Designing The Future

TransREporter|October - November 2019

Designing The Future
A new world emerges as disruptive technologies become the muse for architectural exploration.
Pancham Bhardwaj

The future is constantly in flux, and our limited capabilities often fail to come up with a believable version of our own aspirations. It is not that we do not have the imagination to come up with a future that hopefully is substantially better than the present. It is just that considering the exploited and burdened world of the present, it is hard to figure out how we will bring that vision of a clean and bright future to reality. These are some of the challenges that people in a lot of fields are struggling with, as they try to get past the socio-economic and technological bottlenecks that hold them back. We talk about some of these problems with Akshay Goyal, architect and founder of the Design’s Future’s Foundation, an organisation which is dedicated to creating tangible and feasible solutions for these issues. We met Akshay while he was showcasing some practical applications of the work done by his team, which ranged from a hybrid air purification plant to the large scale redevelopment of Chandni Chowk. We were quite intrigued by the unique thinking behind these projects and just had to learn more about how they are working towards designing our future.

In the course of the conversation, we found more about the journey that led to his return from the USA, and the creation of a team of international thinkers, with a shared aim of creating innovative solutions that leapfrogged the limitations of the current Indian ecosystem. This team included people from all walks of life, such as designers, hackers, urban planners, technologists, engineers and more. With each new member and every new project, they try to broaden the horizons of their work, through consultation as well as collaboration. In his own words, “It is about looking at innovation from the global side and the innovation is not just business innovation. It is an intersection of emerging technologies and design, and how that can help us think of these problems differently.”

The lessons learned through this experience are then utilised for teaching the youth of the country, through partnerships with colleges, to create a set of trained professionals who think in very similar ways. “These individuals then become part of a larger network, because for something like this you can’t have an office, rather a network of people who are experts in their fields, operating globally” he explained.

This sort of decentralised approach towards an already unconventional work made us curious about the way the organisation approached their projects. When asked to elaborate about how they picked their projects, Akshay explained, “So, the first filter is that we focus on the larger problems of the built habitat, whether or not the proposed solution fits them. The second filter is whether or not the idea is a bold challenge, and looks like it can help create a disruptive future. Once that criterion is satisfied, we start hacking things together, which involves prototyping, talking to scientists, getting the right team on board, doing more experiments, and getting the first proof of concept prototype done. The idea is to do your proof of concept quickly and at a low cost. Once that is done, you can start working towards fine-tuning the materials and costs. It’s all dependent on scale, and each step is incremental. I like to keep these types of projects lean, take them step-by-step instead of going all in.”

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October - November 2019