The Architecture Story takes a theatrical approach to design

By Sujata Burman

It was a common interest in theatre and design that brought Deepak Jawahar and Justine De Penning (pictured above) together in 2017 and inspired them to create The Architecture Story. “For us, architecture doesn't stand for buildings, it's about a framework,” says architect, Jawahar. Meanwhile, De Penning brings her skill as a performance artist to the Chennai-based studio, allowing theatre techniques to inform their work across spatial, interior and product design.

The Architecture Studio’s interest lies in the “mechanics of how things work”. Previously, they’ve created a Burning Man installation, inspired by the Tantric geometry of the Sri Yantra; and developed a dynamic outdoor space for a shopping mall, among many other innovations. Throughout, they’ve used theatre-style storyboarding and improvisation to shape the design process.

Celestial Nest by The Architecture Story
Celestial Nest by The Architecture Story
Celestial N

“Essentially, the experience is what we are after”

“In theatre, they look at sequences in a completely different way to architecture”, Jawahar says, noting how his skills complement De Penning’s in their creative collaboration. While their focus is architectural – the studio is mainly made up of architects – their approach prioritises how we interact with the spaces.

In their music festival project, 'Seven Voids', for example, the aim was to create a break-out space for audiences. They started by storyboarding, thinking about the relationship of the bodies to the space, and what people would be doing at the festival. From there, they arrived at the inspiration of the Indian charpai – a traditional woven bed – as a conceptual springboard. The design evolved into a series of steel cubes, “which pivot and intersect, creating a modular cluster”, with hammock-style beds for festival- goers to rest in.

So far, the majority of The Architecture Story’s projects have been in India, so they were excited to bring their unique approach of subtle interventions to London. While it was a new territory for the studio, it’s not unfamiliar for Jawahar and De Penning, who have been visiting the city for years. The project titled ‘Celestial Nest’ explored the ancient Indian technique of mirror making in Islington Design District.