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Changing The Games

Designer duo Aditi Agrawal and Anjali Menon’s studio, Gudgudee, develops recreational areas and products to help make our metros more child-friendly, one playground at a time, learns Huzan Tata.

Huzan Tata

Although India is on the path towards modernising its infrastructure and lifestyle amenities, open spaces and gardens, particularly for kids, to enjoy the outdoors are still few and far between. Now, two NID-graduates are out to change the landscape of play. Aditi Agrawal and Anjali Menon, who started their company, Gudgudee, in 2014, are redefining spaces with fun products — like life-sized drums and macaron-shaped swings — that are a step forward in the world of playground design and suitable for children of varied age groups, needs and skills. On behalf of the duo, Menon talks to Verve about their endeavour...

What was the impetus behind starting Gudgudee and focussing on a niche market in India?

When we were students at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, we visited the Blind People’s Association (BPA) as a part of our research. The BPA doesn’t just cater to the visually challenged, it also offers training and school systems to all kinds of special-needs children. We realised that they participated in many learning and fun activities in the classroom, but they never stepped outdoors to play. This came as a shock to us. We discovered two reasons for this: the social stigma attached to disability, and the fact that the existing play equipment was unsuitable for these kids. So under the guidance of our mentor, Praveen Nahar, we decided to design a space within the BPA’s campus, where the school children, their siblings and other kids could play. We realised that adding a belt, a safety harness or a ramp to the existing swings and slides would not work, as those would end up making the play area exclusive to children with special needs.

So, we started from point zero to explore what ‘play’ really is. We met psychologists, therapists, teachers and parents to understand their perspectives. It is not merely a mindless activity that children indulge in during their free time; play also perfects their gross and fine motor skills, improves their cognitive and imaginative skills, and it helps them learn to negotiate their way through social situations and make friends. Play is as essential as education to a child’s overall development.

The elements we designed for the BPA playground were really appreciated by the staff. This project won us the iF Concept Design Award in Germany. That was a great learning experience and led to the realisation that playgrounds in India have not evolved in the last 30 years. We decided to plunge into the deep end as we believed that we had the tools to solve this issue. Designing playgrounds is the most fun job! It’s a niche market right now, but the demand and awareness is definitely growing.

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June - July 2019

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