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Forest of images at the Egmore Museum

This modular metallic set up at the Egmore Museum proves why spatial design is discovering many takers

This modular metallic set up at the Egmore Museum proves why spatial design is discovering many takers

Do artwork exhibitions must be confined to the white dice of a gallery? Do buildings want a chosen entry and exit? Does the sharing of public areas put paid to fluid motion or a way of intuitiveness? It’s a no, to all.

At the Government Museum in Egmore, a collection of vertical and horizontal metallic items in the tree-lined promenade play with folks’s views as they stroll in. With no clearly demarcated starting or finish, or entry or exit, as you stroll by means of A Land of Stories — a photograph exhibition by college students throughout Tamil Nadu that’s half of the Chennai Photo Biennale (CPB) — the porous, maze-like construction turns into an element of the expertise.

Justine De Penning and Deepak Jawahar of The Architecture Story

Justine De Penning and Deepak Jawahar of The Architecture Story
| Photo Credit: Special association

“We devised the installation as a double life,” explains Deepak Jawahar, co-founder of Chennai-based house design studio The Architecture Story (TAS). “When you are inside it, you are immersed in the art and it gives you a sense of movement through it. But when you are outside it, at the museum or on the busy flyover beyond the wall, it becomes something striking, something a bit abstract that catches your eye as you go about your everyday routine.”

The modularity of the construction was created preserving in thoughts CPB’s goal for it to be a travelling exhibition — they plan to take it to completely different faculties throughout the state and even perhaps to the Indian Art Fair. “So, it has 40 vertical pieces and an almost equal number of horizontal pieces that you can quickly disassemble, store and move wherever you want,” says Jawahar. The panels are positioned in a collection of L shapes. “There is a panel to your left and front, but nothing to the back and the right. In some ways, it’s like a Piet Mondrian painting!”

A bird’s eye view of the installation

A fowl’s eye view of the set up
| Photo Credit: Niveditaa Gupta

Beyond comfort

Spatial design is at the core of TAS. “A lot of our work, whether it’s designing a house, an installation or a public project like this [internally, they call the design the Forest of Images], always engages with the idea of the human body and how it engages with space,” says co-founder Justine De Penning, who additionally runs The Grid, the co-working house in RA Puram. “That’s why we don’t want to create defined spaces.”

We noticed this at the duo’s earlier installations too, comparable to Seven Voids at 2019’s Magnetic Fields Festival of Contemporary Music and Arts. Another modular design — with trusses and trampolines — it took inspiration from the Indian charpai, and explored the mattress as a social house that encourages enjoying, resting and socialising.

A Land of Stories

A Land of Stories
| Photo Credit: Niveditaa Gupta

Are these fluid areas the place they see design heading? “It’s too soon for us to make a presumption about how design is changing now, especially in light of the pandemic. But there is definitely a larger push to create something that is extraordinary even in ordinary situations,” says Jawahar. “There is so much going on online, so if you were to make the effort to go somewhere and do something, it has to give you that extraordinary feeling. So the questions for designers is ‘what is life beyond convenience?’”

De Penning expects to see this evolution occurring in all elements of design. “When you think of retail, everything is moving in an immersive direction. That’s kind of where the future is,” she concludes.

Details on and @thearchitecturestory on Instagram

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