Young and Dynamic Architects from South - Reny Lijo and Lijo Jos

Young Turks Dated:  July 12, 2014
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Architects: Lijo Jos and Reny Lijo

Founded in the year 2005, LIJO. RENY. Architects is an award winning design studio based in Thrissur, Kerala. The works churned out from this tiny studio, have been instrumental in influencing the way contemporary architecture is practiced in Kerala. Several important awards, including the ‘All India Stone Architectural Awards’, JK State Young Architect of the Year Award’ and the many IIA Kerala Chapter awards to their credit, are recognition of their relentless efforts in the field of design and architecture.

Here are the edited excerpts from their one-on-one conversation with our team.

Please tell us something about you as individuals.

Reny Lijo - I am an Architect and self-taught Artist born in the year 1981. After completing B. Arch from B.V.B.C.E.T., Hubli, Karnataka in the year 2003, I was trained at Gayathri and Namith Associates in Bangalore (2003). Right after the completion of the training, I joined Teamplus, Thrissur in 2003. It was in the year 2005 when I started LIJO RENY ARCHITECTS with architect LIJO JOS, my husband.

Lijo Jos - I am  an Architect and a self taught artist who graduated from Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Tumkur, Karnataka in the year 2001. I was trained at C&T, Bangalore in the year 2000 before joing Teamplus, Thrissur Architects, as Principle Architect in 2001.

How did you start your practice?

We started LIJO. RENY. Architects in the year 2005. Apart from our consistent experimentation with architecture we are also responsible for several site/space specific art installations. It’s our love for art that keeps us inspired/charged to develop interesting contemporary sensibilities in the architecture we practice. 

What kind of projects have you been doing?

We have been mostly concentrating on residential projects. But we also do apartments, institutions,commercial spaces, etc. Any kind of project that help us to grow as a designer is welcome. 

Tell us something about your approach to your projects.

As we have always considered to be ‘architects by profession’ and ‘artists by passion’ we try to strike a balance in the way we practicing both. This has helped us see most of our projects beyond just being mere buildings. During the initial stages of our practice we constantly reminded ourselves that ‘taking inspiration from the past was fine but replicating images from the past for the sake of nostalgia could arrest growth’. This prompted us to explore and experiment with new languages for the region. This could be a never ending process as it can only be done in small dosages or else it would be difficult for the public to digest.

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We look forward to a time when Kerala would also find a place for itself in the world map of contemporary architecture.

 Which kind of projects do you enjoy the most?

The kind of projects that let us experiment and learn and those which demand the best from us  are always exciting to working on.
Tell us something about your most favorite project.

It would be kind of unfair to make a pick like that. Our favourite project keeps changing with time, may be because, we, as designers keep evolving. At various phases, we would have different projects

From the Balcony Poster
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Postcard from London Collage Poster
fit our design approach. 

Who/what inspires you and your works?

Lijo Jos: Was into art, but never wanted to learn art in an institution as I wanted to explore it in a manner that was quite personal to me. If I were to learn something, I had decided that it would be in the field of design as I could explore/extent my interest in art. My interest in making weird structures as a part of school projects prompted me to take up architecture as it satisfied all quarters.

Reny Lijo: I was always fascinated by interesting designs (not just buildings) and my dad being a structural engineer, I was inclined towards that field, but I felt it lacked a creative edge to it which I was sure I would get in architecture.

Who were the people and places that influenced your decision? How and why?

Lijo Jos: My school, with various platforms that gave importance to several things other than academics, helped me develop my interests in art and theatre. The principal of my school had discovered my interest earlier and had encouraged me throughout my schooling. This along with my parents' support was definitely the biggest influence I can remember.

Reny Lijo: My dad had obviously put the spark in me and also to add on, an uncle of mine once told me that I had good taste in building aesthetics, which I bet he wouldn’t even remember. Being a naïve kid, I believed it and took as a compliment that I never forgot. These are just a few things I remember as such, but I believe that we are always in search of- how, why and what. And our mind library keeps all this information stored for such a time when we call upon it for help to answer our how, why and what.

Can you name some of the design icons, both people and structures that have inspired you? And why?

Lijo Jos: I was always inspired by art and artists more than architects and architecture. During college days, I happened to visit an exhibition of German art in Bangalore hosted by the Max Muller Bhavan. One small piece by legendary artist Joseph Beuys was a great influence on me. The direction of my architectural thesis changed after this visit and as a result I started to research on ‘installation art in detail. It was a time when installation art was not a big thing in India. But I was fascinated by the possibilities that it offered as it primarily dealt with space and the viewer, a common thread it shared with architecture,

Reny Lijo: As a student of architecture, one obviously studies the master’s works. Of the lot, I was influenced by the boldness displayed by Ar.Philip Johnson’s through his Glass house and the horizontal proportions of Ar. Frank Lloyd Wright’s many residences. Later it was Ar. Luis Barragan and Ar. Marcio Kogan. And lately I find lots of inspiration from unknown (to me) architects doing such good, thoughtful works. And the internet helps us with getting to know them better.

Do you feel architects and designers should be concerned about environmental sustainability?
Definitely, why not. It should be something that anyone from any field should be concerned about, let alone designers. But the word sustainability has been misinterpreted and misunderstood. It’s about time sustainability be authentically dealt with in all the fields. 

What challenges do you face while working on projects and what is your strategy to tackle them?
As long as one wants to do good design, a client’s brief is always a challenge. Strategy is always a little different for each client, it has to be. It’s the strategy that brings in the excitement and interest in each challenge.

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