Shop PortfoliosVolunteers

Clay Club: By Collective Design

Summer 2016
Summer 2016
, Number
Article starts on page

Pranav Gajjar is a practicing architect. Along with his partners he cofounded Clay Club and Paper Factree in Ahmedabad, India. He has a fetish for handwoven paper fabric and loves to swim in open waters. In 2006, while studying architecture at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University in Ahmedabad, India, a group of us began to brainstorm and collaborate. Our discussions at times drifted into strange and unfathomable territories that would provide neither clarity nor fruit. However, today we credit our footings to these strayed discussions. At one point in our studies, we decided that we needed a place that we could freely mess up to conduct various kinds of material explorations. To our surprise we found the perfect, defunct spot on campus. We cleaned out the place, and gradually with our collective efforts a vibrant space began to emerge. Clay Club became a hub for hands-on work, rigorous brainstorming sessions, design explorations, and experiments with our "ideas of doing." Clay Club is still active on campus, but after we founding members graduated from university, we set up our own studio called the Clay Club Innovations.

Purchase Issue

Other Articles in this Issue

Today, as a start-up, Clay Club places itself within the milieu of a growing economy with depleting resources, shrinking job opportunities, inaccessibility to basic needs, and other such incongruent circumstances. We identify the crisis to be an ethical one rather than economic or climatic. We approach our work with a goal towards benefiting society. We employ social innovation and communication as means to address societal challenges in a contextual way, targeted to promote common welfare and to increase adaptive efficiency. Clay Club: By Collective Design pranav gajjar Shoes made of woven, banana-paper fabric. All photos courtesy of the author. summer 2016 - 27 Clay Club founders, left to right: Pranav Gajjar, Maulik Oza, Vishnu Kolleri, Heena Kokel, Fulchandra Patel, and Nikunj Vakani. Mr. Prashant from HAPACOOP casts papercrete bricks in wooden molds. In the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi's swadeshi village-craft independence movement, our initiative HAPACOOP \[Hand Papermaking Co-operative\] is comprised of distinctly abled individuals, those with physical challenges, hearing impairment, visual impairment, and mental disability. These coop members produce paper-pulp bricks and handmade banana paper and paper products. The main objectives of the project are motivation, training, technical assistance, and provision of a livelihood to these traditionally underserved individuals. We find it demeaning to gain leverage from someone's disabilities, even for the benefit of the disabled, which is why we do not market the products made at HAPACOOP as made by disabled individuals. While this is contradictory to conventional norms of marketing and commerce, we are convinced that to do so would be an act of ethical degradation. The limitations of these distinctly abled individuals in fact give them the patience required for meditative activities such as hand papermaking, resulting in products of a competitive quality or even superior quality. We organize the work in a way that instills confidence, dignity, and pride in the finished product. Our architectural education has enabled us to approach hand papermaking with a distinct perspective. In addition to making sheets of paper we explore how paper can be used as an architectonic element. PAPER FACTree—the papermaking unit of Clay Club Innovations—is where we design products such as paper bricks and blocks, panels, papercrete, and furniture. In 2013 we started experimenting with making yarn from banana paper. We have been collaborating with local weavers for guidance on textile production. The fabric we designed—paper yarn as weft and cotton thread as warp—is now being used to make footwear and apparel. These are humble beginnings and we have a lot to learn. What we have achieved so far is that we have chosen to grow together than shrink separately. From our experience so far, we firmly believe that a good design or design idea is not the product of a single, star designer. Our collective effort energizes the whole design process and in turn, the design. The author wishes to acknowledge the support of Anupam Chakraborty and Manav Kalyan Trust.