By Marina Correa
Photography: Courtesy the architect
Sitting in Ar. Shimul Javeri Kadri’s high-ceilinged office, with a swing in cheery upholstery in one corner; the space suffused with plenty of sunlight and wind sweeping through my hair – was literally a breath of fresh air on a hot summer afternoon - in comparison to stereotypical air-conditioned Mumbai offices. And I got a first-hand experience of her nature-inspired style of work.
Behind the petite frame and polite demeanor is a strong lady with deep philosophical views on life in general and architecture in specific. Shimul is principal architect of SJK Architects, a Mumbai-based firm, which has aced the art of marrying traditional techniques with contemporary idioms and technological advancements for over two decades. Her nature-conscious signature style shines through every project, making it socially and ecologically relevant to the diversity of Indian culture.
Shimul’s affinity towards using natural elements, promotion of local skills and adoption of a case-by-case approach allows each of her projects to shine forth.
Her architectural journey is filled with ‘mindful’ and conscientious spaces that sit serenely amidst nature: buildings that embrace organic materials, the sun and the wind, as opposed to mechanized boxes that alienate people and mother earth. “Several of my life’s core beliefs frame what I design,” she says, which explains why her works have such a strong substructure. Interestingly, a careful, studied materiality comes through in all her projects.
Considering herself a storyteller, she responds naturally to a site, client, climate and use of buildings within context; always exploring and experimenting with organic forms to forge a connect between energy, science and architecture to bring the story to life. In-depth research, heritage, spiritual iconography, metaphors underlined by nature’s inspiration bind all her projects into a rich mosaic.
For instance, the ongoing Jain Museum project draws from the religious heritage as well as the crafts of its practice but seeks to carve out a contemporary community space. Whereas the Nirvana Film Production Studio reverses normally acceptable norms: using almost no electricity for light or ventilation. On similar lines, the application of the idea of a ‘calm street’ allowed products to be displayed as clusters as opposed to isles in the Fabindia project.
|Staircase slices through the building Staircase jali (screen) - a set of wood & acrylic louvers|
Creative innovations are idioms through which the firm expresses its unique identity -- be it the fabric prayer wheel used in Fabindia to add a fun element or the multi-functional wooden and acrylic louvers in the Nirvana studio; or even the suspended staircase that adds drama and intrigue within the all-black Orra diamond showroom.
|Suspended staircase - Orra|
To sum up, courtyards and water bodies not only find relevance in her projects today but are central to their design element. “What was relevant in age-old vernacular architecture is still very relevant today and we only want to take that forward,” Shimul concludes, simply, confidently, as she immerses herself once again in yet another typography rooted in tradition, but completely in the present.