UNSCRIPTED with Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien: Creating Magic with Masala

STIR decodes the eccentricities of the duo behind studio Doshi Levien on UNSCRIPTED – an original series of video conversations documenting stories that are not scripted yet.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Apr 23, 2021

"I made the first move, the second, and the third, and kept moving until Nipa finally caved in,” shares Jonathan Levien with a hearty laugh as he recounts early days of his relationship with partner Nipa Doshi.

In the second episode of UNSCRIPTED – a series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals – the founders of internationally acclaimed London-based atelier, Doshi Levien, reveal details about their first meeting, silly things they argue about, quirks they are notorious for, and sacred daily rituals that bind them.

  • Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien at their studio in Columbia Road, London | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien at their studio in Columbia Road, London Image: Rei Moon
  • Their practice is rooted in layering of research, materiality, and the tactility of the design process | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    Their practice is rooted in layering of research, materiality, and the tactility of the design process (the duo at the B&B Italia factory) Image: Delfino Almora Shots
  • The duo from early days of their career | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    The duo from early days of their career Image: David Vinitiner

Partners in life and work, their paths were entwined long before they met at the furniture department of the Royal College of Art in London. Doshi, born in Mumbai and brought up in Delhi, was exposed to 'abundance of influences’ ranging from religion, technology, craftsmanship and most importantly, textiles and architecture. She grew up looking at her mother’s immaculate sarees that came in every possible fabric and imbibed the beauty of an Indian neighbourhood characterised by architecture of absolute contrasts. On the other side of the world, Levien spent his childhood days in a toy factory in Scotland, surrounded by rolls of fabric and cardboard boxes, as his parents used to manufacture soft toys. With much less distraction those days, he was emerging as a maker and an extremely skilled craftsman as he absorbed himself in the world of raw materials to create new objects.

  • Doshi Levien’s house in London’s Barbican Estate  | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    Doshi Levien’s house in London’s Barbican Estate Image: Jonas Lindstrom
  • Installation at the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair - 2020 | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    Installation at the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair - 2020 Image: Courtesy of Doshi Levien
  • The duo from early days of their career | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    Earth to Sky. 2019 Image: Courtesy of Doshi Levien
  • Rabari Collection – Nani Marquina. 2014| Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    Rabari Collection – Nani Marquina. 2014 Image: Courtesy of Doshi Levien
  • Armada – Moroso. 2016 | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
    Armada – Moroso. 2016 Image: Courtesy of Doshi Levien

From furniture to fabrics, rugs to tapestry, Doshi Levien’s work spans disciplines and industries. Having designed for leading brands such as Moroso, B&B Italia, Cappelllini, and Swarovski, their designs are often born out of complex architectural concepts in which space, light and form coalesce with patterns, geometry, and colours. The designers’ belief in beauty, contrasts and cultural exchange reflect in their extremely fine-crafted products that define a place rather than mere occupying it.

When I am sitting at my desk with my colours and my materials is when ideas come to me. I am not the person who can get an idea anywhere. I need to be in the studio. – Nipa Doshi
Doshi and Levien open up about their quirks on UNSCRIPTED | Doshi Levien | Interviews | STIRworld
Doshi and Levien open up about their quirks on UNSCRIPTED Image: Jonas Lindstrom
I have my best ideas quite unexpectedly when I am not trying so hard. I think of ideas as precipitating rather than being something that you have to obtain. It’s something that comes to you when you least expect it. – Jonathan Levien

While there is so much to know and be inspired from, we probe into the personal source of their creations. Chatting from their studio in London’s Columbia Road, Doshi and Levien share how they approach a project, who does what in the studio, what is one best at, when do they get their best ideas and what they do when there is a creative block. Many secrets are spilled as the ‘madly in love’ designers share nuggets from their life while filling the virtual space with giggles, laughter and awe…

Tap on the cover video to watch the complete conversation. 

UNSCRIPTED:
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with 30 leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series spans 30 weeks with a release every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.  

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