Please tell us about yourself
Chirag graduated from MA Narrative Environments in 2014. He finished his undergraduate studies in Mumbai and he worked with two interior design firms where he did freelance projects under his own brand name before heading to CSM – Central Saints Martin, University of Arts London.
What did you study Before CSM?
On completing my undergraduate studies in Interior Design at Rachna Sansads School of Interior Design, I was ready to put my skills to the test. Studying in Mumbai gave me a strong technical foundation, which heavily appealed to the Interior Design firms in Mumbai. As a strong thinker, conceptually young and technically sound, I honed my skills by working in two renowned interior design studios. I have gained a lot of experience studying and working in India, but I was thirsty for a strong conceptual base; which would only be best taught in a Masters outside of the Indian sub continent.
Tell us about your work
I am an interior designer by profession, with some experience in exhibition design. My interest in narrative spaces escalated as my love for contemporary art has grew. Collecting art and frequenting galleries conceptualised my thinking to look at interior spaces not only as functional and decorative, but as a personal tailored narrative experience. I soon began shifting from designing luxury interiors for millionaires and Bollywood royalty, to transforming gallery and museum spaces for performance art. I am looking at merging my luxury interior knowledge with narrative theory therefore taking exhibition design to new levels. I am looking at infusing typical everyday interiors with stories, making our everyday experiences more meaningful.
My most recent interior project was a fashion boutique in Mumbai for fashion designer Varun Bhal and Bollywood producer/talk show host Karan Johar, which looked at creating a luxury home experience while shopping. This would allow the shopper to relax on warm comfortable couches during the duration of their shopping, thus making them stay longer and shop more.
Another project at art gallery Chatterjee & Lal for performance artist Nikhil Chopra’s ‘Drum Solo’ looked at transforming the narrative of a bright and airy gallery to a dark bar-like space. The project at Dr Bhu Daji Lad Museum was to re create a Victorian dressing room for a performance in one of the beautiful rooms of the 19th century erstwhile Victoria & Albert Museum, Bombay.
How was the experience studying MA in Narrative Environments (Interior & Exhibition Design) at CSM?
MA Narrative Environments is a course about stories unfolding in space. We call ourselves story tellers, but the only difference is that we tell stories by designing experiences in the space around us. The course is interested in the narrative journey that one experiences when they travel through space from the beginning to the end. As children when we were told bed time stories, the narrative in these stories would let our imagination transport us to another world. Imagine if this story were to come alive all around you just as it would in your imagination, and allowing you to engage with it using all your senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell) then your understanding of issues and important topics would be understood and imprinted much better.
The course gives its students the tools to construct narrative, and these tools can not only be used to drive narrative into space but almost anything else. On this course you will design visitor experiences and events for museums, brands, urban and community environments. Exhibition and museum visitor experiences and design form an important part of the course. We work in small multidisciplinary teams (architects, interior designers, curators, graphic designers, anthropologists and many more) which leave you with a diverse perspective on the project topic thus enriching the outcome heavily, in comparison to the team being from the same background ie only architects.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
My previous studies in interior design and interest in contemporary art had influenced me to do projects in exhibition design. As this course touched upon exhibition design and narrative in spaces, which were both very new to me, I decided to research more about the course. As I studied the course further, I realised that its outcome was open to various possibilities. This would allow me to focus on my goals (exhibition and interior design), but also allow the buffer of other possibilities in case I change my mind at a later or even earlier stage in life. Ultimately the unusualness of the course name and its unique approach intrigued me, and I was sure I would learn many new things here while still being in the realm of space and design.
Our course thrives on collaboration. Since we work in multi-disciplinary teams we learn not only from the course but from each other. Collaboration not only hones design and aesthetic skills (soft skills) but also hard skills (computer software, model making and others). I myself have improved my Illustrator skills and learned Adobe InDesign from my graphic design colleagues on the course. In my interior design practice, I heavily gained knowledge from the contractors and builders. They were aware of materials and their skills in carpentry, stonework, masonry and others were much more heightened due to experience, thus improving the working drawing details, efficiency of the design and finally the outcome of the project.
How is London?
The city is a melting pot of cultures and a hub of creativity. The museums, galleries, art and design festivals along with the most important element – a mix of creative people from all over the world, all contribute towards creating this bustling design ethos. I did know that the atmosphere of creativity and the city’s energy would definitely influence my learning process heavily.
CSM is literally a mini-London within London itself. It is a world of creativity, collaboration and talent. It is here that dreams come true and imaginations come alive every day. It is a school of endless possibilities and limitless boundaries, except obviously the security and health-safety issues which can be a pain sometime.
What are your future plans?
After I graduate I hope to work and gain experience for a year or two before starting my own Interior and Exhibition studio in Mumbai. At the moment, I am working on my master project titled ‘Waste Wasting’. The project is an exhibition and a series of products that respond to the act of wasting food. Waste Wasting endeavours to inform the oblivious and engage the concerned about this issue. The final year on the course was about an individual’s or a small group’s major project. Since the course encourages students from various disciplines to join the course, our major projects are very varied which makes our final year exhibition quite interesting. Students are doing projects with communities, architecture, exhibitions, products in space, well being, installations addressing fashion, papers on narrative theory and many more.
Advice to Students?
Studying MA Narrative Environments is like a rollercoaster ride. It is an exciting and breath-taking experience that takes through highs and lows. The ride is so fast that you would not realise that times up and it’s about to end. So stop yelling, and cherish each and every moment.