A residence in Bangalore shows us how the concept of jugaad works in the realm of architecture and design.
Jugaad is a well-defined Indian term – from India to the world. The mantle of this expression ideally boils down to low cost innovation. The concept of Jugaad, one might agree is closely related to the factor of adding ease if not survival. It can also be denoted as an essential exercise of gratifying the basic needs and wants in a simple and more localised way. Frugal innovations are pre-dominant in the organized sector of architecture and design too much as they are a part of the unorganized catharsis. The concept of frugal innovation may not seem like a novel idea in the cityscape but in Bangalore right in the centre of the city is ‘Kachra Mane’ defies this logic. Owned by Dasarathi G.V. (Das) and Riti Dasarathi (Riti) this project designed by mayaPRAXIS design + architecture exemplifies the concept of frugal innovation to the hilt. The team of designers included Vijay Narnapatti & Dimple Mittal, the Design Principals and Vinay Narayan. The building was constructed by a team of people led by Prakash from Vismaya Constructions.
The diffusion of jugaad which ‘Kachra Mane’ represents is extraordinary; elucidating on these frugal aspects Vijay and Dimple point out “We have used packing wood (wood that is used for packaging crates) in our work from the beginning. We have also used furniture and accessories from owner’s houses before. And when Das came up with the idea that we try and use recycled, reused stuff as much as possible, we were on the same page. In addition to the wood that we knew how to get, Das procured window glass, wash basin, WC, kitchen sink, lights, etc. from different places and we used it up in the building. With a little effort from everyone this is not very difficult to do anywhere in India. We are a country where almost everything gets recycled in scrap yards. Why let it all go waste!
The Kachra Mane is built on an existing house, and is kept lightweight to put least amount of burden on the existing structure and infrastructure. One look at the interiors is good enough to assert the fact that this project makes good use of pinewood. “Packing pine wood is available in Bangalore in abundance,” say Vijay and Dimple, “It is the scrap from packing crates of machinery and material that comes from around the world. It is sold by weight and also called ‘kg wood’. It is cheap, and translates to just about Rs. 500-700 per cubic foot. This pine almost always comes from plantation pine and that makes it sustainable as compared to forested wood.”
But what about the weather variations, especially the monsoon and then there are destructive insects like termites. How will the recycled pinewood withstand such invasions? Moreover the material will bear some signs of its previous use, how to tackle that? “Packaging Pinewood,” reveal the architects, “is treated for pests and weathering as it has to be robust enough for packaging and moving around the world even when left in warehouses and odd places. It is also a soft and easy wood to use. Of course, the packing pine will have nail and screw marks and comes in a limited set of sizes, enough to be used for partitions, doors, windows, shelves etc. By selecting the right pieces before it is weighed for purchase, one can get the best of the lot. Our carpenters are trained to do this. When planed and sanded, it looks new but the few nail marks that can be seen tell an interesting story and add character to the wood. The right polish is all important and in the exterior, it is all the more important. If not it can decay easily, bend and crack.
Kachra Mane is also a result of Das’s firm belief in the concept of waste management which takes into account the 4R’s “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle and Rethink”. Reuse and recycle is a tangible written all across this project, “The other two tenets – reduce and rethink,” says Das are “primarily psychological. The first step to a sustainable way is to reduce – don’t stuff your abode with unwanted items, minimize furniture and décor to what is only necessary. Secondly rethink your lifestyle, reduce your material wants and get a real life.”
When it comes to any product the shelf life is an important aspect and in recycled projects it is an important aspect to be pondered on, more so because the materials in their previous avatar have withstood stresses and strains. Principals Vijay Narnapatti and Dimple Mittal however point out the varied aspects of this argument “Any material, whether recycled or not, has a life of best effective use. The newer more synthetic materials, often with polycarbonates and plastics in them do not last as long as their natural counterparts moreover these materials stress our ecology adding to the synthetic waste, with toxic landfills surrounding us. A simple practice of conscientiously checking what the product is made of and what happens to it after its effective life can change our world immensely.”
One of the challenges when it comes to low cost innovation is – will it be desirable? Especially in architecture and design, form and function without aesthetics is akin to a beast – functional but not desirable. Hence the idea of elegance and beauty in design needs to sync in with the reused and recycled materials in a way such that everyone feels drawn to use them. The Kachra Mane does this in its minimal, simple and straightforward way.