Transmateriomutator is a tangible manifestation of the three eco R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Six months in the making, a set of ten furniture pieces was designed by architects Prakriti Shukla and Venkatkrishnan Ashok.
In September 2014, the two architects scoured the lanes of Sanaullah Compound, Dharavi’s plastic recycling nerve centre, and took stock of its overwhelming piles of plastic. In informally organized recycling units, recyclers break down plastic and metal waste into its basic components, such as copper from wires or tubing from televisions. However, the lack of systematic knowledge and practices mean that recycling is only partially achieved, and sometimes at the cost of personal and environmental health.
Studies of Sanaullah’s processes translated into sketches for the eco-furniture line. A variety of scrap material was handpicked from the Compound, including soda crates, old metal pipes, a washing machine door, a radiator fan and cardboard paper rolls. Tinkering away on the upper floor of the Colour Box, the duo and their team fashioned prototypes for the Transmateriomutator. The metal pipe became a table lamp, the washing machine door became a children's chair accompanied by a soda-crate table, the radiator fan became a stool and the cardboard paper rolls were cunningly interlocked to form a beehive like stool.
All the elements of Transmateriomutator commented on planetary health, recycling and models of production. Tons of natural materials, mineral ores, rockbeds and vegetation are displaced in order to process and use a few grams of virgin material. Every bit of waste, on the other hand, can become a cheap resource. Offsetting the recycled pieces was a Piet Mondrian armoire made of plywood and recycled trappings such as refrigerator shelves and blue tarp patches. Compared with the armoire's carbon footprint, the other nine pieces in the exhibition caused 99% less damage to the environment.
Transmateriomutator was exhibited in a workspace at Shama Building, 90 Feet Road, a little away from the Colour Box. Dusty and dark at the beginning, the shed was converted into a grey haven that brought out the vibrant colours of the pieces. A narrow alley lined with plastic covers was the unusual approach to a very Dharavi exhibition. As the architects and their team set up Transmateriomutator, residents of the compound were impressed to find a quirky furniture line on display in their midst.
With Transmateriomutator recycled furniture took on a new and complex meaning inflected by the very Indian idea of “jugaad.” “Jugaad” is not just a quick fix: it is a form of cost-effective innovation that embodies the idea of recycling and reuse. Transmateriomutator took jugaad further by looking at the essentials of a waste object and turning it on its head.
Prakriti Shukla, Venkatkrishnan Ashok
Welders - Ahmed Ateen, Kaizaad, Mohammad Shabbir Khan, Yasin Khan
Bearing vendor - Raizuddin Khan Abdur
Electrician - Ashish
Metal forger and shaper - Iqbal Kapoor
Embroidery and needlework artist - Mehzabeen Ajmal Maldar
Refrigerator parts - Mohaab Chaudhary
Carpenter - Pramod Mistry, Ankush Krishna Devgharkar
Logo design – Chaitanya Modak