Inspired by the colours of phulkari, an embroidery technique native to Punjab, Studio Lotus worked with brightly coloured cotton fabrics to create a playful, festive and memorable atmosphere for five consecutive seasons of the annual Patiala Crafts Mela.
INTACH and the Government of Punjab approached Studio Lotus to design the Patiala Crafts Mela. The brief was to create a cost-effective structure of recyclable materials that could be reused for the ‘mela’ every year, and to take advantage of February’s pleasant weather when it is hosted.
The Patiala Crafts Mela is an annual fair held in February around Qila Mubarak in Punjab, which brings together artistry and fine craftsmanship from various parts of the country. The intent for this project was to create a vibrant low-cost outdoor environment that embodied the spirit of the Mela. Punjab is known to be a place with a legacy of vibrancy and a contagious enthusiasm, ‘melas’ or fairs constituted an integral part of its tradition. So, the primary concern of the team at Studio Lotus was to capture that typical Punjabi fervour.
Inspired by the colours of phulkari, an embroidery technique native to Punjab, the design team worked with brightly coloured cotton fabrics to create a playful and festive atmosphere. The task for Studio Lotus was to mould an area spread over 65,350 square feet into a venue as desired by the clients. It was accomplished by allowing the venue to evolve into a series of modules. Square and bright and multi-coloured tents hosted specific activities; and certain areas were circularly zoned off with flowing strips of fabric covering the top of the structure.
The choice of materials was crucial as Studio Lotus was looking for a cost-effective solution and could only work with local tenting contractors to execute the project. The design team chose to work with reusable materials such as cotton fabric and bamboo, and created a variety of sheltering structures by playing with how the materials responded to the elements such as sunlight and wind. Using largely fabric and paper to design the entire ground – awnings, chattris, pandals – around the Qila Mubarak, the entire area of the mela was lit up with paper lamps.
The fort of Sheesh Mahal, complete with a water body of 2 acres, was used as the primary focus of the set. The entry is framed with a colourful arcade of layered fabric. The walkways are framed by poles connected at the top by lines of colourful fabric whose flapping in the wind provided chequered shadows below. The simple use of fabric and colours brought back memories of the paper windmill sellers with their colourful wares.
The entire arena eventually stood transformed into a canvas of warm colours that heightened the essence of Punjab and the spirit of the traditional ‘melas’.