Mumbai living inspires V&A installation

Indian architects architects Studio Mumbai joined product designer Michael Anastassiades to create an installation in the V&A Cast Courts inspired by the simple dwelling places of Mumbai

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Video Transcript

One evening we walked out of the studio and Bijoy said to me I’m going to show you something. We walked through this narrow slither, which was basically sandwiched between the outside wall of a warehouse and the boundary wall of a property and in there was a series of dwellings. The light was very low and the lights inside those dwellings were on and it was an amazing experience. 

We sort of define them as unauthorized structures that exist within the city and 50% of Mumbai consists of these buildings. They’re made of found materials from wood, metal sheets, plywood, so these are dredged materials from the city and they are quite noble in their quality, for example their entire floor would be made out of marble inside and though the space might be a few meters by a few meters, they have a richness and a dignity, I would say, within them.

What’s critical actually is we are taking the natural light coming from the roof, that’s really how these spaces work also because they are so tight and constricted that they need to draw the light in from above.

We decided to present these as an architectural study and the outside walls as a plaster cast and the idea is to camouflage this building and present it as an exhibit in its own right.

The façade of the building will be the colour of this cast.

When we had the brief we had this idea of refuge, shelter, a place for contemplation, a place for worship and in many ways these dwellings have that quality where they have all these sort of built in.

It’s very simple on the outside, but on the inside there’s a complexity of materials and textures and surfaces, there’s a tree that we’ve cast up, there are all sorts of different elements. So all of that had to be put together in India. We had to look at it, we had to check it worked as a piece, as a space and then the whole thing was dismantled and rebuilt here.

The project that we presented is very much about its location within Mumbai, hence we thought that is was quite important that we locate the building process back in a space where there is intimate involvement and understanding of the nature of the building.

What’s wonderful is this idea that architecture is a process of a collection of people in the endeavor that they share the same spirit and I think that’s what’s heartening about this. The workshop is where we live. It’s sort of more of a campus. It’s a studio workshop. It’s our laboratory or research laboratory where we do all the work.

The tree was found by accident because we couldn’t actually cast the tree in the original space only because it would completely disrupt the people living there. The space that we’ve built here is very faithful; it’s a one to one replica of the original site that we’ve taken.

More than the physical object itself, for me what is important is the quality of the experience that is felt within the real dwelling. I’m hoping that the visitors that experience the space have a sort of similar quality of the life felt within the space. I think we’ve tried to create as truthful a response as to what we’ve experienced ourselves.

As speak and stand here and construct this site, it’s actually being demolished in Mumbai. Those people who live in this space don’t live there any more because the whole thing is being reclaimed, Bombay’s basically being cleaned up. So this place doesn’t exist and yet here we are building it in the Victoria and Albert Museum. There’s a sort of irony there.


The V&A staged a contemporary architecture exhibition which opened on 15th June 2010, exploring the power of small spaces. From a shortlist of nineteen, seven international architects were selected to design structures which explore notions of refuge and retreat. These buildings which examine themes such as play, work, performance and study will be built at full-scale in various spaces within the V&A. 

The V&A has commissioned seven short films which look at  the architects and their projects. These combine filmed interviews with the architects about their design philosophy and their retreat concept for the V&A with self-shot video footage.


The homes of many of Mumbai's citizens are carved out of marginal  spaces next to offices, industrial buildings and the street. Yet the determination of their occupants to turn these in-between spaces into proper, comfortable homes imbues these  dwellings with a distinct sense of dignity.

The collaborators talk about their shared values and their plans to build an in-between home as a retreat in the V&A's Cast Courts.  The film also includes footage from films 'home-made' by the architects on mini digital camera on which they record their Indian inspirations and sources.