When Joshua Dawson says his dream project is a cliché – conceptualising and building the future cities of Mars, he doesn’t realise that it isn’t so coming from him. Dawson, at only 28, has a repertoire of conceptualising futuristic set designs for Los Angeles screenwriters, besides taking up a slew of architecture and design projects back home in Bengaluru. While architecture was a natural progression for him – with a civil engineer mother and dad who ran a turn-key interiors business, the path he is on is as distinct as it gets.
After studying at RV School of Architecture, Bengaluru, Dawson had the exceptional opportunity of starting his professional career at Vastu Shilpa Consultants-Sangath, Ahmedabad. “Sangath is akin to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – an architectural wonderland exhibiting the birth of some of the country’s most iconic modernist structures,” recalls Dawson who, soon after, received the S Kenneth Johnson Memorial Scholarship to pursue his post-professional Master’s degree in advanced architectural studies at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Being a student of, and later working with, Hollywood production designer Alex McDowell (known for films like Watchmen, Fight Club, Minority Report, Man of Steel) changed the course of his life. “While I was employed there, I worked on projects for companies like Nike, Burberry, Sylvia Earl, etc. This form of design thinking through storytelling was a valuable tool to help clients structure their speculative goals as a company for the next couple of years,” he shares.
In 2014, he founded Joshua Dawson Design – “an uncanny synthesis of the teachings of both Doshi and McDowell.” It all began when he started trading his design-build skills to students of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in exchange for food (“because I lived off a student budget”). Now, he engages with screenwriters and filmmakers in LA who want to use his architectural imagination to envision worlds for them even before their screenplays are completed. “This is predominantly where the limits of my practice are tested,” Dawson admits. Designing ItalCementi’s brand experience product room in Bengaluru, eventually led to many architectural projects of single family homes in the city.
“Although it finds itself in the realm of ‘experimental architecture’, a project called Cáustico, that envisioned a future where a social stratification occured after water was privatised 20 years into the future, is my most significant project,” notes Dawson. “It became a viral video on the internet... It questioned the architect’s love for envisioning utopian ideals to create futuristic visions as aspirations and suggested an alternative use of cautionary dystopian images to critique economic, political, societal and cultural ideas of the world. Besides the acclaim and coverage it received, Cáustico was also widely exhibited and showcased at the National Museum of Australia in particular.” It’s no wonder that Dawson believes that “architecture is the crystallisation of story.”