Bengaluru-based artist Ruchika Nambiar in collaboration with the design firm, Studio Slip has designed a 1:12 true-to-life miniature house for her alter-ego, Little R.
“The Dollhouse Project” is an interactive storytelling experiment in which Little R is the protagonist. It explores the line between reality and alternate reality – part of her story overlaps with Nambiar’s while some of it is created for and by a growing community of online followers.
As a natural progression of the storyline, it had become necessary for Little R to have a home. Nambiar enlisted Studio Slip to design the architecture and interiors. They approached it just as they would a life-size project, with plans, elevations, electrical drawings and mood boards, despite their client being a 5-inch doll. Upon deciding on a contemporary industrial aesthetic, the house took eight months to construct and is made out of laser-cut MDF, primed and painted with real emulsion paints. Meticulously crafted with Jaisalmer and wooden flooring, rammed concrete walls, furniture inspired by brands like West Elm and Restoration Hardware, custom made Jaipur rugs, it also features miniature artwork by 15 artists such as Noel Fielding, Reneé French and Howie Wonder.
The house doubles up as a set for the story to play out and can be dismantled into four quadrants. “While the interior design process was conventional, the architecture had to be designed keeping assembly and photography in mind. We had to make sure all spaces would be able to come apart and also for a hand to pass through to take a picture,” says Kamini Rao, founder and creative director of Studio Slip. “The biggest challenge was making sure there were no errors on our CAD files. In life-sized construction, you need to do a site visit to point a mistake out, but in this project, all our files were going straight to the laser cutters! We also struggled a little with figuring out the electrical and wiring. Turns out it is not so easy when all the walls need to come apart!”
The project has seen a lot of community involvement from the outset. Apart from the followers online who partake in life and design decisions, the house was also central to a workshop, an open house and a house warming party.
“Several people contributed books to Little R’s library during a mini-book drive, helped name her cat in return for being its godparents, voted and helped her finalize on furniture pieces,” says Nambiar. She has plans of offering more workshops and opening up the dollhouse for public viewing.
Contemporary Architecture is already multidisciplinary, involving expertise and opinions from various fields, making successful interdisciplinary alliances a rarity. About the partnership, Nambiar says, “My collaboration with Studio Slip took place at two levels – I was their client, but I was also their contractor. On the one hand, they were my interior designers and working off of my brief and feedback, but on the other hand, I was also constructing the house based on their design and direction.”
Studio Slip has built giant cakes and created fake aeroplanes in the past. When asked about the future of interdisciplinary collaboration and multidisciplinary firms in India, Rao responded, “I named my studio SLIP because I liked the idea of risk-taking and finding myself in new and unexpected places. We as a studio need to seek interesting projects and be in a constant state of experimentation. Although we are multidisciplinary, we do get put into boxes. The film world only thinks of us as production designers and our corporate clients cannot wrap their heads around our other work. We are constantly surprising everyone, including ourselves and it’s so much fun. India is growing and the market is ready for unique concepts, I think that we are going to see a lot more from multidisciplinary practices in the future.”