Bijoy Jain X Iwan Baan: Cross Border Conversations

Between Folds of the Palimpsest
STIR X LOCO Design bring architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai with Dutch photographer Iwan Baan to share thoughts on travelling and stillness as part of the same continuum.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Nov 03, 2020

One bright, sunny morning in Amsterdam and a calm, rain-soaked afternoon back in Mumbai lend vivid backgrounds to a compelling virtual chat between two of the most influential professionals from the field of architecture – photographer Iwan Baan and architect Bijoy Jain.

While Baan’s photography visits urbanscapes as a synthesis of people, landscape and spirit, Jain's practice creates spaces with local resources and Indian craftsmanship, establishing a universal language of architecture. The two, in this intimate 60-minute conversation moderated by Pramiti Madhavji (Content Adviser and Consultant, STIR), touch upon the 'said' and 'unsaid' nuances of creative collaboration. 

  • Architect Bijoy Jain | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Architect Bijoy Jain Image: © Iwan Baan
  • Photographer Iwan Baan | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Photographer Iwan Baan Image: Jonas Eriksson

It comes as a surprise when Jain reveals that though Baan and himself have collaborated on many projects over the years, even now when they meet, they hardly talk about architecture. “I think more of what’s unsaid than said is what I enjoy most in my friendship with Iwan,” says the 55-year-old Indian architect, who describes his camaraderie with the 45-year-old-Dutch lensman as ‘something that goes beyond speech’.

The chat journeys across distant landscapes and ideas even as the speakers remain still in their homes.

STILLNESS

  •  The iconic 2012 aerial shot of Sandy-struck New York city by Iwan Baan | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    The iconic 2012 aerial shot of Sandy-struck New York city by Iwan Baan Image: © Iwan Baan
  • Hampi (Karnataka, India) and its ruined temple complexes from the eyes of Iwan Baan | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Hampi (Karnataka, India) and its ruined temple complexes from the eyes of Iwan Baan Image: © Iwan Baan
  • A stepped well in Rajasthan captured by the Dutch lensman  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    A stepped well in Rajasthan captured by the Dutch lensman Image: © Iwan Baan
  • A glimpse of Michigan’s Saginaw from Baan’s recent travel  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    A glimpse of Michigan’s Saginaw from Baan’s recent travel Image: © Iwan Baan
I find stillness when I'm travelling and observing new places. I try to bring that home. – Iwan Baan

For both Baan and Jain, their nomadic lifestyle that went for a toss in the last few months of global lockdown, paved way for new opportunities and perspectives.

For Baan, being stuck in Amsterdam for three months made him go back to his archives and 20 years of documentation. “In and out of it, I am trying to distill another form of narrative and I hope to create a story out of it in the near future,” he says.

  • Bijoy Jain’s studio space in Mumbai  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Bijoy Jain’s studio space in Mumbai Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai
  • Materials and Reflections: a stirring stillness  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Materials and Reflections: a stirring stillness Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai
  • At its root, Bijoy Jain’s practice is about water and the search for it  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    At its root, Bijoy Jain’s practice is about water and the search for it Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai
  • Tara House in Kashid, Maharashtra, India  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Tara House in Kashid, Maharashtra, India: water and the built space Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai

For Jain, almost seven months at home has turned his focus away from work and towards a rather fluid state of mindfulness.

“These have been my most creative months. What I used to do in a month, I can now do it in a day,” says the founder of Studio Mumbai, whose work oscillates between architecture, furniture design, objects, and material studies.

  • Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, by Zaha Hadid Architects | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, by Zaha Hadid Architects Image: © Iwan Baan
  • CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China by OMA  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China by OMA Image: © Iwan Baan
  • Gymnasium Natal Mãe Luiza, Natal, Brazil by Herzog & de Meuron | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Gymnasium Natal Mãe Luiza, Natal, Brazil by Herzog & de Meuron Image: © Iwan Baan
  • Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh by Marina Tabassum Architects  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh by Marina Tabassum Architects Image: © Iwan Baan
  • Western Sahara | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Western Sahara Image: © Iwan Baan

HOME

“Photography is such an incredible excuse to be at home in any kind of place and it helps you create reasons to be in places where you otherwise feel totally out of place...I have travelled so much in the last 20 years but there are still so many new places to be explored,” muses Baan, a reclusive itinerant, who has over the years documented works of leading architectural practices such as OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, Zaha Hadid Architects, SANAA, and Toyo Ito & Associates.

Together with Jain, he discusses the idea of being home (and homesick).

“The generosity you experience is the same, independent of where you are. For me, that’s the most exhilarating part of being in the state of movement.” – Bijoy Jain
  • Bijoy Jain is known for his material sensibilities through which he builds for, around, and from the earth  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Bijoy Jain is known for his material sensibilities through which he builds for, around, and from the earth Image: © Iwan Baan
  • The architecture of Studio Mumbai walks the mean path between modernism and ancient sustainable practices  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    The architecture of Studio Mumbai walks the mean path between modernism and ancient sustainable practices Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai
  • Palmyra House, Nandgaon, Maharashtra, India  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Palmyra House, Nandgaon, Maharashtra, India Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai
  • Ganga Maki Textile Studio, Dehradun, India  | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
    Ganga Maki Textile Studio, Dehradun, India Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai

Jain has in the past lived in St. Louis, LA, and London, and one of the reasons he returned to his roots in Mumbai was to follow his passion for yoga. Presently, his home-cum-studio is located in a former tobacco warehouse in the city's Byculla neighbourhood where he works with a mix set of people that includes architects, artists, and craftsmen.

A man of great ideas wearing a host of international acclaims, his professional journey reveals a fluid style of practice, which counters his own belief that architecture can sometimes become too tight with limits and boundaries that take over the freedom of creativity.

STORIES

Baan and Jain take turns to interpret their understanding of each other’s practice and style of work, all along exchanging fond memories and encounters from their travels and trips together.

Baan and Jain from their trip to the Joshua Tree National Park | Iwan Baan X Bijoy Jain | Cross Border Conversations | STIR x LOCO Design
Baan and Jain from their trip to the Joshua Tree National Park Image: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai

Jain observes: “If you look at the sheer depth in Iwan’s body of work and the way he has scanned surfaces and topographies, from sky to the ground…For me, the most valuable aspect of it is that it becomes a basis of something that exceeds his lifetime. His work is like repositories of civilisation. It’s woven across continents several times”.

Baan adds: “It is amusing to see how Bijoy works with the environment, his spaces look as if these have always been there, like these had to be there”.

On being asked the key to creating stories that outlive oneself, the two share that continuity, lightness and a boundless curiosity of the unknown are the secrets to everlasting stories. 

All this and a lot more!

Cross Border Conversations
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji and Amit Gupta, STIR X LOCO Design present candid video conversations among creative professionals across geographical borders and creative disciplines of architecture, design, art and beyond.

LOCO Design: Shape of things to come
Steered by values of leadership and integrity, LOCO Design strives to create aesthetic innovation with a creative essence enriched by design values, master artisans and technical expertise, contributing to a responsible future.
Know more at www.locodesign.in

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