New Delhi is a creative cluster: A proto-design city

What are the historical shifts, fusions and fractures that will change design in our times, and more pointedly, which are their urban epicentres?

There is a congruence of two trajectories that make New Delhi significant as the next locus/engine/pardigm of design.

Trajectory 1: What are the historical shifts, fusions and fractures that will change design in our times, and more pointedly, which are their urban epicentres?
Design battled the flight of industry to the far east in the 80s by focusing upon the home and the rich/elite. The 90s saw the emergence of sustainability and the proposition that things would give way to services or dematerialised consumption. Looking back on the past decade the dialogue has been about design finding an ethical meaning in a ‘social’ face to practice (‘the growing emphasis on social design’). The social is a strength of institutional and intellectual New Delhi (the front row in the Johannesburg Earth Summit of 2002 was occupied by Vandana Shiva, Medha Patkar and Sunita Narayan).

Trajectory 2: Is the next design city in India, led with gusto towards globalisation by a growing trans-national and technocratic middle class?
The decade after 2000 has been an acknowledgement of the energy of India ( and China) and their emergence as the world’s third and first economies. In this India is the place for the ephemeral ( IT services being one example) propelled as it is by a large population of young highly educated professionals. Largely hidden is the fact that there is also a cluster of creative people waiting for the paradigm to shift – for the climate to shift from one of service to the world to a focus upon local consumption and export. In the next decade patrons, industry and clients will reposition themselves and actively seek out designers to add value and define their identity. We will begin to see the work of Indian designers!

Now let us imagine a location with a lot of NGOs in the city: ie a history of Social engagement, entrepreneurship and innovation. A proven track record of taking on the people sided perspective to life, society and large systems. A tradition of design and craft development and a Culture of Design appreciation, and events. A place where many designers live, teach and work  – a city with a Critical mass of designers and artists. A city that goes back to BC and has multiple traditions of aesthetics. A city with articulate population of practitioners. A city with many institutions devoted to the preservation and promotion of the arts.

In short there are some unique features in this city – New Delhi – that make it a hothouse of creativity awaiting the right moment.

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