On the Architecture of Design Public

Last year, when we held our first event in New Delhi, we wanted to have a real conversation on innovation, and sought out a venue where we might be actually be able sit together in a circle. This led us to a rotunda in the Taj Ambassador Vivanta, a venue in the heard of New Delhi where such meetings are often staged. We arranged our chairs in that venue in a circle for the first half of the day, and later reorganized the space into three distinct workshop zones. In the evening’s plenary we were once again ensemble, taking stock of the day’s work and thinking together.

At the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore later last year, at our second edition, we found ourselves in an auditorium with bucket seats and a strong proscenial divide between speakers and audience. When I got up in the morning and told participants that this was their event, and that if they didn’t like what was being said on the dais they had only to raise their hand I was worried that we wouldn’t get the same kind of participation as we had in the previous meeting in New Delhi. I was wrong, for the Bangalore crowd took me at my word, engaging and pressing panelists on all manner of topics, contributing fully to the conversation of the day.

Reto Wettach, an experience designer from Germany, who joined us as a panelist during that event said to me later that he could detect a kind of essential dna or root-logic to the Design Public Conclave. It would always involve about a hundred people, avoid all forms of electronic and multimedia presentation, require panelists to always be in conversation with each other, offer breakout sessions in the afternoon and a reconvening at the end of the day to evaluate progress made. This, he said, was its essential character, and something worth preserving and building upon.

On the 20th of April 2012, we meet in the National Museum, a building whose foundation was laid by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru more than a half-century ago. His intention was that there should be an institution founded in science that would record, document and organize artifacts from India’s past in ways that would inspire the future. We will be using its 200 person auditorium, as well as many of its expansive spaces for breakout sessions.

I am personally inspired by the architecture of this building, which reproduces in the idiom of north Indian architecture, the logic of European buildings of science, such as planetariums and botanical institutes. In this repository of India’s past we will have the opportunity to re-imagine its future as an inclusive innovation society, one where new and beneficial ideas can be brought to realization so as to achieve the greater good.

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