The client purchased a space (13’-6” wide and 60’ long) in a building on the busy Kotla hardware market street in Delhi and asked vir.mueller architects to create an interior installation within the space, that might enable people to imagine the many possibilities and phenomena associated with the character of a timber interior. Given a tight budget (approximately US$ 30,000 for the complete project including new electrical/plumbing/hvac etc.), we decided to design the installation using the hundreds of strips of scrap Ipe and Purple Heart that had been left over from his years of installing floors and decks. In the Indian spirit of frugality, he had been saving these in a storage shed.
The empty space had no plumb walls so we decided to create an independent structure by laminating lengths of the Purple Heart lumber on site to create primary frames – these were erected like a tent structure, with galvanized steel bolts. The structure has been designed so that it can easily be disassembled. It serves as the armature for nailing strips of Ipe and Purple Heart, creating an undulating wall and ceiling. The pleated surface was designed so as to minimize any racking of the structure – we could not afford any consultants on this project so we “approximated” the structural, mechanical and electrical layouts for the space. Our entire design and installation has been based on the dimension of the scrap strips (approximately 1” wide x ¼” thick and varying in length from 6 feet – 10 feet). Each strip was slightly different from every other in width / thickness so we decided to laminate them on commercial plywood to create sliding doors and panels for storage along the walls.
The client was quite supportive of the idea to create a “blank space” as a counterpoint to the chaos of Kotla – the busy Delhi bazaar street outside. He also embraced the design argument that the interior space – entirely free of any furniture – should be available for people to host an exhibit, a reading, a recital or a children’s drawing class. In this way, a greater Delhi audience might learn to appreciate the tactile quality of a wood chamber.