Tuesday, July 24, 2007

IFA exhibitions in Stuttgart and Berlin: NID’s Bamboo Initiatives and Design from India on show in Germany.

It is exciting to see design work on show as models, prototypes and installations – and particularly thrilling when Indian design is being appreciated and showcased in far away Germany. Bamboo products from the NID Centre for Bamboo Initiatives are now being shown at the IFA Gallery in Stuttgart and later next month at their Gallery in Berlin. See the links to their website at this place below:
IFA Gallery, Germany

The National Institute of Design was invited to show bamboo furniture that was developed as part of the ongoing projects and research activities at the Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID (CFBI–NID) in their effort to position bamboo as a sustainable material of the future. The examples shown are drawn from a number of projects that were handled at the Institute by me and my colleagues, students and other partners in the field, especially our craftsmen and trainees from the BCDI, Agartala and elsewhere. These individual products may be seen as the tip of the ice berg, since each of these just represent a trace of a fairly large collection of products and design strategies tailored for specific contexts in India which have been developed in each of the initiatives that they represent. While some things about the design can be seen and touched there are numerous intangible aspects that can only be appreciated when they are seen in the context for which they were created. A full description of the strategies and the individual products as well as comments about the species of bamboo used in each exploration can be found in the writings and documentations that have been published from NID and the CFBI–NID in the form of books and CD ROMs that are available from the Institute. Several of these reports as well as product descriptions and photographs can be downloaded from my website at the Bamboo Initiatives links below:

Bamboo Initiatives
Beyond Grassroots
Bamboo Boards and Beyond
Katlamara Chalo
BCDI, Agartala

I will be discussing more about these Bamboo Initiatives on this blog in the days ahead and share how we have been using design as a vehicle to concretize our intentions of bringing development initiatives to communities and situations in India particularly for rural communities that are in need of some catalyst that can help them fend for themselves in a rapidly changing world that is increasingly globalised and in a manner that is both dignified and satisfying for them in many ways. That these aspects of design are not tangible in the exhibits is both a problem and a challenge for the design initiative and it would be appropriate for us to remember here that Germany is the home of both the Bauhaus (1919 – 1936) and the Hfg Ulm (1950 – 1968), both great design schools, nay great design movements, that showed the world the power and subtlety of design – from shaping form to structure, and from the creation of meaning and beyond – at one level a play of aesthetics and technology, at another economy and style and at yet another politics and philosophy and about the shaping and manifestations of a vision or intention – the shaping of culture itself.

The bamboo products are part of a larger showing that covers the Interior Design talents from India as part of an exhibit titled

in site
Interior Design in India

ifa Gallery Stuttgart: June 15th – August 12th, 2007
opening: June 14th, 2007
Charlottenplatz 17, 70173 Stuttgart, Germany

ifa Gallery Berlin:
August 24th – October 21st, 2007
opening: August 23rd, 2007
Linienstrasse 139/140, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Talking about the theme of the exhibition and of Interior Design from India, the organizers have this to say on their website and publication which accompanies the event –

“Young Indian interior designers use steel, stone, glass, wood, plastic and silk fabrics when creating homes and offices, bars and restaurants, hotels and shops. They combine high tech with craft artistry, Indian tradition with a modern, international lifestyle; they create spaces that unfold sensual qualities that go well beyond any Bollywood clichés.”

The exhibition presents examples of this in the form of work by the following designers and teams:
Canna Patel and Parul Zaveri/ Nimish Patel from Ahmedabad
Samira Rathod, Rajiv Saini and Shilpa Gore-Shah/Pinkish Shah from Mumbai and
Lotus Design Services from New Delhi (Ambrish Arora, Sidhartha Talwar, Ankur Choksi and Arun Kullu).
The Indian Institute of Interior Designers (IIID)
Their work and descriptions can be seen at the web links shown above.

The National Institute of Design show of bamboo furniture is but one part of this larger show in the exhibition. Our products are shown below with a brief caption about the product as well as the context for which they were created. each of these projects helped create many new products as well as train numerous students and craftspersons in the field. These experiences will be reflected upon in future posts.

1. Cube Stool: Designed to be made through mechanized splitting at Common Facility Centres (CFC’s) and later hand fabricated in several small scale production units located in the surrounding villages of Northeast India.
Designer: M P Ranjan.
Sponsor: DC (Handicrafts), Govt of India

2. Laminated Chair: Designed as part of the Bamboo Boards and Beyond project as well as the Systems design class at NID it is part of a collection of products that were used to demonstrate the future potential of laminated bamboo as a timber substitute for India.
Student designer: Mann Singh. Faculty Guide: M P Ranjan.
Sponsor: APCTT and UNDP, New Delhi

3. Rocking Horse: Designed specifically for production with local bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus or Bambusa affinis) and local skills using very limited set of traditional tools and very low investments and the product also has to be easy to sell locally and use no metal hardware so that local craftsmen can easily become entrepreneurs rather than remain as wage labour. We could call this a “poverty buster” type of product due to its self-help character. (My father started his tiny toy factory in Madras in 1942 with almost no capital by making wooden rocking horses and grew it into a big business before his passing away in 1988 – this was a source of inspiration for this product – however that is another story)
Designers: G Upadhayay and M P Ranjan.
Sponsors: State Govt of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal and the BCDI, Agartala

4. Katlamara String Chair and Arm Chair: Designed to be made using the simple joint that can be made using a drill machine and a saw as well as in a knock-down construction for easy transport to local and upcountry markets it is part of a strategy to build local entrepreneurship in a village that grows bamboo.
Designer: M P Ranjan.
Sponsors: DC (Handicrafts) Govt of India, Northeastern Council, Shillong and the CBTC, Guwahati.


  1. I very much like the cube stool and the chair made of laminated strips. Obviously the latter has very much spring in the back support but I wonder if the light structure can take the stress of such forceful movement. Other than that, congratulations!

  2. Dear Brian

    Bamboo is a relatively new material to the documented engineering and scientific space but it is a very old material in the traditional wisdom space of local communities that have been using it for centuries in India, China and Latin America. So as trained industrial designers we tend to look at this material in terms of our familiarity with wood technology and with plywood. However bamboo, and particularly some species, are extremely strong in tensile strength due to fibre continuity and structure and that is why this chair works in spite of using very slender members inj the back that are supported only at the bottom at two places. The Katlamara chair too works with single pole legs due to the enormous strength of the Bambusa affinis poles that are used in its construction since this bamboo species was traditionally used as pole-vault poles for sport and they can carry the weight of a man at the end of the pole of over 4 to 5 metres long.

    Prof M P Ranjan
    from my office at NID
    25 July 2007 at 10.45 am IST

  3. Congratulations! You and your team well deserve the honor.

    What I appreciate the most is the sympathy that you show to the rural communities and provide them with "dignified and satisfying" solutions. Bravo!


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