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Interview Doshi Levien: “Our idea of a
perfect house is one that is never complete.”

Anglo-Indian designer couple Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien will be creating a large-scale interior design installation at the imm cologne 2012. In the midst of the planning phase for “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage”, they talked to us at their London studio about their vision of individual forms of living, merging spaces and organically evolved houses. Their design is a collection of interweaving functional spaces, rather like a collage of real architecture, different cultures and original imaginings. An interior perspective.

The brief for “Das Haus” is to create an artificial living situation in accordance with your own very personal wishes. Can you actually imagine a house in the middle of the trade fair?

Nipa Doshi: At the outset of the project we started thinking that our idea of a perfect house doesn’t actually depend on the object itself so much as on its surroundings. We want the house to capture a feeling. It’s located in the context of the fair, so we didn’t want a house that feels as if it’s standing by itself in the countryside. Instead, we imagine it as part of the socio-economic neighbourhood, as part of a community. We’re not thinking of a place with houses and beautiful gardens, but of a place with shops and workshops, a house full of life. The house isn’t in a residential area, it’s located in an urban context.

Do you have a certain place in mind?

Nipa Doshi: We imagine it in the urban context of Tokyo, Shanghai or an Indian city. You could say our house is a culmination of memories and experiences of spaces, both imagined and real, from different parts of the world.

Jonathan Levien: It’s a combination of all the spaces that we’ve dreamt of and those that have made some kind of special impact on us in the past, whether it’s an influence from a well-known architect or just a place we’ve lived in and loved.

So “Das Haus” embodies both aspects: your visions and your memories?

Nipa Doshi: Yes. But I picture the house in very realistic terms too. Although, it is a collage that embodies the spirit of sensual spaces and experiences, with all the real and imagined feelings you associate with those kinds of spaces.

Is that where this unusual, irregular outer shape comes from?

Jonathan Levien: The fact is, we’ve more or less conceived the house from the inside out and not as an object to be enjoyed from some exterior point of view. It comes from a dream. The external appearance of the house is the result of our vision of how we’d like to live and move around inside this space.

Nipa Doshi: If you arrive at your house through a hidden lane, you can’t see the whole of it from the outside either. Your experience of the house doesn’t actually start until you enter it. We imagine our house as a sensual organic being. It’s not a house ready to use. Instead we’ve designed it as if somebody had built it just the way he needed it. Or to put it another way: it’s as if these different favourite spaces are coming together and being enmeshed with one another.

Which of your favourite places or role models will be featuring in your installation for Cologne?

Nipa Doshi: In Indian cities you don’t just find old markets with houses that look as if they’ve grown together, you might find a building by somebody like Le Corbusier too. But we also had a film by Jacques Tati in mind, as well as Moroccan courtyard architecture and the Indian city of Pondicherry, which used to be a French colony. We like the way the houses are kind of sewn together – they’re all very different, but very closely connected with one another all the same. And they are part of a very alive urban landscape. I also like the fact that it’s not self-conscious design. It’s almost as if it’s been authored by the people who live in it.

Jonathan Levien: The reason we like these places, these kind of fractured, ‘in-between’ spaces, is that they’ve evolved. They’ve developed incrementally. And that’s exactly the spirit we wanted to bring into the house: the feeling that it’s evolved in accordance with the necessities. We really like the idea of improvised design.

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