Traveling from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, in July Connecting Concepts arrived in the Indian city of Bangalore.
With some 8 million inhabitants, Bangalore was once known an the cycling capital of the world, but since it too has experienced huge economic growth, the city has become overrun with motorized vehicles.
Janak Mistry (Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology), Murali H.R. (Namma Cycle) and curator Ed van Hinte led a workshop aiming to promote cycling in the city and get the population back on their bikes.The workshop took place in association with the opening of the Premsela exhibition Connecting Concepts which travelled to Bangalore.
Together with Janak Mistry of Srishti, graphic designer and WDK lecturer Renate Boere, guest designer Ite Kingma from Bleijh, students from Design Academy Eindhoven and some 15 Srishti students, set out to put bicycles back on the map.
"The idea of the workshops wasn't to design a new bike," says project leader Ed van Hinte. "We wanted to make bikes more visible in the city, promote them if you like."
Van Hinte: "It was important to mix students from various disciplines so we devised different categories for them to work on."Ranging from cycling identity and branding, to professional cycling and cycling for leisure, the groups came up with a range of new concepts based on observations of how two-wheelers were currently being used in the city. "We encountered a man who earned a pretty decent salary from selling tea off his bike. This prompts the idea of professional use of bikes." A medi-cycle ambulance was conceived in which a bike is attached to an ambulance. When the ambulance gets stuck in traffic, a well-trained cyclist and paramedic can get to the scene in a fraction of the time.
With backgrounds in mechanics, PR and communication not all of the students were familiar with the design process but a lack of knowledge didn't stop them achieving amazing results. "Dutch design students Dirk Smit starting creating immediately and designed a bike which could make bike paths" by attaching sponges and water bottles filled with white paint, the bicycle painted its own bicycle path on the road during its journey. "The Indian students were much more conceptual and seemed to think more in words than images. Although the work process of Indian and Dutch students is very similar, I found the Indian students to be much more eager, more enthusiastic about the project," according to van Hinte.
Visual communication student Sugama Gopalkrishna about the project: "I think it's great initiative, Bangalore is an ideal place to start in India and if there was more visibility an infrastructure for cycling, it would really work here. I used to cycle as a kid, but don't anymore so this project was close to my heart. My interdisciplinary background helped me to think of different ways to promote cycling in the city."
And how about working with Dutch students? "I think there is definitely a difference between our work methods because of what we are exposed to in our education. This kind of workshop was good, as it opened us up to other ways of thinking."
For product design student Aniruddha Gupte the project also took a personal level as she cycles everyday. "Cycling is seen as a poor man's mode of transport yet, an occupational cyclist aspires to upgrade to a motorized vehicle. Yet the upper-classes are turning towards cycling as a recreation and fitness, thus painting a contradictory picture."
Through the medium of film, Gupte's group aimed to give the average cyclist an identity. "A recreational cyclist feels like a million bucks flying on his expensive bike dressed in flashy lycra. We wanted to instill that same childlike pride in an occupational cyclist."
And what are her thoughts on the Indian-Dutch collaboration?
"Well, I can’t really say as there were just a couple of Dutch students involved in the project. I personally admire the ease at which they were able to grasp the cultural dynamics, get on the street and get involved."
Cycle City Bengaluru is part of the traveling exhibition Connecting Concepts, a coproduction of Premsela - The Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion and Design Cooperation Brainport. The exhibition is part of the DutchDFA programme.
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