India Mahdavi

Architect, designer and scenographer, India Mahdavi is based in Paris.
Her studio, created in 2000, is known for the diversity of its international projects which explore the fields of architecture, interior design, scenography, furniture and object design – all based in one single street, rue Las Cases.
India Mahdavi is known for creating unique environments, combining a modern sense of comfort and elegance with color and humour – a cross-cultured art de vivre.
Polyglotte & polychrome, India Mahdavi has become a signature, offering a special vocabulary that is joyful, cosmopolite and elegant all at the same time

Conversations with India Mahdavi


India Mahdavi

“Danto is a brand with one foot in the past and the other firmly in the future. It combines the decorative qualities of historical tiles introduced in the 19th century, such as majolica tiles, with the forward-thinking nature of the brand, which has always challenged itself to conduct research into new techniques and expressions.”

Alternative Artefacts Danto (A.a. Danto) is an exploration of the potential of tiles. Key to this concept are collaborations with different designers. This opens up a seemingly infinite array of expressions of tiles in modern daily life, as perceived through their varied creative visions – in the same way chefs cooking with identical ingredients might bring to life completely different dishes.

A.a. Danto’s first collaborator is India Mahdavi, the France-based architect and designer. During a research trip to the company’s factories on Awajishima in the Seto Inland Sea, she shares her thoughts on tiles, technology and the role designers can play in the manufacturing world.

Interview and text by Kanae Hasegawa

A.a. Danto: What was your first impression when you visited Danto?


It’s impressive that the company is able to produce industrial quantities of tiles in a one-stop facility. The company can do everything in-house, starting with the production of the ceramic clay from which the tiles are made, controlling the colour and the firing of tiles.

I was also drawn to the process of layering and moulding the tile base itself. As far as I know, tiles are typically made of one base material rather than layers. In the Danto factory, however, the underlying ceramic clay is compressed three layers at a time. These layers add depth to the surface of the tiles after firing, even though they are not painted. In terms of decoration, speckled patterns can be injected onto their surfaces, creating slight differences in each tile, even though they are produced by machine. These variations are on the surface, with the vertical and horizontal sides of the tiles precisely moulded at the time of pressing. I am amazed that a sense of wabi-sabi can still be realised on an industrial scale. The extensive facilities are also impressive. In addition to blending the soil in-house, Danto not only has a manufacturing plant but also a research and development department as well as a performance-testing department.

It’s a beautiful factory, where one can feel the nostalgia and poetry of 20th century industrial sites. The colours and the organisation of the chains of production are stunning and, we thought, under exploited. It’s an amazing tool to create and define a new line of tiles for the interiors design market, because in previous decades, Danto’s production was dedicated more to outdoor architecture.

A.a. Danto: As a designer, how can you make use of the technology and equipment available at Danto?


In this type of facility, the creation is constrained by the machinery and the chain of production. Therefore, it was so important that we worked around these constraints so they are part of the design.

One possibility that Danto offers is the application of up to three layers of clay on a single surface, which allows us to create effects imitating nature – the wabi sabi on an industrial scale. Part of our proposals involved experimenting with the reactions produced by the firing process, creating a degree of uncertainty that materialises into beautiful irregularities and variations on surfaces, evoking a different kind of nature. This led to one of our collections, which both echo a shifted representation of nature, with the beauty of wabi sabi.

Another direction we explored is the cracked finish on tinted clay tiles. It is beautiful when the colour is not applied as a glaze but lies within the clay. The glazing has a transparent shine that is cracked and brings to the tile a moment of poetry, where colour becomes substance.

The third proposition reconnects with Danto’s tradition of producing ornamental tiles. We played with the relief of the tile, by moulding the clay and creating different scales of monochromatic grids. When it is assembled, it creates an interesting vibration, using different colour joints – this is our new collection.

A.a. Danto: In what kind of spaces do you think these tiles can be used?


Danto is a brand with one foot in the past and the other firmly in the future. It combines the decorative qualities of historical tiles introduced in the 19th century, such as majolica tiles, with the forward-thinking nature of the brand, which has always challenged itself to conduct research into new techniques and expressions. For designers, when they want to make a reference to some other era in the creation of a space, they can incorporate decorative elements. And when they want to create a more unusual space that has never been seen before, they need to incorporate innovation.

A.a. Danto: Designers are able to influence the performance of companies they collaborate with. As a designer, how do you see your involvement in Danto's manufacturing process?


We consider this to be significant. More and more manufacturers are outsourcing to regions with lower costs instead of using their own production line. This is happening because of competition. We believe that if we manage to design very specific and unique products maximising the technology and know-how of the manufacturer, it will naturally kill the competition, because the products are linked to the specificity of the factory. I believe that the role of designers is significant in creating such products.

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