by Meghna MehtaJun 09, 2020
The Busride Design Studio is known for working on significant projects and addressing recent trends and times through them. During the lockdown and the post-pandemic period, the Mumbai-based studio, which is led by Zameer Basrai and Ayaz Basrai, has juxtaposed, aligned and re-aligned the dynamics that they work with and are also focussing on the design of what we need at the moment.
With a core team working for the studio’s research arm, The Busride Lab, in Goa, India, we speak to Basrai brothers to understand their perspective on the current situation, and their recently proposed design for a Beach Hut in Goa.
Meghna Mehta (MM): How have your procedures and processes changed during these times of a global pandemic due to the spread of COVID-19?
Zameer Basrai (ZB): For the speculation design, a category of projects we work with at the Busride Lab in Goa, nothing has changed and everything has changed for the work we are involved in. Activities have continued with the same energy during the lockdown period and will most likely continue to keep us engaged through the post-pandemic period. Having said that, the content of our work has and will continue to change drastically.
MM: What urged you to create the studio in Goa, since you already have one in Mumbai?
Ayaz Basrai (AB): The Busride Lab in Goa was always imagined as a shift in time. To slow things down a bit from the frenzy in Bombay. We wished to look at macro level perspectives, research on and pursue projects independent from clients and sites for a brief moment only to reconnect back with better-formed ideas. Though, I must say, it does not always work out as planned. Speculative fiction, as we practice it in Goa, is as hectic as it is in Bombay, albeit with a client and a site.
MM: Can you tell us more about the work that comes under speculative fiction?
ZB: For speculative fiction, there are no clients or sites but our horizons are bound to change. These are provocations, estimates, actions with small projects that come from incubation. These designs are then used to create critical design solutions for situations. Many corporate firms practice this as well, and you may have seen this in the automobile industry as well with concept cars and so on. It is that part of the practice that can survive with limited resources at the studios with the paucity of walk-in patrons.
MM: How did you apply the idea of speculative fiction to the current times?
AB: We questioned what future do we conceive once we have been through a pandemic like this. A large part of our current research around speculative fiction is the post-COVID-19 urban context and the craft communities who have been severely affected.
MM: How was the Beach Hut project conceived? What concerns have you tried to address through this proposal?
ZB: Comprehending the changing sea levels, the question, 'what is the next layer of topography that will emerge as the new Goa?' has been at the crux of speculative design research. Future environmental repercussions will cover beaches and we will have to move more inward to explore other topographies that might replace the quintessential Goan landscape. The beach huts, popularly known as ‘shacks’, are an important element in the architectural fabric of the beaches as well as the tourism industry. It was important to also consider and work with the crafts community in Goa that is known for its unique weaving techniques. The craft industry and tourism industry in Goa rarely collaborate and we saw this as an opportunity to bring them together. We ran experiments in woven reinforcement for sand and mud structures and further into designing an innovative structure using the weaving technique. This was intended to tap into the memory of the original beach huts seen on Candolim beach to create reminiscence and nostalgia.
MM: The Beach Hut project appears easy to implement.
AB: Yes, the project is conducive to small teams. With the lockdown affecting usual businesses, and firms looking to downsize to ensure sustenance through the long period ahead, it was important to consider the ease of operation and execution. All our engagements with speculative fiction require slim teams, which would be similar for a project like the Beach Hut.
MM: As designers, how do you believe can we address the urgency in the current and post-pandemic times ?
ZB: The urgency of the proposed coastal road in Bombay brought the Bandra Collective together, while the urgency in the degradation of the urban environment and the vulnerability of craft communities across the country is what prompted research at the Lab in Goa. There is an all-round urgency and chaos that is keeping us going during these ab-normal times. What and how we used to associate with, with regular paced projects; commercial, client-driven, corporate, etc. is soon to completely change.