The idea of Beeja borrows from seeds inside a pod. The aim was to create an area of calm, a poetic environment to settle into within the library and lounge of an office. The form of beeja was conceptualised by moulding with potter’s clay. The team was led through a process of tactile design, sculpting the clay rather than drawing on paper or softwares.
In a commitment to work with Indigenous Communities, we decided to call Muthaiya and Muniyappa, two Soligas, from a tribal community that is fluent in working with bamboo both for building their homes, as well as building the ‘theppa’, or coracle. The word ‘Soliga’ literally means ‘children of bamboo’. Looking at the scale model in clay, Muthaiya and Muniappa intuitively understood the intent behind the design for Beeja. The structure came together on site around the natural understanding of wattle and daub that the artisans had. They suggested to use the kaveri kannu weave, a hexagonal weave that offers great flexibility to alter the shape of the coracles once placed on site. This weave was then reinforced with structural bamboo members when we finalized the positions and forms.
After the structure was stabilised, our team took to daubing the bamboo frame, layer by layer with a mix of raw earth, rice husk, jaggery and straw. The cavernous earthen surface wraps onto the floor as rammed earth and all the surfaces are finished in a fine clay plaster, buffed to a simple shine. A sweet aroma of fermented jaggery marked the space for weeks. The tactile surfaces and the warm glow of clay makes for a peaceful environment inside the library of the office. A small lampshade makes the oiled surfaces glow with a softness known only to clay. Whispers are loud here, while silence resounds. Sitting inside, through the gap you see a subtly lit wall of banana paper on one side and a mural in natural clay-paints and yarn on the other.
Beeja is an emotion waiting to sprout. Sometimes, people sit alone in silence. At other times, the walls hold the gossip of a small group. And sometimes, children dance with bare feet.