From Delhi and Hyderabad, to London, Bangkok and Abu Dhabi, Rooshad Shroff has made a mark, his love for architecture extending beyond laying foundations and constructing homes. When he founded his studio in Mumbai in 2011, Shroff vowed to steer clear of his comfort zone and not restrict his thinking, and instead, delve deep into the varied shades of the design spectrum, from planning architecture and interiors to crafting bespoke contemporary furniture.
Hailing from a family of architects and designers, with dinner-table conversation often centred around buildings and and aesthetics, Shroff’s attraction to the creative field was inevitable. At a time when most men and women his age would be focussed on figuring out their careers, the Cornell and Harvard graduate spent his time honing his inherent design skills at Zaha Hadid Architects in London and REX + OMA in New York, only to return to India with immense technical knowhow, ready to carve out a niche for himself in the high-end luxury interiors space.
Today, with a special focus on modernising and adding elements of luxury to traditional Indian craft, Shroff is a highly-acclaimed, award-winning name, his work structured on the philosophy of integrated design. His diversified practice ranges from high-profile private homes to retail spaces, as well as exhibitions and visual merchandising for luxury giants such as Hermès and Christian Louboutin. Rooted in his work is a sincere attempt to induce a new respect for Indian artisanry. Working extensively with craftspeople from Jaipur for marble carving, New Delhi for woodwork, and Mumbai, and Lucknow for embroidery, Shoff adds a modern aesthetic to India’s centuries-old techniques and skills to ensure they survive the pushback from contemporary principles.
The multifaceted designer shares his diverse interests, efforts to differentiate his work from art and the evolving consumer eye.
HELLO!: Take us back to the memories that inculcated a love for architecture and design in you.
RS: My father is an architect and my mother, an interior designer. So you could say it’s in my DNA. As children, my brother and I’d accompany ourfather to the office; our exposure to the field and its nuances cultivated a natural interest in us both. It was pretty much a given that we’d both grow up to pursue the same profession — so much so that our parents hoped at least one of us would seek another line of work!
HELLO!: Interiors, architecture, furniture, products... How did you get involved in such varied aspects of design? One could wonder where the passion for such diverse interests stems from...
RS: I firmly believe in the philosophy of integrated design; from the very beginning, I explored the spectrum, working on everything from architecture and interiors to bespoke furniture and products. As an architect, you’re trained to ideate and create environments, as a result of which you cultivate a constant awareness of your surroundings. So while my line of work is chiefly associated with buildings, structures and interiors, there’s also this awareness that extends to every sensory experience. And I enjoy exploring design on different scales — the precise crafting of a marble vase can be as rewarding as the manifestation of a 15,000sqft private abode from the ground up!
HELLO!: Your practice is rooted in contemporising the traditional craft. Why not preserve the craft as is?
RS: Contemporising traditional craft is the way to preserve it, to renew and raise demand. We work with artisans to push the boundaries of techniques and processes, allowing them to experiment to create new, unique pieces. The essence of workmanship isn’t tampered with, but it has to adapt to evolving aesthetics to survive. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than exploring craft. Take our marble lights, for instance; while marble carving and the related technique has been around for generations, no one attempted to whittle the stone down to translucence to allow light to shine through.
HELLO!: You must find yourself brimming with ideas, given how closely you work with artisans…
RS: I’m endlessly inspired by Indian artisanry and craftsmanship! Our country’s wealth of ancient handicrafts can add a layer of sophistication to any product. I’m forever exploring new ways to further drive a particular craft, using it to define my aesthetic.
HELLO!: Your embroidery on wood and marble cravings and inlays are particularly marvellous. How do you distinguish between such craft and art?
RS: Art isn’t confined to the canvas. The mediums are varied, and it’s down to an individual whether s/he perceives them as artistic in nature or not. That said, I don’t want people to treat my work like art; I want them to be able to relate to the utility of a piece, engage with it and consume it within their environment. A work of art is more visually perceived, considered something to be admired but left untouched.
HELLO!: Any recent changes you’ve noticed in the luxury interiors space?
RS: Clients today are more discerning when it comes to designing their personal spaces. Having to spend so much time at home gave many pause for thought, and they have now reevaluated their requirements and approach.
HELLO!: How do you apply your learnings from eminent names overseas to your current practice?
RS: What you bring away when you’ve trained under the likes of Zaha Hadid are the rigours of working, an attitude of constant investigation and multiple iterations. She looked at design through all scales and didn’t focus solely on architecture; it’s what I try to emulate within my practice.
HELLO!: Name a few contemporaries whose work you truly admire.
RS: Independent designers Pierre Augustin Rose and Mathieu Lehanneur; Rose’s play with shape and form can be truly breathtaking, while Lehanneur’s mastery of material, particularly marble, is unparalleled.
HELLO!: Do you think we’re we on the right path to expanding the scope of the industry?
RS: The past decade particularly saw far more appreciation of Indian artists and brands, which is definitely a step in the right direction. There’s a perceptible evolution within the Indian market and consumer, even if it’s at a more nascent stage by international standards. Clients are more open to taking creative risks.
HELLO!: You expressed your desire to build a contemporary art museum in India...
RS: It’s my dream to establish an architectural landmark within the city, hence the idea of a contemporary art museum. But that’s far removed from reviving Indian design and craftsmanship; the latter’s emphasis is extremely strong in my ongoing work.
HELLO!: Any favourites among your many projects?
RS: Each project is a learning experience, and many of them proved exciting because they were the first of their kind that we undertook. I can’t pick a favourite as such, but in terms of memorability, I have a soft corner for The Gyaan Project. We worked with a dozen immensely talented designers; it was even more rewarding because it was the Indian artisans that brought their works to life. The project was also a wonderfully successful fundraising exercise, and the proceeds went toward the education of the girl child.
Do you love reading about interiors and are on a constant lookout for expert advice? In our July issue, we are celebrating the top architects and interior designers of the industry to give you an insight into their world along with an inspirational guide to spruce up your homes. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!
This has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s July 2022 issue.