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Creating a “Sense of Place” is foremost

In Conversation with Henri Fanthome, Principal Architect, Henri Fanthome Office for Architecture.

“Almost all small scale work employs local craftsmen. From carpenters, to stone masons, to painters. They do not necessarily employ traditional or “craft” motifs in the work, however the nature of their work is much like that of craftsmen, “ says Fanthome.

How did the context of your project — environmental, social or cultural — influence your design? How do you choose the materials for the same?

For us as Studio, the guiding ideas for any project would be what we like to call “Responsible Design” a holistic view of a project that Starts with the site and also considers environment, choice of materials and very importantly the skill and building methods to be used to execute it.  Creating a “Sense of Place” and responding to light and building in memorability are other aspects we like to concern ourselves with.

Material choice comes from two aspects – budgets and tactile quality. How do we want the space to feel, not just in appearance, but also when you touch it with your hands, or rest your elbow on it, or sit on it? These small but important interactions with material play an important part in our selection process. Also, the level of skill in the teams available to us and the kinds of construction systems and technology available at each site.

What are some of your favourite decor, design, or architectural elements in your projects?

We don’t have any favourites – we love all materials – each comes with pros and cons. it is how you manipulate them that is important, and we enjoy that aspect of working and reimagining materials.

Packaging wood- up-cycled and reused would have to be my favourite material – On a very simple level Windows would be my favourite element, they are the eyes of a space- they define how a space interacts with its surrounds, they create conversations between inside and out, they bring light, relief, and happiness.

I also have a love for tensile fabric roofs, but sadly few clients seem keen on those!

Let us know about any recent interior project in which you engaged or intended to employ the local artisans/craftsmen of India.

Almost all small scale work employs local craftsmen. From carpenters, to stone masons, to painters. They do not necessarily employ traditional or “craft” motifs in the work, however the nature of their work is much like that of craftsmen. Wherever possible in architectural or interior projects we engage locally available skilled workers and they definitely add value and bring a uniquely local touch to each project – however subtle or hidden it may be.

How important is the role of Academicians and Institutes in incorporating regional crafts in innovative design?

There is a fine line between fetishising craft and engaging with craft in an evolving and future focussed manner.  most institutes engage in a tokenism to craft – like some novelty – and so it gets treated as such. I feel academics and institutes can play a huge role in integrating craft and craft practices into design, and it has been done very well by professionals across fields. Institutes however are controlled by academic bodies that are living in another age, and mostly are out of touch with the ground. 

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