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Empress

Empress made with handmade paper and Madras zari-cotton.

Empress
Fractal Courtyard Series
Origami spheres and spindles

The Palette

Crowding butterflies

Crowding Butterflies at Yum Yum Cha, Select City Walk, Delhi.

9th Pune Design Festival

Interconnections: Everything is Connected and We Are All Connected

Origami Cast

Origami cast in concrete, in various colours and finishes

Orchitecture at Hexagramm

Oritecture at Hexagramm, including fabric and leather pendant lamps and ceramic and metal tableware.

Hexagramm

Origami on display at the Hexagramm studio.

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Showcase 30 Jun 2016

A universe unfolds

The Universe is made from folding, from the flapping of birds’ wings to the coastlines of countries, from our DNA to the cut profile of a cabbage; origami is an immediate and accessible technique to access these acts of folding. Ankon Mitra’s life is dedicated to the learning and application of origami in design, architecture and all spheres of human endeavour. And colour is crucial to the making of origami.

Hexagramm Design PL was established in 2007, and is a mainstream architecture, interiors and landscape design consultancy and turnkey solutions practice. In the last 3-4 years, the studio has begun to actively grow a segment of its practice that provides specialized origami design solutions in the realms of installations, furniture, interiors and product design. And this could potentially become a major focus in the future—a one-of-a-kind studio in India that offers specialized ‘folded’ solutions in all realms of design. We have also decided to brand this vertical of the studio as a niche activity and we call it ‘Oritecture’, an amalgam of origami+architecture.

Landscape is one of our strong design verticals. And it is through observing folding  in nature that we first found inspiration to look at folding more seriously—in leaves and florals, in landforms, in seashells, and in the ways that nature deploys folding to accomplish a number of crucial geological, biological and ecological developmental tasks. The journey to origami, started from the study of Biomimetics and Biomimicry. We designed a roof for a private airport in Shimoga (now Shivamogga), for a design competition, which was inspired by the folding logic of an armadillo’s shell. We realized that folding not only saves structural material and makes ecological and functional sense, but folded roofs (and walls and columns) take on another kind of quality altogether, a kind of sculptural uniqueness—a sfumato, and chiaroscuro based on lines, which other mediums cannot express in quite the same way. 

The discovery of OSME, the Origami Society for Mathematics and Engineering, a worldwide movement and association of engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors and astronomers opened up our horizons to the enormous possibilities of folding in almost every aspect of science, technology, life, and design. It was the starting point of a deep engagement with folding techniques, and a yearning to fold a little bit every day.

Insight into the Process

Folding is an act of meditation. There is no other word that so completely encapsulates the process. The start of an origami piece is a single line, and that line may rotate, translate, scale, and revolve a few times to create a module. After that, it is essentially an act of repetition of that module. This is like chanting using prayer beads. The fingers work deftly and nimbly, but the mind has to completely and unequivocally devote itself to the single-minded act of folding. When a thousand modules are folded as separate sheets or as part of a single sheet, one can step back from the process to see it objectively and make observations. But the act of folding is an act of complete immersion. 

The installation piece ‘Empress’ uses a composite of 350 GSM handmade paper and Madras zari-cotton. Being thick, as result of fabric and paper, and larger than the dimensions of a human, it was a tough folding act that needed 3-4 of us in the studio to work together. Four pairs of hands started folding from four ends of the sheet and eventually met at the centre. The unfolded sheet was 20 metres long and 3 metres wide, and the eventual folded artefact reduced to 8 metres in length and 2 metres in width. Different patterns shrink sheet material by different proportions and into different final shapes. This can lead to often surprising results when a crease pattern is folded for the first time. 

The origami creasing and folding community is a very coherent network of creative individuals all over the world. It is a small, close-knit group that believes in sharing ideas and patterns. The number of permutations and combinations never cease to amaze us, and even after actively engaging with this art for eight years, we are barely scratching the surface of its vast possibilities. This yearning for new patterns and novel mathematical and geometrical discoveries keeps all origamists hungry and raring to go.

Empress

Empress made with handmade paper and Madras zari-cotton.

Empress

The Role of Colour

As kids, when we folded paper to make paper planes, boats, and origami cranes, we were often given squares of thin colourful paper to do this. The paper was coloured on one side and white on the other. In the subconscious this became deeply ingrained as the natural duality of folded artefacts— all folded objects had to have a white side and a coloured side. 

In my personal expressions of this art form, colour has become one of the critical pivots for my conceptions. For the ‘Summer-Autumn’ and ‘Winter-Spring’ Fractal Courtyard Series, the studio had to work for days matching and montaging 192 ‘colour-sheets’—templates for selecting paper of the right colour—which gently grade to create a shade-card kind of effect that is the essence of the work. Not all works are polychromatic and rainbow-like as this series, but even in the monochrome works, a single colour such as red looks like ten different colours because of the act of folding and the way light and shadows play with the folded surfaces and edges. This often makes us recall Tanizaki’s poetic work—‘In Praise of Shadows’. It was as if he wrote the book with  a work of origami art in front of him.

Fractal Courtyard Series

Origami Art & Design Practice 

In 2013, restaurateur Varun Tuli approached us to design the first completely origami themed interior space in India for his upcoming pan-Asian restaurant Yum Yum Cha. He loved origami and thought the origami theme would be completely in sync with the Japanese and South-East Asian cuisine that would be served at this place. Origami was till then only a passion for us, and we were creating single works and presenting them as art, and primarily in paper, fabric and plastic. Suddenly we were looking at a commercial space which needed large volumes of these objects created, and they had to be heat, dust and damp proof, and easy to clean and low maintenance. Paper is rarely any of these things. So it was a transition for us, as we started creating origami in aluminium. Sheets of different gauges were used ranging from 24 gauge to 12 gauge (which is quite thick). We had suddenly become a factory to produce origami art! It was an interesting experience, the reception of the restaurant interior has been very positive, colour has played a crucial role in the entire process, as all the aluminium pieces are primed and painted with metal-adhering paint which is matte, but makes the aluminium look almost completely like paper! This is a deception, but it makes the artefacts easy to maintain for the client and the origami gets a lot of viewers, which makes us really happy.

Origami spheres and spindles

The Palette

Crowding butterflies

Crowding Butterflies at Yum Yum Cha, Select City Walk, Delhi.

9th Pune Design Festival

Interconnections: Everything is Connected and We Are All Connected

We received more installation commissions after this project and have been populating ceilings and walls of retail and exhibition venues with many different origami techniques and objects. Palette, a prêt-eporter apparel store in DLF Place Saket, chose a traditional geometric origami shape—a waterbomb pattern commonly called a magic ball, and we populated the entire ceiling with over a hundred large spheres and spindles of folded origami in myriad colours of the rainbow. This installation has proved to be a big hit and we get a lot of calls from customers who walk in to the store, take our contact from the store manager, and then call us! 

Exhibitions

The two most recent exhibitions we took part in have been very exciting for us. The first was ‘Booked | Books in Art’, at the Art Centrix Space curated by artist and gallerist Monica Jain. We presented our first series of cast-in-concrete columns with a folded aesthetic, made by using folded shuttering pieces from which we made plaster-of-paris casts, from which came out the concrete casts. These were successful prototypes and we hope to be able to cast origami-inspired columns/colonnades in architecture and interior projects in the near future.

The second exhibition was the culmination of a collaborative workshop with shadow puppetry artists from Andhra Pradesh, under the auspices of the Asian Heritage Foundation (AHF) / Rajeev Sethi. Goat hide/parchment leather was folded to create lighting installations and the artisans then painted those lights over with traditional motifs and modern interpretations of religious iconography. The objects were applauded at the exhibition and will become a part of AHF’s ‘Jiyo’ initiative, where India’s traditional crafts are given a fresh breath of life, and the craftsmen, an opportunity to create contemporary and cutting-edge design products for the urban consumer. 

The first line of commercially available lights, furniture and tableware with an intrinsic origami core, and even perhaps collapsible/ deployable/easy to fold-unfold will be out in the market by the end of this year. Folded plywood, folded aluminium, folded parchment leather are the mediums we are looking at for this, even folded-cast concrete! Exciting times ahead.

Origami Cast

Origami cast in concrete, in various colours and finishes

Orchitecture at Hexagramm

Oritecture at Hexagramm, including fabric and leather pendant lamps and ceramic and metal tableware.

Contributor: Ankon Mitra is an architect and co-founder of Hexagramm Design, New Delhi. Ankon is also a renowned origami artist, whose work has been featured in multiple national and international exhibitions. flickr.com/photos/ankonmitra


IMAGES

• All images courtesy Hexagramm Design

Asian Paints Products

  • APEX ULTIMA (Exterior Emulsion)


  • APEX ULTIMA


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