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A roving writers’ festival arrives at the Library
If you wander up the stairs to the dome in the next few weeks, you’ll come across a collection of beautiful kangaroo-leather cases surrounded by bookshelves full of Indian literature. The books and cases are part of a travelling exhibition called Bookwallah, visiting the Cowen Gallery at the Library after journeying thousands of kilometres through India. I spoke to designers Georgia Hutchinson and Robert Sowter as they set up the exhibition.
‘We have been working on the Bookwallah project for the past 18 months now. Initially we were commissioned to design or to propose a way to transport a whole catalogue of books and an environment for reading and cultural exchange around India by train – that’s a pretty ridiculous brief!
‘Working with Nic Lowe (the producer at AsiaLink), we came up with this slightly bizarre but ingenious way of doing that. Nick knew Soumitri Varadarajan who is the head of interior and industrial design at RMIT and is from Chennai in India.
‘We spent time at the dome throughout the project sketching things out – it’s a fantastic space for creative thinking with its high ceilings and so much natural light – it was a really productive and inspiring place to work, and it feels quite a privilege to inhabit such a vast space.
‘Together we designed and made a series of travelling cases and a pop-up reading room which expand into each site. We’re able to fill half of the Cowen Gallery, but also pack the exhibition down into six very unique cases and have them ported around by three (strong!) human beings.
‘The idea behind the Bookwallah is to enable cultural exchange and that idea is manifested physically in the design of the cases and through the materials that we chose to use. All of the materials are incredibly porous – we’ve used Tasmanian oak and vegetable-tanned kangaroo leather which discolours with light and touch, picks up scuffs and wear and tear and ages really beautifully. You can see the marks from all of the travel-trauma and the poets’ bum-prints from the tour last year.'
You can visit Bookwallah in the Cowen Gallery during Library opening hours until 1 September 2013.