From The Field: Nila House
Preservation of India's rich heritage of traditional craft.
On a busy street in Jaipur, India, sits a revived stone structure that was built in the 1940s as a family home. Restored by Studio Mumbai, it is now home to Nila, a flourishing center of cultural exchange that includes open studios, collection showrooms, an archive and research library, exhibition gallery, textile vault and artists-in-residence rooms. Nila serves as a place to highlight and preserve India’s rich heritage of traditional craft.
Within the space, are three different workrooms used for weaving, printing and natural dying. The workrooms are dedicated to sharing traditional knowledge through hands-on learning. During our visit, a variety of textiles were on view in the exhibition gallery including 19th century sujani’s, 19th century jamdani angrakhas, 18th century chikankari, and 18th century hand embroidered silk. These unique pieces reflect India’s heritage of handmade craft and serve as an example of why reviving and preserving ecologically sensitive, endangered crafts is so vital.
The restoration was done by Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai, known for his focus on materiality and place. The stone walls were plastered with the near-extinct Rajasthani technique of layering natural, araish lime. The materials and techniques throughout the space are local, natural and hand finished, from threaded jute chairs to the wash handmade paper railings.
Jaipur was built on a plan based on the Vastu Shastra and the Shilpa Shastra, both historical Vedic texts that deal with the practices of architecture, and arts and craftsmanship respectively. Nila exemplifies how these practices fit into a modern context, by showcasing craft traditions and using traditional materials and practices of building. If you happen to find yourself in Jaipur, India, we highly recommend a visit.
Words and photos by Josie Ford.