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Designer and businessman Gopi Punyakodi on the interior trends and why machines don’t cut it anymore

From a mechanical engineering graduate, Gopi Punyakodi has come a long way. He is now a sought after granite sculptor-cum-entrepreneur. Specialising in making granite-based housing interiors and landscape exteriors, Punyakodi caters to a niche market. Having introduced granite inlays a couple of years back, the owner of Monolith Arts starts off by assuring us that his designs are never repeated. The last few months, he has been experimenting on the medium that people seldom consider for anything other than kitchen countertops and flooring.
Of stone and metal
“We call it granite panelling, where the stone acts as a background on which we etch another element—like mirrors, ceramic pieces and metals (mostly brass),” explains Punyakodi, who used to visit his village, Perumbakkam, while in college to learn how to carve the stone from the local artisans. He adds that the density, brittleness and the weight of the stone are carefully gauged before the inlay and the piece are put together with the help of a special glue that he sources locally.
By the hand
Punyakodi’s first “real” opportunity came when a contractor, working for internationally-renowned architect, Anupama Kundoo from Auroville, got in touch with him. She was putting together a team to work on a dismantable house design to be presented at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy. The 28-year-old made an unpolished granite-based pond area, without any mechanised motors—just using a hand splitter, chisel and hammer. A year later, through Aurovillian architects Dharmesh Jadeja and Dhruv Bhaskar, he got yet another big opportunity. He was commissioned by Krishna Devaraya, descendant of the erstwhile Vijayanagar emperor, Krishnadevaraya.“I was asked to create a new Nandi (Lord Shiva’s bull) statue for their palace at Anegundi, to replace the one that was vandalised years back,” he informs.
A new experiment
A proponent of handmade articles, Punyakodi states he depends less on machines and more on his workers (from his village). Currently collaborating with New Zealand artist Jose Bolstridge, who is in Pondicherry for the next two weeks, Punyakodi is chiselling a granite cycle titled Romeo and Juliet—which has handlebars sculpted to look like a man and a cross bar that resembles a woman. He is also working on a leading Tamil actor’s house, details of which are under wraps for now.

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— Ranjitha G

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