Aarushi Kalra’s Theatre X explores the architecture of possibilities

16 Dec 2020

Aarushi Kalra states the store channels the philosophy of Border&Fall, challenging preconceived notions of a traditional Indian garment, a Sari, and presenting it as a more contemporary, dynamic and gender-neutral garment.

Aarushi Kalra, Creative Director at I’m X - an experimental wing of I'm The Centre for Applied Arts (India), recently conceptualized Theatre X as a concept store for a digital only platform - Border&Fall. Her design aims at finding a balance between digital and physical elements by creating a strong and clear dialogue between the two.

In her submission to Design Dekko, she states the store channels the philosophy of Border&Fall, challenging preconceived notions of a traditional Indian garment, a Sari, and presenting it as a more contemporary, dynamic and gender-neutral garment.

The space facilitates takeovers and collaborations, reflecting the brand’s multi-disciplinary approach to initiate new conversations while building an eclectic, global community around the Sari. Designed as a blank canvas, the store fluently embodies and enables the voice(s) and the program it represents. It’s based on the hypothesis that both, a sari and a website are open to interpretation and act like a canvas for personal and interpersonal expressions.

Theater X explores the future of modern retail, especially its relevance post pandemic. Though digital transactions have gained popularity, we are already feeling a major disconnect and digital burnout due to the highly curated, impersonal and unnatural interactions. We are rediscovering the intrinsic human need to belong to a community. There is now a higher focus on creating newer methods for immersive experiences which are also sustainable, conscious and individualistic.

Motivated by the challenges of futuristic ‘phygital’ spaces, Aarushi studied the enhanced flexibility of digital interfaces facilitated by mechanical systems to create a truly iterative store, defined by its undefined nature in these uncertain times. The store questions the architecture of a digital space by creating a unique setup for potentials, rather than assigning a predefined solution.

We are also witnessing retail becoming ‘less permanent’ in its physical structuring. This has led to an increasing concern for sustainability considering the surplus of resources needed to facilitate such designs.

This is where an opportunity for a store like Theatre X lies, as it enables impermanence with minimal resources and a maximum sensorial impact. Since the same space can be repurposed into infinite design languages with a minimal use of props, it contributes to the pressing needs for circular solutions.

The bones of Theater X are an assortment of prearranged systems, ensuring a hyper-flexible space, capable of taking on the identity of each new collaborator. A play of video walls, immersive light rooms with revolving and sliding walls, a hydraulic floor, a mechanical ceiling and crisscrossing automated curtains, changes the perception of the space every minute, challenging the conventional constraints of a physical space.

A neutral material palette, dominated by shades and textures of whites, provides with the perfect blank canvas. The chosen textures add a splash of warmth and comfort to an otherwise minimal, curated and hi-tech visual appeal, encouraging the viewer to touch and feel the surfaces just as they would a Sari.

Aarushi further explored this spatial fluidity by designing a takeover by Rimzim Dadu, ‘From Dawn to Dusk’ - an exclusive and surreal experience. She borrows from Rimzim’s penchant of using unconventional materials like metal, paper and plastic as raw materials for her fashion wear. The takeover space is imagined as an exhibition and flash retail wherein the visitor is invited to embark on an alternative journey through sunrise to sunset, experiencing a myriad of dreamy landscapes, playing with materials, colors and senses.

Designed to imitate the experience of a website, with navigation choices and interactive tabs, the base space provides with a predefined zoning which is customized to fit the aesthetic style of Rimzim’s surreal, delicate yet structured work.

The entrance is designed as an introduction to the designer’s ethos via the futuristic interface of Border&Fall, just like the About Section of any site. The spatial transformation is achieved through changing color scheme to evoke a feeling of the magnificent sunrise across the lavender fields.

Just as individual strips of lavender visually create an infinite expanse of purple, the purple lightbox lays emphasis on the endless hour’s craftsmen spend stitching each strip of metal to create a sari, bringing awareness to the beauty of handmade.

The experience is highlighted by a glimpse of an installation against an early morning sky, showing the contrast between a bulky iron ore and the delicate fluidity of a metal sari, signature of this designer.

This section gradually opens out into the Event Space, which has been imagined as a runway exhibition for Rimzim. It’s “A Surreal Afternoon” walk through the meadows under a clear blue sky with the main exhibit pieces envisioned as a collage of her personal inspirations. The modular hydraulic floor helps achieve the impression of an undulating terrain, with a central spiral mimicking the journey through a magical forest, lined with her work. The colour changing, overlapping waves in the moveable curtains are reminiscent of the landscape of the mountains, desert and the oceans.

This path eventually leads to the Shop Section defined by a calming sunset. The suspended walls and video screens are set to evoke an intimate feeling of an enclosure to lose yourself into. The rich sunset colors moving slowly across the screen feel tranquil, encouraging you to pause, creating an alluring shopping experience.

In closing, she stresses that by becoming a mirror for every collaborator, this space seamlessly embodies the fluidity of a Sari and a website, acting like an architectural, ever changing display, with a vivid and mesmerizing user experience while creating a unique sense of place. It becomes a part of a larger conversation, almost as a filler in the community in post pandemic times, where people come together to collaborate and build a wide variety of experiences that is not limited by a certain person or function. The resulting project speaks to a range of issues including sustainability of fashion and retail, brand and cultural identity and its connection to physical spaces.

‘It's a space that truly is a blank canvas, open to limitless possibilities.’

The Guest article has been written based on submission made to Design Dekko by Aarushi Kalra