Hailing from Jaipur, a city rich in handicrafts and art, Aarushi Bafna remembers being always surrounded by design in its core sense. “My earliest memory would be of going with my parents to craft exhibitions at Jawahar Kala Kendra (JKK), a Charles Correa masterpiece, and being fascinated by their geometry, light and colour,” she recalls. “My parents were among the earliest to bring the concept of a design fair to the city… and even though I was just three back then, surrounded by the organising team, I got to see lots of materials and techniques. This passion for design grew and got translated into my pursuing architecture after school.”
Bafna pursued her B.Arch from Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, NMIMS, Mumbai, graduating in 2015. She states, “We were always encouraged to experiment and conceptualise. The biggest takeaway would be the idea of beginning at concepts and trying to build around them... and not just lose the concepts along the way because they got too complicated for construction. This developed the confidence in us to be able to find solutions to design-related construction problems in practical life.”
The 27-year-old has been inspired by artists, architects and designers such as Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Santiago Calatrava, Charles Correa, Piet Mondrian, Ettore Sottsass, Victor Vasarely, etc. “In terms of understanding the profession at a practical level in our country, it is still a long way for me – but I did get a good start learning from the experienced faculty and dean, architect Trilochan Chhaya at my architecture school. Rooshad Shroff, under whom I worked right after graduation, was an inspiration too,” she acknowledges.
While freelancing in 2016, Bafna was selected for an international design competition at the Godrej Design Lab. That gave her the confidence to work on her own – and she launched her own practice in 2017. “One objective is ‘not to be boring’,” she explains. “Being a research enthusiast, I try to evolve my design aesthetics with every new thing I come across – be it lifestyle, fashion or art. I do preach simplicity, and my style would be more modern contemporary…but it takes inspiration from the classics. Work weaves interior and exterior spaces, from large architectural ideas to the smallest of furniture details. That requires me to be detail oriented, and I try to personalise every piece and wall in the space.”
Bafna cites a furniture piece, Looped, designed for Godrej Design Lab, as significant for her because the recognition she got gave her the confidence to start her own practice. She says, “It gave me an insight into how I could realise my ideas into something tangible, which I believe is the most important thing for young designers like myself.”
But she adds that her most significant work would be an interior project she completed recently in Jaipur. “It is a cute little coffee house which speaks about the story of coffee brewing (on the wall). House of Beans was a challenge to design in the budget and time given – and, yet, make a statement. The idea was to promote organic living. It brings out the client’s brief and still keeps the essence of the site alive.” Another concept project that has been path-breaking is the one that won Autodesk Buildsmart 2018, which dealt with sustainable living for the urban poor.