New Talent: Neogenesis+Studi0261 Melds Historical Influences into a Balanced, Minimal Aesthetic
The young Surat, India–based design trio has completed 60+ projects and has proved adept at balancing client demands, programmatic pressures, and spatial constraints.
Surat, a port city in western India, lacks the architectural treasures of nearby Ahmedabad by masters like B.V. Doshi, Le Corbusier, and Louis Kahn. Instead, its singular architectural style spans medieval and British colonial periods, and its accompanying vernacular is suited to the humid climate. Chinmay Laiwala, Jigar Asarawala, and Tarika Asarawala knew they would reference this disparate architectural heritage when they founded Neogenesis+Studi0261. The firm has completed more than 60 projects of various scales since being founded in 2011, but the approach is so far best distilled at its own office, called NEST, located in a quiet, elegant part of town. There, the firm borrowed from Surat’s architectural history with a savvy attunement to contemporary trends, expressing a fresh, progressive approach to regional Modernism.
From the beginning, the firm has proved adept at balancing client demands, programmatic pressures, and spatial constraints, all refracted through a yen for minimalist simplicity. Its first residential project, for example, was just 18 feet wide, “the size of a cricket pitch,” recalls Laiwala. Another commission, the Jungalow House, designed for a family of agriculturists, advanced the firm’s thinking about inside and outside by organizing the space around a leafy courtyard. “After completing Jungalow, we learned how we could connect landscape and interiorscape,” says Laiwala. “It spoke to us at a very elemental level.”
This desire to connect inside and outside also drives the design of NEST, where the firm has combined space for its studio as well as for Laiwala’s brother’s law firm. Inside NEST, a Kota stone–lined foyer stylistically unites the two offices even as it provides a spatial divider. The law office is an appropriately introverted space, with partitioned rooms and zones, yet a curvilinear glass wall lends a sense of openness. The design office, meanwhile, is open and interactive, combining living and meeting areas with more private areas for staff. The firm removed a northerly wall to maximize natural light and open up the office space to uninterrupted views of its posh environs. The rough Kota layering imbues the 3,600- square-foot space with an additional sense of a landscape.
As NEST shows, Neogenesis+Studi0261 displays an inclination toward natural materials, preferences that are not merely aesthetic. At NEST, “the walls are made with a kind of lime plaster, which is very common in vernacular architecture,” says Laiwala. (Lime plaster, which enhances thermal comfort, was dominant in parts of India for centuries, but concrete has become more common.) “It’s great for our climatic conditions: The walls are breathable and can absorb humidity to keep the place cool.”
While the trio is loyal to local materials, they regard design in India within a global context and even espouse a Japanese sensibility. “It is true, we are deeply influenced by Japanese culture,” Laiwala says. “I feel we have a very crowded design language in India. It’s a culture of excess that clashes with environmental issues and sprawling cities. We need a minimal design imprint rather than creating haphazardly.” Comfortably discussing issues of architectural practice, sustainability, and cultural interchange, Laiwala succinctly sums up the ethos of Neogenesis+Studi0261.
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