Weaving Culture and Context into Every Space!

Explore how Studio Lotus integrates sustainability, local craftsmanship, and cultural influences to create meaningful and lasting space designs.
Weaving Culture and Context into Every Space!

Founded in 2002 by Ambrish Arora, Sidhartha Talwar, and Ankur Choksi, Studio Lotus has become synonymous with conscious design. From incorporating local craftsmanship to prioritising sustainability, the studio's approach is both innovative and deeply rooted in cultural contexts. In this exclusive interview, we engage the minds behind Studio Lotus, exploring their design process, core values, and vision for the future.


What inspired the founding of Studio Lotus, and how has it evolved since 2002?


Ambrish Arora: From 1997 to 2001, Sidhartha Talwar and Ankur Choksi were my colleagues at Design Habit in New Delhi, where I was a partner at the time. The firm, led by Amardeep Behl, was one of the country’s leading exhibit and museum designers. We got our first interiors project in 2001 through a friend for a young IT firm. Sidhartha was a Project Lead at the time, and I went on to design what we thought was fairly avant-garde work for its time, and the project won a few design awards.

I also realised how fulfilling it was to work on pure space, material and form, free of the overlay of communication. I think that is when the idea of Studio Lotus was born. I founded the firm in June 2002, with Sidhartha and Ankur joining as co-founders soon after. Fairly early in the firm's journey, learnings from working as a small group seeded the intent of this studio: to be a practice that empowers people to discover and operate as their best selves—driven by a sense of gratitude, trust, and love towards constant learning and innovation. These are values that we continue to live by.

Café Lota & The Museum Store, National Crafts Museum
Café Lota & The Museum Store, National Crafts MuseumNew Delhi

Studio Lotus is known for its conscious design approach. How does Studio Lotus integrate local resources, cultural influences, and sustainability into its designs?


Sidhartha Talwar: Conscious Design is integral to our practice. We look at it as an approach that celebrates local resources and cultural influences and practice it by being mindful of the impact on all stakeholders, including the planet. This approach also focuses on an inclusive process that deeply engages with the context of the region and its people.

For example, when we were commissioned to design Krushi Bhawan, a facility for Odisha’s Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment, we wanted to explore how a government building could embrace the local context, support local craftsmen, and become a vital part of the social infrastructure.

Our primary programmatic intervention was to lift the government offices to create a porous ground plane, like a public plaza. For farmers, this plaza serves as a space for upskilling workshops, establishing a seed bank, or hosting markets.

For the building's distinctive identity, we drew inspiration from the ikat, a textile weaving tradition native to the region. The ikat patterns were translated onto the facade using clay in three colours that allude to the colour of the soil from different parts of the region.

We collaborated with over 50 local artisans to create a vibrant and contemporary narrative of traditional Odia craft depicting agricultural folklore and mythological stories. When we commissioned the craftspeople, led by architect Sibanand Bhol, we only gave them a broad idea, and the craftsmen had great creative autonomy to develop the narratives and artisanal elements. Overall, this approach resulted in a design with a strong sense of cultural familiarity that the users could easily associate with. This intent resulted in the building's construction being highly collaborative while employing many artisans. In a small way, it contributed to skill-building in scale and new typologies.

This deep level of engagement helped create a contextual and relatable identity with a strong recall value for this building, instilling a sense of belonging in the local community and for the citizens of Bhubaneswar.

Krushi Bhawan
Weaving Culture and Context into Every Space!
Is This Really a Government Administrative Building in Odisha?

How do a space's surrounding environment and history influence your design decisions for the interiors? Can you share an example of a project where this played a significant role?


Ankur Choksi: Context is foundational to our design philosophy at Studio Lotus. It anchors our projects, informing decisions from material selection to spatial organisation. We believe that meaningful design arises from a deep understanding and respect for a place's environment, history, and culture.

Our contextual approach begins with thoroughly analysing the site's physical attributes—climate, topography, and available resources. We then delve deeper, researching indigenous construction techniques and exploring local materials and craftsmanship. All this allows us to create a design approach that is not only environmentally responsive but also resonates with the region's distinctive character.

Beyond the physical environment, we also consider the social and cultural context. We strive to understand the narratives embedded in a place, its historical significance, and the aspirations of its people. That helps us create spaces that foster a sense of belonging and connection to the community. This contextual approach extends to all our projects, from institutional to hospitality projects like RAAS Chhatrasagar, which celebrates Rajasthan and its craftsmen.

We drew inspiration from the local flora and fauna, incorporating them on surfaces such as textiles, teak and acacia wood, and local stone.

The lightweight partitions of the tented pods are mounted with boarding and hand-painted fabrics executed in collaboration with printmaker Dhvani Behl’s studio Flora For Fauna. Borrowing from Japanese woodblock printmaking and uniting it with local motifs, giant woodcuts depicting native trees and birds were hand-printed on pre-stitched fabric lining.

The suites are outfitted with floor-mounted AC units, which also serve as wooden consoles, featuring hand-carved motifs of the ker berries, which come from the Khejri tree, ubiquitous in the region. These motifs were first scaled and transferred onto paper and then carved onto wood.

The reference to local biodiversity is captured in reception-cum-restaurant as well, on the hand-chiselled chitar stone panels. The bar counter sums up the experience with its elaborate relief of a flock of flamingos. Overall, this nuanced approach to integrating crafts with the design allowed us to add a distinctive regional flavour and deepen guests’ connection to the landscape.

RAAS Chhatrasagar
RAAS ChhatrasagarNimaj, Rajasthan

How does Studio Lotus balance functionality and aesthetics in architectural and interior design?


Asha Sairam: A delicate balance between functionality and aesthetics is the pathway for something to become innately beautiful and well-fitting within its context. The theme of beauty is central to all our work, irrespective of scale. For us, it is an intangible, evocative experience—of space and volume, light and air, materiality, refinement of detail, and celebrating the organic imperfections of craft. We see beauty as having a deep connection to sustainability in that beautiful and well-made structures have an inherent quality that enables them to endure the test of time in their emotive, aesthetic, and functional aspects.

Royal Enfield Garage Cafe
Royal Enfield Garage CafeBaga Creek, Goa

We have seen some truly unique and unconventional concepts in your portfolio. What inspires you to push the boundaries of design in your interior projects? How do you find that balance between innovation and functionality?


Asha Sairam: Innovation to us is not a big 'wow' or a 'eureka moment'. That's why I would interpret this question as “Do we have the opportunity to do innovative work for every single project?” So, do we? Yes, 100%. That is a function of the process we follow, where right from the time we get the brief to the decisions made at every stage of the project—whether it is concept, design development, detailing, or execution—there is an opportunity to innovate at every step. So, as long as the right questions are being asked at each stage, one can innovate.

Even selecting a contractor or engaging in a contract allows innovation. So, every project and every stage allows for some degree of innovation.

When we were commissioned to design for well-known Indian designer Rajesh Pratap’s flagship store in Emporio Mall, New Delhi, we started by identifying construction techniques that would reflect the brand’s hallmarks of simplicity, purity, and craftsmanship. Its frugal identity was interpreted as a white latticed frame inserted into the building shell.

Examining the tools of the trade, in close collaboration with Rajesh Pratap, we explored options starting with disassembling a sewing machine and found our answer in the tailor’s humble tool, a pair of scissors. This modest scissor was adopted as a leitmotif, where multiple iterations were developed with over 12,000 pairs, laid out to form lace-like surfaces by integrating the craft of hand-welding.

Welded into motifs and patterns, they wrap along the walls and ceiling, creating a filigree envelope. At first glance, the space appears to be a simply crafted enclosure alluding to Pratap’s clothes. At close quarters, the blades and rounded handles reveal themselves, clasped to each other like a structured fabric—the white-painted metal work juxtaposed against the shell attempts in some ways to echo Pratap’s distinctive design ethos.

Rajesh Pratap Singh Flagship Store
Rajesh Pratap Singh Flagship StoreNew Delhi

Creating meaningful user experiences seems to be a cornerstone of Studio Lotus' design process. How does your approach to interior design differ when it comes to public spaces versus private residences?


Ankur Choksi: When designing private residences, we are most attentive to the homeowners' lifestyle choices, preferences, and specific needs. Our decisions are driven by their choices of how to use the spaces and how they would like to set them up. They are also strongly influenced by aspects of their connection with the spaces, driven by their aspirations, memories, and current lives.

Our approach to the interior design of residences also focuses on the timelessness of spaces, choosing materials that age gracefully with a strong sense of place. We strive to create a design language that endures the test of trends and fads in design while ensuring all the key elements of functionality are state-of-the-art and meet a very high standard of living today.

Public spaces, on the other hand, always have a shared voice and needs, which we work hard on aligning amongst all the stakeholders of either an institution, a corporate structure or a smaller business. Attention to articulating the brief that speaks to the need of the client or the client’s clients for a public space is vital to our approach.

This brief re-articulation exercise often allows us to add other contributing factors to our approach, such as revitalising craft and integrating local skills and materials, while creating a distinctive narrative that helps propagate the ethos of a brand, corporation, or institution.

To that extent, we spend a lot of energy developing a guiding process for the project and defining what questions we are asking, what we are focusing on, and who we are collaborating with to meet our desired outcome. This helps articulate the narrative we are pursuing and makes the process meaningful and enriching for the teams engaged with the project. On non-residential projects, our decisions are driven by a pursuit of finding the most effective way to build and deliver a space that truly serves the goals of a business or a brand rather than being guided solely by the personal choices of individuals involved in the process.

Paro by Good Earth
Paro by Good EarthThe Chanakya, New Delhi

Collaboration seems to be the key to your design process. How does your team approach working together to ensure a cohesive vision between interior and exterior spaces, especially in large-scale projects?


Ankur Choksi: Yes, collaboration is the key to our design process and speaks to one of our fundamental guiding principles, which is the idea of the Collective Genius. Our best work emerges when individuals contribute their slice of genius to this act of co-creation. The studio culture is dedicated to nurturing this approach, with all team leaders and principals actively working together to cultivate an environment of collaboration. Our design process includes everyone, from the principals to the interns, fostering a culture centred on a high degree of individual ownership. This dialogue with design extends not just to team members but includes clients, consultants, contractors, artisans, construction workers, and so on, enabling them to contribute to what will directly impact the project, their lives and society.

Each of us principals has distinct strengths and perspectives. Yet we are held together by a common objective and set of values. It fundamentally helps that there is an immense amount of trust. So, within that space, while there are invariably differing views, our ability to listen, discuss and come to a common ground allows us to truly capitalise on this idea of collective genius. Our work is richer for it. While the projects may not be aesthetically or architecturally similar, there is an ethos that comes through. We believe this makes the work of the studio less predictable. There is both cohesion and diversity. A deliberate attempt to break silos and work with each other’s teams further builds on this diversity.

Masti Cocktails & Cuisine
Masti Cocktails & CuisineF & B I La Mer, Dubai

How does Studio Lotus approach the design process from start to finish, especially considering your focus on innovation and incremental methodology?


Harsh Vardhan: We approach design as an iterative and collaborative process. We don't believe in imposing a preconceived vision of a final design but rather allow it to evolve organically through a series of dialogues and explorations. We work closely with our clients, consultants, and even end-users to ensure that design reflects their needs and aspirations.

Our commitment to collaboration extends to engaging local artisans and craftsmen, incorporating their expertise and traditional techniques into our designs. That not only adds a unique cultural dimension to our projects but also helps us to sustain traditional crafts and livelihoods. For instance, in the Trilegal office project, we collaborated with artisans from the Dastkari Haat Samiti to showcase India's diverse craft forms, resulting in a contemporary space honouring the country's rich heritage.

Sustainability is a core value that guides our design decisions. We strive to minimise the environmental impact of our projects by using local materials, incorporating energy-efficient technologies, and designing for longevity. Krushi Bhawan in Odisha exemplifies our sustainable approach, featuring locally sourced materials and innovative design elements that reduce its environmental footprint.

This holistic approach to design—grounded in context, collaboration, and sustainability—has led us to create numerous award-winning projects across diverse typologies. Each project tells a unique story, reflecting the specific needs and aspirations of its users while remaining true to our core values. We believe that this approach is essential for creating spaces that are not only beautiful and functional but also meaningful and enduring.

Trilegal Office
Trilegal OfficeGurugram

Looking ahead, what are some upcoming trends or innovations in architectural and interior design that Studio Lotus is excited about exploring or incorporating into future projects?


Ankur Choksi: To me, there is an emerging understanding and awareness of how there is a homogenous experience of architecture and interiors globally, almost devoid of a sense of place. This opportunity for an authentic inquiry into what is sustainable, the reconnection and focus on the tactility, timelessness, and traditional wisdom of these domains is, to our mind, the most important shift that we at Studio Lotus are excited about. We look forward to taking on more adaptive reuse projects, where existing structures find new meaning for modern users while still sharing the memory of their earlier purpose. We need to increasingly move to repurpose existing buildings globally, thus reducing our impact on the earth by avoiding new construction wherever possible.

Weaving Culture and Context into Every Space!
Reimagining the brand identity for Trilegal!
Creative Gaga