranas has been one of the leading names in enamelled and kundan jewellery in Rajasthan since 1735. While steeped in centuries-old tradition, the jewellery has also acquired a contemporary feel, and it was this balance that the Suranas wanted translated in their showroom in Delhi. When Ahmedabad-based design firm HCPDPM was commissioned to design the interiors in 2002, the challenge for Canna Patel (Design Director-Interiors) was to assert the Indian identity in the realm of globalisation. The scope of work extended the interior designer’s services to logo design, stationery and invitation cards, technical lighting design, the display, and site development. To provide a complete service, three differently qualified designers were roped in-a textile designer and a sculptor from Ahmedabad, and a graphic designer from Delhi. The show-room as it stands now is the result of a collaboration of ideas and expertise.

From the word go, the designers were unanimous in their decision to bring out the Indian-ness without being overtly literal about it. “Many design elements stem from a tradition of Indian jewellery-making, Indian iconography and the vocabulary of Mughal jewellery. But they are subtle and do not compete with the jewellery on display,” says Canna.

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Textile designer Angira Shah drew on the forms of jewellery to bring out a display of textile art. She explains, “The Suranas are known for their skill in making jewellery that can be worn on both sides. I tried to replicate that in textile elements.” For instance, the sheer screen that separates the exclusive client area from the regular showroom has intricate embroidery work which can be viewed from both sides. Embellished with neck- line motifs in traditional karchhoop (zardosi) and mokaish work, the screen attempts to offer privacy to clients while giving visual transparency to the space.

The designers chose the peacock as the design theme and this determined the material board, colour palette and form. Peacock motifs on upholstery and repetition of blues and greens on carpets provide dashes of colour in the predominantly copper and beige composition. While the Indian theme unifies the design elements, it is deliberately subdued. What is more dominant is the stark modem look designed to prevent sensory overkill. With a wide range of traditional jewellery to choose from, even the most avid shopper could lose her bearings. Clean lines, a delicate structure and subtle visuals create a stabilising ambience. The design is in a sense anti-traditional with the use of straight lines and geometric patterns in contrast to the rounded curves typical of kundan jewellery. “We have tried to create a coffee bean effect, as an anti-form to the form,” says Anthony Lopez, a Delhi-based graphic designer.

The layout of the showroom has an extended and spacious feel. Copper tones in varying materials, finishes and textures contrasted with pale beige make the backdrop for displays of intricate Mughal jewellery. “The interiors had to concurrently highlight objects in their individuality and objects in bulk. We tried to create pools of spaces with sparse and dense display arrangement,” says Canna. The shopping experience is further enlivened by panels displaying the family business history, Mughal jewellery technique and the role of craftsmen.

In an attempt to project contemporary Indian aesthetics without sacrificing technology, new techniques and materials have been used to create visual elements that not only embellish but aid in brand building. “Visual communication is important to create touch points which can create high recall,” says Anthony who brought in his graphics expertise into the project. He adorned the pillars that run down the length of the hall with computer-generated graphics of uncut diamonds, blown up to about 1000 times the actual size. The images were transferred onto adhesive paper and frosted and spray painted with copper gold.

Placing a visual touch point at the facade also answered the designers’ question of how a stand-alone shop calls a buyer’s attention in a sophisticated and dignified manner. “We did not want to clutter the external facade by using large signage, so we made a fourteen-foot-tall sculpture shaped like a bangle stand in stainless steel and copper plate riveted together,” says sculptor Walter D’ Souza who also made a cylindrical steel sculpture placed inside the showroom.

As for the more crucial question of whether the whole look holds the buyer’s attention, a female client seems to have the answer, “On the face of it, the interiors isn’t spectacular and eye-catching, which is why it works for me because it doesn’t distract from the real eye-catchers. It’s unobtrusive yet has a quality presence.” It would perhaps please the designers to know that their collaborative work has not failed to achieve desired results.

Indian Design & Interiors - July 2006
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