Indian `jugaad’ comes to New York

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NEW YORK - Jerry-rigged cars, homemade stoves and do-it-yourself water filtration are all examples of what the Indians call “jugaad” in Hindi or “making do” with what they have on hand in Indian cities.

Now Americans for the first time are set to experience “jugaad” - loosely translated as that certain resourcefulness and innovation found in Indian cities - at an exhibition “Jugaad Urbanism: Resourceful Strategies for Indian Cities”, opening here Thursday.

Organised by the Centre for Architecture, the first exhibition in the US on contemporary Indian urbanism explores how the energy of citizens “making do” can be an inspiration and a catalyst for the worldwide community of architects, designers, and urban planners.

With so much emphasis on high design and high-tech in typical architecture shows, an exhibition focussing on design by the people, for the people, of Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Pune brings a new perspective to the international conversation about designing for life in contemporary cities.

The exhibition on view Feb 10-May 21 juxtaposes these homemade solutions and the “designed” ones, showing how the two can build off of one another to improve city life.

As curator Kanu Agrawal says, “Jugaad strategies allow designers to work with maximum adaptability and imagination”.

“Inspired by the skill and ingenuity of grassroots tactics as well as a careful use of meagre resources, designers can be thoughtful contributors for healthier, safer, and more equitable cities.”

“With their organisational skills and expertise they can provide examined ways of improving living conditions,” he says.

Margaret Castillo, president of the American Institute of Architects’ New York Chapter, says: “Together, the exhibition and programmes aim to educate both local and international audiences about the critical issues of growing cities.”

“While Mumbai may seem a world away from New York City, the lessons learned from its empowered citizens and designers can be applied to rapidly expanding cities with similar issues, such as Rio or Guangzhou.

“Object-based, small-scale urbanism proves that good design has the power to make the world a better place,” she says.

Related programmes will include a day-long symposium on informal settlements and low-income housing in India, organised in partnership with the UN Human Settlements programme, and a weekly film series of documentaries and Bollywood features that focus on life in contemporary India.

The exhibition is organised in partnership with the India China Institute at The New School, the Indo-American Arts Council and the Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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