oilcans

What happens when a thousand oilcans decide to fly? That’s what Sanjeev Shankar and the residents of Rajokri, India, recently tried to find out in a grand project reusing old oilcans. Called Jugaad after the Hindi term for jerry-rigging or MacGyvering, Shankar’s creation uses a ubiquitous piece of trash to provide respite from the afternoon sun.

Constructed for the 48°C Public.Art.Ecology festival in New Delhi in December 2008, Jugaad is a suspended shade pavilion made from 692 discarded oil cans and 945 oil can covers, spanning 750 square feet. The covers were hand-painted with gulal, a local pigment, and stitched together using thin metal wires to create a pixelated, pink metal fabric. Halogen light fixtures were placed in the existing openings to provide illumination at night.

Shankar hopes to raise the profile of sustainability and to redefine repurposing. “Jugaad takes recycling and reuse beyond a simply utilitarian measure, into an exciting world of architecture and design possibilities,” he says.

Shankar is an Indian artist, architect, and designer who says he likes to merge traditional crafts-based knowledge with more contemporary and emerging cultural and technological trends. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, his work has been seen all over the globe, from Brussels to New York to Bombay.

The Jugaad project was also about community participation. The people of Rajokri, an urban village at the edge of New Delhi, helped to collect the cans and build the pavilion. Although the villagers were initially hesitant to modify discarded oilcans, Shankar says that engaging them in a participatory design approach helped overcome this. Resistance gave way to enthusiasm, and a cottage industry sprung up around reusing the cans.

“The most rewarding part of Jugaad,” he explains, “was witnessing the combined human spirit of creativity, improvisation, and celebration in a culture of scarcity and survival.”

Oilcans in Flight: sanjeevshankar.com