Studio Mumbai

Mumbai, India


Prima Materia

Studio Mumbai brings architects into the making process with workshop based team of over 100 crafts-people, artisans, and builders, to do what Principal Bijoy Jain calls ‘making a sound and getting a response’. These projects involve testing of material systems and assemblies resulting in singular objects and large scale mock ups at 1:1 scale, in various configurations. This project, titled Prima Materia (First Materials) is two towers made of bamboo, tied together with cotton thread, and highlighted by gold leaf work, reminiscent of structures carried in the Tazia rituals in India. In Jain’s practice the material histories are those that are embedded in the associations one has with materials, unlocked by the tactile experience. These aspects of material however are not linked to romance or nostalgia but rather a technological and scientific understanding, more akin to the knowledge that is learned by use and practice. Jain refers to the term ‘lore’ to describe this approach—it is tacit, intuitive and yet rational. He defines it as:


n. A body of traditions and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth.

n. The space between the eye and the base of the bill of a bird or between the eye and nostril of a snake.


Founded by Bijoy Jain, Studio Mumbai works with a human infrastructure of skilled artisans, technicians, and draftsmen who design and build the work directly. This group shares an environment created from an iterative process where ideas are explored through large-scale mock-ups, models, material studies, sketches, and drawings. Through careful consideration of place and practice, projects draw on traditional skills, local building techniques, materials, and an ingenuity arising from limited resources.

Bijoy Jain was born in Mumbai in 1965 and received his M. Arch from Washington University in 1990. He worked in Los Angeles and London between 1989 and 1995, returning to India in 1995 to found his practice. The work of Studio Mumbai has been presented at the XII Venice Biennale and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In 2014, the University of Hasselt, Belgium bestowed an honorary doctorate on Bijoy Jain. He has taught in Copenhagen, at Yale, and in Mendrisio.

Biennial Project: Studio Mumbai, Prima Materia, 2017. Photo courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial / Kendall McCaugherty