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These Design Studios are Expanding the Landscape of Contemporary Indian Museums

Witness the evolution of museum architecture via these five design firms whose groundbreaking work redefines artistic engagement.

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From the inside, museums play a crucial role in disseminating art, knowledge and innovation; from the outside they are equally story tellers revealing the social and cultural impacts of design. Explore the work of five Indian design studios that are leading the culture conversation in India.


1. Design Workshop 

Manshakti Mindgym Museum, Lonavala

Mindgym by Manshakti Ashram

Mindgym by Manshakti Ashram was designed and completed in 2019 by Pune-based Shabbir Unwala, founder of Design Workshop. This is a space that “enhances concentration, creativity and coordination (all matters of the mind) by prioritising movement and natural light”. Unwala says each of these requisites was realised seamlessly “by taking the Hindu symbol of spirituality- a form which made it possible to introduce a circular movement ”. The Swastika-shaped building is designed to guide people through rooms in a logical, clockwise order. Emphasising the importance of natural light to illuminate the inside, he conceived a sun-path diagram that interacts with the structure’s design, creating a shadowless environment; the façade mimics a diamond’s facets via large-scale, strategically-placed glass windows that allow light in, sans shadows. The building’s four arms act like lungs, with each room releasing carbon dioxide through hidden ducts and high-speed fans, while fresh air enters from the windward side. This design promotes sustainability through passive cooling and by allowing ample natural light to enter all day.

The museum was designed and completed in 2019 by Pune-based Shabbir Unwala, founder of Design Workshop
The Swastika-shaped building is designed to guide people through rooms in a logical, clockwise order



2. Vastushilpa Sangath LLP

Smritivan Earthquake Memorial and Museum, Bhuj

Ahmedabad-based Vastushilpa Sangath LLP was entrusted by the Gujarat State Government with the task of conceiving a memorial and museum dedicated to the victims of the 2001 earthquake. Completed in 2022, the complex celebrates the resilience and culture of the region, as interpreted by chief architect Rajeev Kathpalia. Built on a hill, the project commenced with the succinct brief of planting a tree for each victim. The reservoirs built to rejuvenate the water table recall ancient water tanks, their walls inscribed with the names of the earthquake victims. With its various galleries, the museum is designed around a “spine” that zigzags 50-metres uphill till the sun point – a reflective space where people can gather. Kathpalia explains, “The museum’s galleries follow the natural contours and the logic of vernacular building methods.” The sinuous pathway features a circular concrete structure with shuttering made from wood battens and symbols used by Kutch farmers imprinted on the concrete surface; it is canopied with funnel-shaped structures in polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that directs rainwater to collection points for harvesting. And so, this is an ingenious museum that fosters biodiversity.

Photograph by Sohaib Illyas
Photograph by Vinay Panjwani


3. Archohm

Museum of Socialism-Jayaprakash Narayan Interpretation Centre, Lucknow

Museum of Socialism-Jayaprakash Narayan Interpretation Centre, Lucknow

Designed by Delhi-based Archohm, this wedge-shaped museum in Lucknow celebrates the ideology of socialism while also reflecting the times we live in – both in its experience and space-making. According to Sourabh Gupta, principal architect, “The design conveys urbanity and nature and celebrates one of the ‘few good men’, socialist Jayaprakash Narayan.” JPNIC’s bold form exudes empowerment, proclaiming that, be it a building or man, one must be undaunted while envisioning and realising a dream. Despite its scale and unconventional shape, the building’s clean and clear lines are deceptively simple. The structure features two triangular façades and a stepped sloping roofline, allowing visitors to climb to its apex and take in views of the city. Its concrete structure is clad in earth-toned terracotta tiles; a specific material chosen for its timeless quality and ease of maintenance – both elements much needed for a public space of this nature. 

Designed by the Delhi-based architectural firm, Archohm
This wedge-shaped museum in Lucknow celebrates the ideology of socialism


The museum’s design reflects the times we live in – both in its experience and space-making


4. Opolis Architects 

Bihar Museum, Patna

The Bihar Museum in Patna is designed by Opolis Architects, Photograph by Ariel Huber

The design of the Bihar Museum is intended to create an engaging and appropriately-scaled response to a multi-faceted museum programme, spread across a 25,410-square-metre complex. Executed by Mumbai-based Opolis in association with Maki and Associates, Japan, the museum was completed in 2017 and is designed as a low-profile “campus” rather than a singular building. Rahul Gore, principal architect at Opolis, explains, “The ‘campus’ planning approach enabled simultaneous constructions of the entire foot-print and facilitated phased building opening.” Its numerous volumes are linked via interconnected courtyards, cloisters, and landscape elements; a composition of seven geometrical courtyards become critical nodes around which museum programmes are organised. Open voids also function to control the light, offering dramatic ambiences within the building that induce peace and mindful contemplation. From the outside, the building’s exterior is made with weathering corten steel – a durable material that creates a striking contrast with the surrounding greenery. This steel is supplemented by muted colours and a modern material palette that includes stone, terracotta, and glass finishes, all of which establish a clear connection to Bihar’s past and future.

Photograph by Ariel Huber
Photograph by Ariel Huber


5. Mathew and Ghosh Architects

Museum of Art & Photography, Bengaluru

Museum of Art and Photography, Bangalore, Photograph by Iwan Baan

This private museum, brainchild of industrialist and art collector Abhishek Poddar, was completed in 2023 by Mathew and Ghosh Architects. Soumitro Ghosh, principal architect, says, “It was envisaged fundamentally as a colonial construct, in an unfolding postcolonial narrative and the movement towards a more equitable delineation of artefacts and their spaces.” The building’s exterior, enveloping five storeys, is clad in steel panels embossed with a cross pattern – a façade reminiscent of an industrial water tank – a design aimed to metaphorically link safeguard valuables; in this instance, art. This hermetic steel box appearance plays into the core role of curatorship as a repository, alluding to the larger global origins of the modern museum. Simultaneously, it challenges this very traditional image by using a material often linked with mundane industrial storage – stainless steel. At the centre of the west-facing façade, a dichroic glass coating illuminates the stairs and circulation decks inside, with splashes of constantly mutating colour, creating an ever-changing landscape within as the day progresses. The building itself rises above a podium, creating a splendid public threshold – a place of exchange and equity – one that acts as a significant physical marker of social discourse.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan
Inside the museum, photographed by Iwan Baan




Story by Vinita Kunnath


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