atpX on Collective Growth of Community & More | DT Interview

Led by a team of two, atpX is a multidisciplinary international design practice that has evolved out of curiosity for a balance between the innovation and tradition.

With GenRes 18 (Generate Resilience) being the founding community project, the practice is now immersed in research and innovation based – LivingLab, Project Neer, The Oasis, 100 Doors, The Router, along with many others.

atpX team : Alisha Raman & Sarvesh Singh

Alisha Raman and Sarvesh Singh began their design quest for bamboo construction early in their graduation in India, which has now proliferated as design derivative exploration of community practices, technological and material alternatives, parametrics, traditional crafts and more.

In conversation with DesignTerrains, the team brings forward their journey so far along with upturning reflections on their practice and projects. Read on to discover more about the visions steering their work!

DesignTerrains (DT) : You have come a long way since GenRes18 at Majuli Island in Assam. How do you look back and consider its success in establishing atpX?

atpX (AX) : So kind of you to say this. Reflecting on that experience, there has been one key learning – that the most effective solutions often stem from the most uncertain places and not knowing can potentially be a blessing.

We’re still not sure if the project is a success, at least in conventional metrics, probably because so much of it doesn’t conform to what you would call industrial norms. But, it certainly tries to respond mindfully to its environment and perhaps this awareness led to the genesis of our praxis.

DT : Do you envision working with similar communities across India, in the near future?

AX : Yes, for the sheer purpose of giving voice to their collective wisdom.

DT : As a young setup, what are the ‘core values’ that help you keep going?

AX : You know how there’s this arms-race of competing and winning at the expense of everything and everyone – we believe that it is becoming an obsolete notion, and the best way into the future is one that guarantees inclusivity – in whatever capacity, client, collaborator or craftsperson – if you’re on board with us, your growth remains our priority.

That said, we restrain from a one shoe, fit all approach – each context has its own nuances, and something valuable to offer – being conscious of diversity is as important, particularly with marginalised communities.

“One could say that empathy is almost a core value, but more so as an actionable force, rather than just a feeling.”

DT : atpX is in a collaborative venture called LivingLab with Indalo World, for community development projects in South Africa. What are these different projects?

AX : We are working with Indalo World and Kevin Kimwelle, a South Africa-based community architect, researcher and social innovator in the field of sustainability. These projects span across a broad spectrum of building typologies and solutions, ranging from housing to adaptive reuse.

One of these is Kwazakhele, which oversees urban renewal in the city of Port Elizabeth, through plug-in modules that cater to the socio-economic, food and energy needs of a locus of neighbourhoods.

DT : Collaboration in the design field is challenging. What were, however, the challenges specific to this one?

AX : When you’re an underdog, collaboration is perhaps easier. The challenge specific to this initiative has been the pandemic, which like most other fields, has got us re-thinking our existing ways: how can we move towards a new kind of Presence, one in harmony with ‘internet innovation’?

For one of our projects, we have been working on the extension of an Apartheid Era home. Having access to an R&D facility, the building is designed with components upcycled across industries by identifying lateral connections – for instance, car parts that inform assembly based architecture.

Multi-disciplinary innovation is all the rage, nowadays. The real challenge here is figuring how it can interact responsibly with heritage, particularly while dealing with themes like discrimination, and the darker parts of our history. This can be extrapolated to any problem-solving domain with a knack for inherent bias – AI, marketing, policy – if we forget our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.

DT : Project Neer adds another dimension to your design practice. Would you like to share with our readers the idea source and its main feature?

AX : Resonating with our open-source policy, Project Neer is inspired by the Dorze people’s huts in Ethiopia. It was first adopted for the Warka Waters initiative by the artist, Arturo Vittori.

We were approached by Enactus Ramjas, a think-tank at Delhi University to look at ways to structurally enhance their Matka Filter and integrate it into the Warka system. The working is deceptively simple – a kind of well that doesn’t need to access underground reserves depleting everywhere. Instead, it harvests dew, as moisture condensing from its surrounding atmosphere.

What makes it intriguing is not that it is computationally designed, but how optimal it is in terms of cost and materials. What makes it truly fascinating is its independence of existing infrastructure, and the trickling down of water, by gravity for collection, rather than a pump or pulley.

DT : Water scarcity and unavailability of potable water is a significant issue in Indian Subcontinent. Project Neer is a great initiative, yet how are you planning for its public outreach?

AX : That’s true. Earlier this year, we made a scaled prototype with our friends at Studio Seek in Nanded, Maharashtra, and shipped it to New Delhi. There were a bunch of learnings from the process: water scarcity is rampant, but this solution is elegantly predisposed for public outreach.

Being scalable, with a minimal requirement of skilled labour, all it needs is some bamboo, and synthetic nets to collect the dew. Identifying the barriers to adoption starts with zeroing down on those geographic belts where potable water scarcity is higher – deserts, coastal regions, disaster afflicted zones.

The second requisite is to contextualize certain features: in urban locales, wherever the probability of air pollution is higher, a cheap ‘activated carbon filter’ is plugged in.

DT : As your practice believes in sustainability as a lifestyle, that need not be bannered. How would you encourage fellow practitioners for imbibing this in their work?

AX : It helps to become aware of how little we truly need in our lives. So, start by enjoying the small things.

We thank atpX for sharing a delectable account on the thoughts behind the practice and we hope to soon cover their projects in our upcoming posts.

One can follow them at their instagram account or visit their website to remain updated and inquire project collaborations.

If you or your practice is making this world a better place with one project at a time, share your details here and we will contact you shortly.

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