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Graduate’s India Town Captures Distinguished IIDA Scholarship

School of Interior Architecture and Design graduate Tanvi Shah was already an experienced interior designer when she moved to San Francisco. But she was missing something, the practical knowledge necessary to work in her new home. Originally from India, Tanvi chose to get her Masters degree from Academy of Art University to familiarize herself with the styles and standards of her new country. 

During her time in school, Tanvi realized that San Francisco was missing something too. It became her passion to create a thesis project that brought India to San Francisco. Dubbed Spice Village, Tanvi’s project recently won a competitive International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Scholarship Award.

“I love San Francisco, it is a city for artists, but there is no Indian cultural presence. I have to go to the South Bay to get good Indian food, groceries or movies,” she said of her inspiration to create Spice Village. “The whole idea came to me after I watched this really bad movie Mistress of Spices. Spices are a big part of India, the taste, the aroma, and the colors. I thought a Spice Village, kind of like  Chinatown, in San Francisco would be great for locals and people with Indian backgrounds.”

Tanvi chose a rundown block in the Mission area of San Francisco to build Spice Village. Her thesis included a Bollywood movie theater, performance theater, boutiques and Indian restaurants. She modeled different areas of the block after different sections of India: North, West and South.

“My main challenge was to appeal to Indians as well as other cultures. Spice Village couldn’t be too Indian or too modern,” she said.

The result was a “celebration of Indian food and culture,” said Director of Interior Architecture and Design Marlene Farrell. “Her designs are well thought out and timeless.”

Farrell encouraged Tanvi to submit her project to the IIDA 2009 Honor Awards. Student submissions were asked to address the topic of “Blurring Boundaries,” and demonstrate a design solution that in some way addresses the interior environment as an extension or expression of something “outside.”

“It was the right project for that competition,” said Farrell, who was thrilled about Tanvi’s award. “This is the mega event of the year for interior designers in Northern California.”

Farrell is quick to point out that though Spice Village has a distinct style, Tanvi‘s skill set is extremely versatile and can be tailored to the needs of the specific project. “Our students are prepared to design whatever needs to be designed,” she said.

Tanvi advises students to submit work to competitions no matter what. “I was unsure at first, but I’m glad that I took the chance,” she said.


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