Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bangalore wins Vote: The Design City of the Future

Bangalore wins Vote: The Design City of the Future

Prof M P Ranjan’s Papers

Image: Denis Cherdentsev from Russia and Prof M P Ranjan from NID Ahmedabad at the Design Museum terrace garden facing the Themes River with a view of the Tower Bridge and Norman Fosters famous Gerkin in the background view.

The British Council and the Design Museum in London had an exhibition to promote at their establishment located on the banks of the Themes River in London. They invited four designers and design thinkers from the BRIC nations to come all the way to London to a debate and each was asked to make a pitch about one selected city from each of their countries that had the most likely chance of becoming the next design city of the world. The Design & Architecture team at the British Council had proposed this event to the Design Museum and it was through the support from the British Council in London and India that I managed to travel to London to participate in this exciting event.

Deyan Sudjik, the curator of the Design Cities exhibition at the Design Museum and it current Director had made a selection of eight points in time when the world was changed in some significant way through the use of design. These eight events happened in seven different cities around the world and in his argument it started in London with the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and returned to London in 2008 and in the intervening period shifted from Vienna 1908, Dessau 1928, Paris 1931, Los Angeles 1949, Milan 1957, Tokyo 1987 and then back to London in 2008. The exhibition has an impressive collection of designed objects from each city and from the era that they represented and these were supported by pictures of the designers and some other related prints and texts. I am however surprised that Scandinavia of the 1960’s has been overlooked especially the work of the furniture masters at the Copenhagen school. Another point that crossed my mind is that the exhibition was almost completely object centric and the processes that formed the intangible parts of the visible offering did not form part of the debate in its favour. I am sure Deyan Sudjik has his own logic for the choices made from the vast array of possibilities that could be argued, for and against a particular city or an era when design made significant contributions to the world.

The people recognized by the curator in his catalogue are as follows:
William Morris and Christopher Dresser (London)
Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann (Vienna)
Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe (Dessau)
Le Corbusier and Eileen Grey (Paris)
Charles and Ray Eames (Los Angles)
Gio Ponti and Joe Colombo (Milan)
Akio Morita and Tadao Ando (Tokyo)
Norman Foster and Paul Smith (London)
The exhibits included works of several other designers who were living and working in the specific contexts listed above and the return to London in 2008 included many contemporary designers who have made a mark in the artistic and commercial circles with their design offerings.

The four architect/designers/journalist from the BRIC nations were asked to make a ten minute presentation each, back to back, followed by a rapid fire questions from the chair and the audience before the matter was placed before the whole audience to cast their vote to select the city of their choice based on their own reading of the four presentations. Ruy Ohtake represented Brazil and pitched for Sao Paolo as the next potential Design City. Denis Cherdantsev chose Moscow for Russia and Ou Ning offered Beijing as the choice from China while Prof M P Ranjan pitched for Bangalore, nay, Bengaluru as the next Design City from India.

The audience trooped in at 7.00 pm on the 15th December 2008 and the debate began with the first presentation about Sao Paolo followed Moscow, Bengaluru and Beijing. This was followed by questions from the chair and the audience and the when the matter was put to vote at 8.30 pm, Bengaluru was the clear winner by a decisive margin followed by Sao Paolo, Beijing and then Moscow. Systems models from Nature and people’s participation in a local Democracy were the highlights of the Bengaluru offering. The champions of the Bengaluru success are Poonam Bir Kasturi with her Daily Dump that promises to clean up the city through individual action motivated by the community and design scheme and this in turn promises to clean up the world when the design offering from Bengaluru is cloned in all the cities around the world just as the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) from Bogota in Colombia is now being cloned in New Delhi and Ahmedabad and soon will reach Hyderabad and Bengaluru as well. The other example from Bengaluru was the Industree success story as well as the scaling up achieved by Ray + Kesavan and IDIOM through merger and acqusition processes with big business involvement and the small and big design studios that have been set up by our designers as models for others to follow. The full presentation made by Prof M P Ranjan has been linked for download on the previous post on this blog.

I am happy that the audience gave the thumbs up signal to the Design City proposal from India in the form of Bengaluru and I do hope that this message will sweep back to India where design policy and design action is languishing due to government and industry apathy over the years. We do need to get local politics to take charge of design in the local context and move the action from the objects of desire in the consumer industry space to the much needed public facilities and shared facilities that are so critical for the city to become a place with “The Quality without a name” which had been explained by Christopher Alexander in his book “The Timeless Way of Building”, a quality that can be sensed and not necessarily be seen. Bengaluru has all the ingredients to make this work and show the world that the next design city will celebrate a new kind of design that transcends the material and deal with the intangibles that make a difference in the world and in the minds and hearts to the people.

The morning session on the 15th December began with an interview at the BBC at Bush House London the seat of BBC Radio that I used to listen to in my childhood days at Madras. Deyan Sudjik, Ou Ning and Prof M P Ranjan were interviewed by the BBC Radio team and the breadcast is expected later in the week and the schedules will be posted on the BBC World Service website. The next day in the morning a breakfast interview with the DesignWeek concluded our involvement in the series of Design City related events in London and their report is expected to be posted on the website here as well as in the print version of the magazine soon.

Prof M P Ranjan’s Papers


  1. This is indeed a great moment for Indian design ethos. I am glad that you pulled this off! Way to go, Ranjan! Happy for you, happy for Bengalauru, and happy for design in India!!

    A. Balasubramaniam

  2. great stuff. congratulations ranjan & other contributors to the bengaluru project!

  3. Dear Ranjan,

    Congratulations on winning the pitch for Bangalore as the future Design City, I am however, not convinced that Poonam's daily dump which is a great design solution for a local problem is going to scale to the whole world or the future Design city tag like the IT capital tag is necessarily going to work for the poor in Bangalore. Warmly Uma

  4. Congrats Prof. Ranjan,

    You made the whole Indian Design community proud. There would be a renewed enthusiasm in the Indian Design community to make their mark on the international scene.

  5. Gives great delight and pride to see how you have moved the debate and the vote on the Design City of the Future, in favour of India - Bangalore.
    Pure Passion Power - for Design and India ! Congratulations and Thanks !!


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