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Our design history in 10 objects

  • Art
By Deepthi Sasidharan
5 min read
Jan 25, 2023
Ten Iconic Objects

These products represent the evolution of our tastes as a people and the function of our spaces

In December for the Architectural Digest Design Show in Mumbai art historian Deepthi Sasidharan of Eka Archive curated a family of 75 objects that represented the nation’s design trajectory in various fields. These are designs that are part of the modern history of this country, altering our collective perception of problem-solving objects. Deepthi edited that list down to ten particular products that have had the most impact on personal spaces in the country.

1. Godrej Tubular Armless Chair, reproduced 1960’s

Credit: Godrej Archives

Influenced by the global Bauhaus movement, the Godrej tubular chair exemplifies India at office. These instantly recognisable chairs were made with tubular steel and represented a new furniture idiom that were widely recognised in the 1960’s. The Godrej version used steel and hardwood and was associated with sound ergonomics, sturdiness and longevity of use.

Armless chair

Image courtesy, Team Architectural Digest

Mira Chair

Image courtesy, Team Architectural Digest

2. Mira Chair by George Nakashima, 1961

Rosewood, made in NID c. 1965 - 1971

Credit: Archives, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad

Named after his daughter, this is one of Nakashima's earliest designs made as a high chair for Mira to be able to sit at the table with the family. This version was produced in the NID workshops after Nakashima's visit in November 1964. The profiled seat embodies the wear of everyday interaction.

3. Wool and cotton tapestry by Nelly Sethna (1932 - 1992)

Untitled (c. 1980s)

Nelly Sethna wore many hats in her life. She was a pathbreaking textile designer and a creator of extraordinary fibre tapestries. As a teacher, she helped lay the foundations of teaching textile design at NID. And as a craft researcher, she pioneered the revival and contemporisation of the Srikalahasti and Masulipatnam kalamkari.


Image courtesy, Harshita Nayyar for Architectural Digest


Image courtesy, Harshita Nayyar for Architectural Digest

4. Lacquerware by Dashrath Patel (1927 - 2010)

Sewapuri, Gandhi Ashram (Late 1980's)
Credit: Dashrath Patel Museum

A ceramist, painter, photographer, sculptor, Dashrathbhai’s multidisciplinary oeuvre was inexhaustible and as the first Founder Secretary of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he was a visionary who led design education in India.

5. Godrej Prima Typewriter (1983)

Credit: Godrej Archives

The brainchild of Naval Godrej, and first introduced in 1955, the Godrej typewriter was once regarded as the most modern machine of its type. It was a symbol of an Indian made machine that would match international quality standards.


Image courtesy, Godrej


Image courtesy, Harshita Nayyar for Architectural Digest

6. Longpi Hampaí by Mathew Sasa (b. 1950)

Serpentinite stone and sala clay, 2022

Credit: Mathew Sasa

The traditional black stone pottery of Manipur uses a special clay from the Longpi area and hence its name—Longpi Hampai. Each piece is manually shaped, polished, sun dried and then fired. 

7. Pierre Jeanneret Office Floating Back Chair (1896 - 1967)

Reclaimed teak and rattan, aged light with marks

Credit: Phillips Contemporary

This chair is reminiscent of Pierre Jeanneret’s designs for university housing and administrative buildings in Chandigarh, India. Modelled after the PJ-SI-28A style (c. 1955-56), this style also features classical braided caning, ‘V’ shaped legs and arm rests. However, the distinctive characteristic of this chair is its ‘floating back’ that lends it a very contemporary and sleek look making it an ideal addition with any style of interior décor.

Floating Back Chair

Image courtesy, Team Architectural Digest


Image courtesy, Harshita Nayyar for Architectural Digest

8. Namdah Wool Rug by Riten Mozumdar (1927 - 2006)

Wool, tie and dye, acid discharge print and embroidery

Credit: Private Collection

In the mid 1950’s Riten Mozumdar, a Santiniketan artist, was discovered by Armi Ratia, the founder of Printex-Marimekko, thereby nudging his creative practice journey towards abstract art. Mozumdar was soon running a successful studio in Delhi a decade later experimenting with striking shapes and gaining a loyal customer following. His exceptional tie-dye felted rugs won acclaim in international museums and he is best remembered for his association with FabIndia, where his home linen defined a new aesthetic comprising of bold geometric shapes.

9. Saree by Martand Singh (1947 - 2017)

Cotton ivory, red; three-shuttle technique in border

Credit: The Registry of Sarees Collection

Khadi, hand-woven and hand-spun cotton fabric has been synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi and a seminal symbol in India’s National Movement against British Colonial rule. The late Martand ‘Mapu’ Singh, Mapu, textile revivalist and historian, first commissioned this saree for 'Khadi—The Fabric of Freedom', along with other sarees and fabrics in the exhibition as a set of two each.


Image courtesy, Harshita Nayyar for Architectural Digest


Image courtesy, Team Architectural Digest

10. HMT Watches

Incorporated as “Hindustan Machine Tools” at Bengaluru on 7th February 1953, and popularly known as “HMT”, HMT Limited.


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