An Exclusive Glimpse Inside Bijoy Jain’s Exhibition ‘Breath Of An Architect’ At Fondation Cartier In Paris

  • 19 Dec '23
  • 2:54 pm by Pallavi Mehra

The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain recently unveiled ‘Breath of an Architect,’ an exhibition created for the institution by architect Bijoy Jain, founder of Studio Mumbai in India. The exhibit, which opened to the public earlier this month, is a celebration of Bijoy Jain’s work showcasing a deep concern for the relationship between man and nature, in which time and gesture are important factors. ‘Breath of an Architect’ explores the relationship between architecture, nature, and human experience through a series of immersive installations. The show is a space of reflection and contemplation in dialogue with Foundation Cartier’s iconic building built by leading French architect Jean Nouvel. Guests are invited to wander through the exhibition at their own pace, experiencing the works sensorially. 

Prima Materia, a hut made out of bamboo woven with silk thread, lines drawn with pigment-coated thread and a Karvi panel, a woven bamboo mat layered with cow dung, lime plaster and pigment. Image credit: Marc Domage

The Fondation Cartier is a contemporary art museum in Paris, France that was established in 1984 by the Cartier luxury goods brand. Its mission is to foster contemporary art from around the world, with a focus on emerging artists and new artistic trends. For almost four decades, the Fondation Cartier has maintained its commitment by inviting international architects to present solo exhibitions exhibiting their practice. These include Junya Ishigami (Japan), Jean Nouvel (France), and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (United States).

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Bijoy Jain, founder of Studio Mumbai. Image credit: Neville Sukhia

Born in Mumbai, India, in 1965, Bijoy Jain studied architecture in the United States, at Washington University in St. Louis. Between 1989 and 1995, he developed his architectural practice in Los Angeles, in Richard Maier’s model workshop,  making models for the Getty Museum, while studying under Studio Works founder Robert Mangurian. He also worked in London before returning to India in 1995. That same year he founded Studio Mumbai, staffed by skilled architects, engineers, master builders, artisans, technicians, and artists across continents. The studio is a space for research, in which creation is based on an iterative process, where ideas are explored through the production of scale models, objects, material studies, and drawings. Over the last few decades, Studio Mumbai has gained international recognition for its sustainable and contextually sensitive architecture.

Inside Prima Materia, a sphere with a bamboo structure plastered with cow dung, strings, and turmeric. Image credit: Marc Domage

Bijoy Jain has imagined ‘Breath of an Architect’ as a physical and emotional experience. The show is an invitation to breathe, wander in quietude and rediscover silence: “Silence has a sound, we hear its resonance in ourselves. This sound connects all living beings, it is the breath of life. It is synchronous in all of us. Silence, time and space are eternal, as are water, air and light our elemental construct. This abundance of sensory phenomena, dreams, memory, imagination, emotions, and intuition stem from this pool of experiences, embedded in the corners of our eyes, in the soles of our feet, in the lobes of our ears, in the timbre of our voices, in the whisper of our breath and the palm of our hand,” mentions Bijoy Jain, founder of Studio Mumbai.


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On Studio Mumbai’s brick tables, Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye’s ceramics were specially made for the exhibition. On the wall, Tazia study, a frame structure built from bamboo strips cut by hand, tied with silk strings. and partially covered with gold leaf. Image credit: Marc Domage

The exhibition comprises more than 300 works, including architectural fragments, models, drawings, and sculptures. Many of the displayed pieces are handcrafted using age-old Indian techniques. Jain has created a sensory exhibition of one-of-a-kind pieces using natural materials such as wood, bricks, mud, stone, and water.

Stone and terracotta sculptures, facades of traditional Indian dwellings, rendered panels, lines of pigment drawn with thread, bamboo structures inspired by tazias—funerary monuments carried on the shoulders in memory of a Saint during Shiite Muslim processions—these transitory, ephemeral structures present a world that is both infinite and intimate, and carry us to places both near and far,” adds Hervé Chandès, general exhibition curator, Fondation Cartier. 

Sun Tower, woven bamboo mat layered with cow dung, lime plaster and pigment. Lines drawn with thread coated with ferrous oxide pigment and sculptural stone elements covered with lime. Image credit: Marc Domage

Furthermore, on a suggestion from Hervé Chandès, general exhibition curator, Bijoy Jain has also invited Chinese painter—Hu Liu and Turkish-born Danish ceramist—Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye to join him in displaying their works for the exhibition.

Sculptural stone elements covered with lime and various panels of woven bamboo mats coated with cow dung, lime and pigments. Image credit: Marc Domage

Each of the designers gives the same importance to the ritual mastery of gesture, resonance, nature and its elements. They share the same beliefs and sensibility. Hu Liu’s monochrome black drawings are crafted using graphite, repeating iterations of the same movement to reveal the essence of natural elements: grass caressed by the wind, the rolling of the waves, or the forms of tree branches, conveying a timeless solemnity. 


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Hu Liu’s graphite drawings. Image credit: Marc Domage

In addition, Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye’s ceramics are also the result of exceptional skill and dexterity, as well as an intense dialogue with the clay. Siesbye’s ceramics are curvaceous, thin-walled, wide-rimmed bowls that invite the viewer to think about the silence of the space held within. Each bowl exhibits a paradoxical stance, between grounded equilibrium and ethereal ascension. 

Left: Naza Battu, 2023, terracotta sculptural element, hand moulded and open kiln fired. Right: On the wall, Tazia Study, a frame structure built from bamboo strips cut by hand, tied with silk strings. and partially covered with gold leaf. Image credit: Marc Domage

The title refers to the idea that architecture should be a living thing, breathing in and out like the human body. In the exhibit, we are offered a glimpse, however fleeting, of architecture’s sensorial emanations, the intuitive forces that bind us to nature and our emotional relationship with space.

The exhibition is on view until 21st April 2024 at Fondation Cartier, Paris