a small pavilion on a lake

Namita Chandrashekar Designs for Harmony with the Natural World

This member of the 2023 Metropolis Future100 uses an undergraduate degree in architecture and cross-continental urban experiences to design for harmony with the natural world. 

Good public design rarely relies on angles or color schemes—it’s the cultivation of community that defines success. This concept is inherent to the practice of Namita Chandrashekar, who trained as an architect in bustling Mumbai before moving to New York City to complete her master’s of fine arts in interior design at The New School’s Parsons School of Design. With her project Incandescent Immersion, the young designer reimagines an urban interior within Central Park as a refuge for “the human and the nonhuman life forces that interact with the built environment,” she explains, creating an immersive structure that blends with nature rather than fighting it. “This urban pavilion tends to different definitions of interiority, allowing the scale of the grid to respond to the agents’ needs, be it a bird, human, tree, or light.” 

material studies made from banana leaves
Inspired by the idea of letting nature be a co-creator in the process of design, Chandrashekar composed this lamp out of banana leaves. She used traditional weaving practices along with cornstarch as a natural glue to hold the free ends of the weave in place. COURTESY NAMITA CHANDRASHEKAR

Designing in Partnership with Living Materials

The rich textures of nature are abundant in Chandrashekar’s work. In Thrissur, a material exploration in birch plywood and banana leaves, the flat, hearty fronds are woven into a series of traditional floor tables, crafting an homage to the ubiquitous banana leaves used in family celebrations and holiday festivities in South India. In Weave, the same leaves are transformed into a biodegradable lamp prototype. “When you let nature be a co-creator in the process of design, the outcomes are far more beautiful,” she says of working with sustainable materials like peace lilies and fallen ginkgo leaves. “I have seen projects bloom to life by incorporating a natural element,” she says, explaining that “you learn to be more delicate and nurturing when you are using living materials, as there is so much you cannot control.” In addition, Chandrashekar notes that when you listen and respond to the needs of your material, the process is elevated to one of partnership. “You are no longer driving the project but collaborating with the materials.” 

a map of a plan for an architectural project
This urban pavilion in Central Park is designed as a refuge for human and nonhuman life forces. The project aims to create an interior space that coexists with the natural world. COURTESY NAMITA CHANDRASHEKAR

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