Two years ago I was invited to Mextrópoli, the first international congress for architecture organized by Arquine. I was well prepared to reconnect with several colleagues and acquaintances, but certainly not with Bijoy Jain. I was introduced to part of his work in 2013 during a short trip to India, but I had never heard him talk about Astrology and that alone made the conference worth. This renowned architect shocked an overcritical audience speaking about Monsoons, the Sun, the Moon and how these and other celestial bodies had influence on the way he works. Equally enthralling was the part on how he conceived space in Indian terms. Right in the middle of the conference I caught myself thinking: What’s the chance of a contemporary architect taking seriously the astral movement? What’s the chance of Alibagh coming to Mexico? Statistically maybe .000000001%. Lucky me.
Jain humbly presented the working methods at Studio Mumbai, a collective of architects and Indian craftsman residents, led by him in south Mumbai. Studio Mumbai’s work is based on the act and process of constructing, on the idea of working collectively within the spirit of a workshop. It 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 the production of large-scale mock-ups, models, material studies, sketches and drawings. Projects are developed through careful consideration of place and practice that draws from traditional skills, local building techniques, materials and an ingenuity arising from limited resources. Here ideas take form through a shared dialogue capable of integrating the thinking and making of architecture; an architecture that, without being self-referential, transforms thoughts into construction.
One can freely say that Bijoy Jain is a revolutionary in his own right. Many architects pay lip service to a building’s environment and local materials. Jain makes these his mantra so that the finished building doesn’t impose itself on the environment and the surroundings, but becomes part of it. It’s a singular achievement because this central idea runs constantly and rigorously through all of his work.