Quirky architect-designer-photographer Arjun Rathi talks about thinking outside the box

He is an architect working on a bungalow in Faridabad, a container freight station in Mundra using wind-tower technologies from ancient Iranian Ice Houses to naturally cool the building, a budget business hotel in Mumbai, and is master planning advisor in an educational institute in Indore. He is working on modular lamp systems and exploring vertical and terrace farming ideas. He researches paper architecture systems and origami furniture. He is designing an 'Apartment for the Night', a 2BHK flat with all non-structural walls broken and spaces segregated by movable screens and shadows generated by soft ceiling and floor lighting.

You could be excused for thinking we are talking about many people but it’s actually just the one person. Meet Arjun Rathi. A Mumbai-based architect, industrial designer, photographer, a description that just about makes it into one business card! A student of Mumbai’s Kamla Raheja College for Architecture and the Berne School of Applied Sciences, Rathi's internship in Europe significantly influences his design. “By the end of junior college, I was quite sure I wanted to contribute to the city skyline,” says Rathi. His famous Refrigerator Table, made with a vintage Kelvinator door, won him First Place Peoples’ Choice in the Eco Art Awards, US, 2012. He is working on a series of Ambassador lamps as an ode to the good old Ambi. A table lamp, created from the headlight of the iconic Royal Enfield bike, is another eye-catching design. Says Rathi, “I grew up in the 80s and 90s, and I see products of that era in scrap markets. The refrigerator tables and headlight lamps are a tribute but they are also about recycling industrial design.”

Can urban furniture, apart from being functional, also solve issues like power, water and air pollution? For the Driss El Jay Market proposal in Casablanca, Rathi worked on a rain-water harvesting tree around which the market place was designed. "The water was purified through the trunk and available at ground level through taps,” he says.

Coupling origami with architecture is another key interest. The Origami Cafe in Andheri, Mumbai, a low-budget concept café, was scrapped due to property disputes but it "gives interiors a unique quality of weightlessness and delicacy. We were able to get paper origami resistant to water and easily cleanable,” he says. He has proposals for origami in housing projects, airplane hangars and temple forms.

Rathi says India has a vibrant and talented design scene but fewer platforms to showcase out-of-the-box work. “That is changing rapidly with design events like India Design Forum, Kochi Bienalle and India Art Fair,” he says with optimism. Find him at arjunrathi.com.