During the year 2018, all members of studio carbon happened to visit Europe. These visits, each celebrating our success as design students, were a testament to our promising beginnings and a hopeful future as a studio. It is for this reason, that reminiscing our time spent in this beautiful continent is important to our story.
Circular Economy Challenge was a competition organized by SNCF Reseau, which owns and manages the railway infrastructure in France. Mani Teja and Jitesh got the opportunity to attend and present at the finals of this competition. They were representing a team of four — Naveen Gonga, Nathan Pereira, Mani Teja and Jitesh. This final was held at LEtoile du Nord in Paris in July, 2018. An interesting Panel discussion preceded the solution pitches by the four teams at the finals. The panel speakers were a mix of people from the public sector, independent agencies and businesses doing exciting work around Circular economy in Europe:
- Nicolas Piffeteau- Phenix & Phenix Lab,
- Camille Saint Jean- Project Manager, Circular Economy, OREE
- Patrick Hervier- Waste Prevention and Management Network, Deux-Sèvres Nature Environment
- Thierry Mareschal- Circular Economy officer, Paris City. (Yes! Paris city has a Circular Economy officer!)
- Cyrille Bard- Strategy, Cirular Economy, SNCF and
- Patricia Cortijo-Strategy & Innovation, Utopies.
The discussion was centered around ways in which businesses as well as local government bodies could tap into Circular Economy to usher in a new phase of development in the region. We couldn’t help but compare the context in our own country to the kind of solutions being discussed at the event. It was clear that here in India we lacked the basic system to deal with waste even before we think of implementing solutions around Circular economy. However, this also meant we could leapfrog the process and implement solution learning from the mistakes done by our friends in the west, For eg. India already has an informal recycling industry- How can we empower it? We are not a packaging heavy lifestyle society but are quickly moving towards it, thus creating a monster we will soon have to fight like the west is doing now. How could we avoid that?
All in all it was a very stimulating discussion which gave a lot of pointers about how we could start to think about Circular economy in Asia.
The discussion was then followed by the final solution pitch by the four teams selected. The ideas presented by the four team were quite unique too, ranging from using rusted railway railings to synthesize an important chemical for the railways to an app connecting the waste generating and waste accepting agencies and individuals. Our Solution of using railway waste to build storage infrastructure for SNCF got the second prize! The evening ended with a small celebration and snacks and cheerful socializing with the awesome people present there.
We made a friend in the wonderful Philippe-alex Adde who offered to show us around Paris. The city was beautiful and really surpassed our expectations. We visited the Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Roaming around the city and seeing the very distinct architecture, one could not help but wonder, how much history this city held among its various arrondissements.
The second leg of our Euro Trip took place in October 2018.
During our systems course, many of us had submitted our work for the RSD7 conference. As it turned out, two of our projects got selected to be presented at Politecnico di Torino, Italy. The system for “Quality of Life” by Gonga and Itika, and “Space Debris Dilemma” by Christopher, Neel and Shubham were to be showcased in RSD7. Manikanta and Swapnil joined in our trip too! Presenting our work to an international community of system designers was a completely new experience for us all, and for some, it was our first trip abroad too!
Our first stop for the trip was Milan. We got an Airbnb in the Cormano region of the city. This region was on the very outskirts of Milan, and had a calm, suburban vibe to it. We travelled to the city centre and roamed around for a day. Milan is a hustling city with really beautiful architecture as well as people. The city really portrays itself as a fashion capital, with people from all age groups wearing really classy clothing. This style and beauty seems to be deeply ingrained into the Italian aesthetics. We visited many monuments. Galleria Vittorio di Emanuele II, is Italy’s oldest active shopping mall, and home to all the famous fashion stores. This is where we first had our taste of the authentic Italian pizza. It was so un-pizza like, meaning it was something we were not used to back in India. We visited the Pinacoteca di Brera, which houses an amazing collection of Italian paintings. We also got an opportunity to visit Zaha Hadid’s famous twisted architecture of the Generali Tower. The surrounding scenery and the shopping hub under the tower really set us in awe. Milan was a visual marvel.
Next stop was Turin.
RSD7 (Relating Systems thinking and Design) is an international conference, hosted by different design colleges each year. During the 5-day conference, many well-known systems thinkers from all over the world came together. The first two days were workshops. These included many interesting and interactive sessions on topics such as Connected products, Systems and places, Circular economy toolkit and Core methods of System Design Practice. These workshops were a great learning experience, as we interacted with design professionals for ideating and problem solving.
An interesting experience that all of us had was organizing the conference. Being students from NID who were also presenting at RSD7, we were given free passes to the conference. The catch was that we had to help in certain sections of organizing, on all days. Some of us helped in photography, some helped run the social media accounts of RSD7, while some were Tech support. Being on both sides of the stage gave us different perspectives to the conference, and enhanced our experience.
The last three days were presentations. It was very insightful and interesting to see what work people from all over the world do using the principles of systems thinking, that we were taught as part of our design education. There were Systems level projects working on sustainable services, in the context of various countries, such as Columbia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Italy etc. The real world applications and effects of systems thinking really increased our inclination towards the field. Many prominent speakers such as Chido Govera, Gunter Pauli and Roberto Flores participated as Plenary speakers and inspired us with their thoughts and work. The lunch everyday was in the college itself, and was an active platform to meet with different people there. We had some amazing conversations with some of the speakers and presenters. We also received many accolades for our projects. RSD7 was rich in exposure, interaction and experience, and one that we are all glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of.
On the second to last day at Turin, we got an invitation to visit the famous Pininfarina design studio. Our senior from NID, Rustom Mazda has been working at this renowned studio and agreed to show us around. The journey to this remote place was beautiful, as we got to see the amazing Piemontese countryside on our bus journey.
Pininfarina was everything we hoped for and more. We got a personal tour by Rustom. We saw the car design museum, the history of the design studio, and its various other products. As product designers, it was very intriguing to see the iconic design language of the studio in the form of different products over the years. Everything from their cars to a simple pen had the same design language.
We learnt about their departments, the work that Rustom did, his life as a designer in Italy and future projects by the studio. This visit not only gave us a valuable learning experience, it also inspired us immensely.
Apart from the conference and the visit, our stay at Turin was really magical. The town is small, and can be explored through its Metro network or even by walking. Turin is the home of the Italian football legends Juventus, and roaming around seeing so many Juventus flags was crazy. After the conference would wrap up for the day, we would go to various food places, Piazzas and the Centro to just walk around the town. On the last day, we got a chance to visit a local wine cellar. This place, two storeys tall, has a huge collection of many different wines from all over Italy. Our 5 days at Turin, were just so memorable. But it was time to continue our adventure. We were heading for Nice, France!
This was our first time being near the coteazur, or the French Riviera. Our bus ride to Nice was along the Mediterranean Sea, and the view was mesmerizing. Nice was a quaint little French town along the coast. It is small enough to see the entire downtown area by just walking along the coast, or the Promenade de Anglais. We saw the Saleya Food Market, the Castle of Nice and gorged on delicious Mediterranean dishes.
On the last day of our stay, we took a bus to a nearby village called Èze. Our idea was to spend some time in rural France, and get to experience a different Europe. Èze is known for its perfumeries, and as soon as our bus stopped, we were welcomed by a stream of sweet smells from a shop nearby. The place was something out of a fairy-tale. We visited the local botanical garden, or the Jardin botanique dze. It is a long climb to the top of a hill, and you get an amazing view on the top. We learnt about the local plants, bonsai’s and statues in Èze, and also the local stories such as the one about the Devil’s bridge.
The legend has it that a peasant from the town made a deal with the devil. The devil would build a bridge in the town in exchange for the soul of the first living being who crossed it. The peasant could not sleep that night fearing who the victim would be. In the morning he went to the road and saw a wonderful bridge and the devil on the other side, waiting for his reward. Suddenly, the peasant took a wooden stick and threw it on the bridge, and his dog plunged to catch it, thus offering his soul to the devil. Satan was very upset, but had to leave the town alone. Such stories not only intrigued us, but also made us wonder how local stories aren’t just limited to the Indian context, but are just human nature. We just love our myths, legends and stories. As much as we were sad about leaving, it was time to continue our journey onwards. To Spain!
Barcelona was such a drastic change for us after Nice, that it was overwhelming at first. The first thing on our agenda was to experience the architecture in the city. We visited many places that were made by the legendary Gaudi. We saw Park Güell, the organically designed park decorated with collages of lizards, the famous La Sagrada Familia, which is the prime example of Gaudi’s work, and the apartments he worked on. We enjoyed delicious Spanish delicacies such as the Spanish omelette, the Paella, or as we liked to call it, Spanish Biryani. We would have a glass of Sangria every chance we got. The food was truly awesome. Being in Barcelona, we just had to visit Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona FC. At night, we would just walk along the famous street market at La Rambla. The city had a sense of celebration about it, that made one dance.
Next stop, Madrid.
We visited the Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace of Madrid. We also visited the Plaza de Toros, or the bull fighting stadium. Our place of stay was at the Puerta del Sol, which just happened to be a major square in the city. We were in the European party capital on a Halloween night, and we witnessed some crazy costumes and gatherings in the square. We partied like crazy and enjoyed our time. It was the last day of this crazy, amazing and mind-blowing trip of ours. After two weeks of travelling around southern Europe, we left for India.
These trips opened us up to a whole world of culture and beauty. Meeting new people from across boundaries does two major things. Firstly, it helps you realize why people are the way they are. You look at the food, their geography, their traditions, the stories, and all of it just helps you understand them better. Secondly, you realize that no matter where humans live, deep inside, we are all the same. We have the same love for our food, family and land. We all get fearful, happy, angry and delighted by the same things. Emotion is a language that transcends borders. Both these perspectives are essential to grow, not only as a designer, but also as a person. And we did grow. Looking back at the trips, we see the role they played in developing our outlook, and thus, look forward to having many more such trips around the world.
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