From their studio in London, Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien enchant the world with their multitalented creativity and thoughtful approach to the process of design. Doshi Levien is this year´s Guests of Honour at Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair 2020.
Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien are currently involved in a number of different projects: from a large regeneration project in the Brittish city of Birmingham to developing new pieces for Kvadrat, Hey and others. As a designduo Doshi Levien is globally recognized for their marriage of culture, technology, industrial design and fine craftmanship.
Photo: Rei Moon
You often talk about manufacturing excellence, can you explain what you mean?
– Fine craftmanship and appreciation of material really guided my interest and love for design, says Jonathan. The quest for high quality is still a part of my process as designer.
– When it comes to quality it takes a long time to develop as a designer, continues Nipa. You really have to carefully choose the people and companies you work with. We are uncompromising and design is a long term process for us. Patience is important, it´s a choice you make.
You have also said that your objects and projects shall be imbued of inner beauty.
Doshi: ”For me, the process of design is as important as the final result. In the exhibition we make for Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair we will reveal the internal design process we follow in our studio.
Beauty is often a bad word in design because it´s not quantifiable – it ´s subjective and something that is considered superficial. But beauty has a huge function because when you are in a beautiful space you feel better about yourself. When you see something beautifully made you can see the love of the craft that has gotten in to it. That is the concept of beauty we present at the fair: an atelier of ideas, the spirit of our studio”.
Levien: ”Inner beauty also refer to the quality of the material. We think with our hands, listen to the material and try to extract a kind of natural poetic characteristics of it. Bringing that out and letting it surface in the final pieces. That process takes time and through it you are imbuing into the product a quality that is somehow immortal. There is some intrinsic quality to the pieces we are creating and that comes from the process”.
Do all objects have a soul?
–Yes. And we can only control a certain aspect of the process, the rest is up to the material.
Quite a few of the Guests of Honour over the years have been duos – brothers, colleagues or married couples. What are the advantages to work with somebody that is so close to you?
Doshi: ”There is a certain level of trust involved when working with family or friends. You can be honest. There are a lot of advantages”.
Levien: ”Creativity is like a glue between people. Nipa and I met at Royal College of Art and collaborated before we became a couple. This is what brought us together and continues to do so.
Have you in anyway been inspired by Scandinavian design?
Doshi: ”When I studied in India my furniture design tutor had in fact been working with Danish designers so my education was very influenced by Danish design. Actually one of my degree projects was to recreate the prototype of The Spanish Chair by Børge Mogensen. And the clients we work with, Kvadrat and Hey, are for me the new face of Scandinavian design. Both are very modern companies and influential in what contemporary spaces look like”.
Levien: ”For me Scandinavian design is a perfect balance between the soul and intelligence in the object. Modern, long-lasting, poetic and beautiful – a combination of all the qualities I recognize and that we strive to create in our own design.”
In Scandinavia sustainability and the enviroment are important issues.
Levien: ”Sustainability has until recently been a kind of check point, a box that you tic after you designed a product. It´s almost like you ask after you created it: does this fit the criteria for a sustainable future? I’m not saying we are doing everything in a perfect way, but now we, from the very start, are thinking about how the product/concept will have an impact on the environment.”
Doshi: ”We are not in the profession of creating throw–away–pieces, but products people are keeping for a long time. Sustainability is not only about things and material, but also very much about letting people be able to stay and work in the community where they grew up, like my aunt in India.”
10 years from now. Where are Doshi Levien?
Doshi: ”We are involved in design of cities and urban environment. Not just creating pieces but being part of strategic development of cities. I really see our studio developing in that direction, and I hope we can carry on doing what we are doing”.
Levien: ”I think our experience of cities are very much from a human scale, which we have specialised in for the twenty years we´ve been working together. It´s a very valuable perspective to contribute when you are developing a large scale project.”