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Interview with Nisha Mathew and Soumitro Ghosh

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The principals at Mathew & Ghosh architects chat with us about architecture and the pressing need of the hour for practitioners of the craft today

Nisha Mathew and Soumitro Ghosh’s view of architecture is shorn of any form of grandstanding. Their projects reveal a sense of restraint in form and material that is rooted in its context. Graduates of CEPT, Ahmedabad, the duo set up Mathew & Ghosh Architects in 1995. Their work has ranged from residential to institutional to retail projects. We had a chat with the architect duo about the kind of architecture that they are drawn to, and the pressing need of the hour for practitioners of the craft today.

What kind of architecture are you personally drawn to?
Nisha Mathew:
 I like work that is thoughtful and intelligent, where as an archaeologist I may read clues about it from its making and positioning. 
Soumitro Ghosh: Deep, dark and silent.  Like the potential of a quiet human who creates the expectation of profound words in silence. The same way buildings that are quiet, carry an impatience waiting to bloom. Of a coming of beauty, from its darkest moments. Corbusier talked about light and forms. For me, light cannot exist without a consuming darkness. The value of sunrise would be lessened without the preceding / following recurrence of the night. 

Tell us one architect whose work you have followed since college and who continues to inspire you?

Principal architects Nisha Mathew and Soumitro Ghosh at their Bengaluru studio.

Nisha Mathew: The late Le Corbusier.
Soumitro Ghosh: Le Corbusier, Koolhas, Siza, Zumthor. Miralles and some others who have had unusual thoughts, processes, insights and creative genius that can be seen in their manifestos, writing, talks, buildings, design studio projects with students and also in un-built building sketches.

What material do you find yourself coming back to, time and again, in your work?
Nisha Mathew:
 Exposed concrete and white walls
Soumitro Ghosh: Form finished concrete for it's like manufacturing stone. Also wood and natural stone for the archeological embedded in every molecule and grain and it's beauty in its raw/ cut / chiselled / polished state.

What are the three things that we will always find on your work desk?
Nisha Mathew:
 Pencils, sketchbook, organizer.
Soumitro Ghosh: A black ink pen, A red ink pen, A sketching shorty pencil, a sketch book and a roll of sketching tracing paper.

One film/ documentary on architecture or design that you would recommend?
Nisha Mathew:
 I like films that may not be on architecture necessarily but are very architectural in some way.. 'Shipping News' was one of them. 
Soumitro Ghosh: You're asking a film buff - some of the brilliant architectonic works are Stalker Contempt, Blade Runner, The Cell etc. If architecture is a narrative like film / art then some of the important names (in no particular order) would be Tarkovsky, Bunuel, Godard, Ray, Kurosawa, Tarsem Singh, Fellini, Kubrick, Lean, Hitchcock, Coppola, Nolan, Reitman, Wachowski, Eastwood, González Iñárritu and others. 

One pressing need of the hour in the architecture world?
Nisha Mathew:
 The recognition that what we build does not have to be flamboyant or 'luscious like a mango' to be a good work of architecture.
Soumitro Ghosh: Ctl-Alt- Del, Reboot. The story of architecture is much larger than the artist-like expectation that is laid upon architects usually. I am not surprised that the bird’s eye views of new projects is still called 'Artist’s view of .........' Unless we clean our souls, our politics, our policies and economics, architecture will continue to be their instrument. No significant change can be made till there is a revival of unselfish humanism. Talent exists and always has, but is always waiting to be channelised to better results - results that can define great meaningful change.

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