Doshi Levien on architecture, design and Indian classical music

Our editor met and interviewed the design duo – who have just launched a large collection of furniture, objects and lighting for retailer John Lewis – at their London studio last year

The work of London-based design duo Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien is a celebration of different disciplines, cultures and methods – from visual references drawing on Doshi’s Indian background to Levien’s training in fine cabinetmaking. Our editor Debika Ray spoke to them last year for Icon magazine about design, architecture, resolving disagreements and their exploration of Indian classical music.

DEBIKA RAY I’m told that, Nipa, you’ve taken up Indian classical singing and that you both play [the Indian percussion instrument] the tabla. How’s that going?

JONATHAN LEVIEN Really well. It’s actually my third year playing the tabla. I was looking to do something completely outside of design, to reach out into a different world and bring new ingredients into my work. There’s a time, rhythm and proportion in music that you can relate to design in a visual way. I also love learning transportable skills: yoga, taekwondo, classical music. These are things you can study and carry with you wherever you go.

NIPA DOSHI What I like is that it’s very abstract: Indian music is not something you read and play – you memorise it to the point you can improvise. It’s also mathematical – you have to stay within the frame of a 16- or eight-beat cycle, so you’re making a lot of calculations in your head. I’m a very mathematical person. I’m surprised when people think of my [design] work as more decorative or ornamental, because I think it’s very logical.

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