Project Suitcase- Prototype 03

Building the third suitcase prototype


Prototype 03 was assembled in contractor JMC’s site inside RMZ Ecoworld campus, Bangalore to test the suitcase unit in external weather conditions.Both JMC and RMZ project managers were supportive of our undertaking.

The unit was given public access. We welcomed inputs from the construction workers who were working on the construction and after it.

Even during the assembly stage, there were curious questions from on lookers “Is this our new site office or a house?”, “Is there a window?”, “Can we enter inside?”, “This structure is becoming stronger day by day!!”. Slowly and steadily they saw the unit come up to settle all their doubts. This was a truly inclusive process!

From the previous version, the size of the structure was reworked. A 12 inch high plinth of size 10 feet x 12 feet was laid for the structure to be assembled on. This was done by JMC workers themselves, under RMZ’s instructions. Each panel was 4 feet wide making the core size 8 feet x 8 feet. The corrugated galvalume sheet was replaced by plain sheet which was easier to fix, making the joinery simple and easy to execute. This however makes the structure more open to dents, though strength is not compromised. Provision for storage was made in the rear, to thermally insulate the structure from the western sun. The kitchen and the verandah were 4 feet x 4 feet each. Prototype 03 was assembled in 7 days, but over a period of 3 weeks due to non-availability of fabricators. 

Over the period of construction we received inputs from fabricators, contractors, architects and civil engineers, and non technical people too. Our team was not happy with the finish, the final outcome. We invited a slotted angle fitter who installs shelves for a living to study the structure for bettering the joinery. We realized that the structure could be assembled by a slotted angle fitter with minimal drilling. The plinth tie was critical to hold the entire structure together. We monitored the prototype for a year. During monsoon season we noticed seepage at the plinth level and quickly responded to it by having a 3” cement band internally and externally touching the plinth tie. We noticed that the core needed more ventilation during summer afternoons and the kitchen front panel had to be of a thicker heat absorbing material to accommodate a chullah for cooking.


We invited slum dwellers to visit the structure and documented their responses. They asked for a slightly bigger core area so that a family of four could sleep comfortably. The verandah space was well received. A demarcated space for kitchen and storage racks were appreciated. Construction labourers on the JMC site were excited to see the final outcome. “We never imagined building a house was so easy!”,”Can we build this in our camp?”,”We use this space to relax during our break time and it is comfortable.” were some comments we received. The responses received from the people were over whelming. We were now equipped with the knowledge needed to assemble a suitcase unit and build confidently for a family to live.


Project Suitcase- Building the second prototype

Prototype 2 was assembled in RMZ ECOWORLD, Bangalore site office in the interior of a construction site.
Corrugated sheet was used for wall paneling and roof along with 14 gauge M.S slotted angles and palette rack.
• The structure had to be assembled by a slotted angle fitter.
• The corrugated sheet couldn’t be used as wall paneling because the nut and bolt joineries did not align with the corrugation.
• The door for the unit needed a lighter material and single shutter.
• A horizontal tie was needed to hold the structure together at plinth level.


Project Suitcase- A response to housing needs of the urban homeless

Our observations and surveys helped us in deriving concepts of housing which would address to the needs of the urban homeless. How do we cater to their  ever-shifting, ever-changing dynamic lifestyle? What would be the apt material to build a temporary shelter? Could they move along with it? Could it mould itself according to the users need?

Our quest for an impact full solution led us to market research and prototyping various designs and material options, testing them for structural stability, climate and user response.We now started working on our first prototype.Throughout this process we focused on the fact that the unit had to be  assemble-able by home owner or any unskilled labour, within a short span of time and the materials used for the unit should be economical and easily accessible.




After examining various materials we zeroed in on slotted angle palette racks for walls. These storage units cladded with Galvalume sheet on the exterior doubled up for thermal comfort as well. The basic design gave segregated space for sleeping, kitchen and verandah. The modular design of the assembly catered to expansion and flexible usage of spaces. The sheet thickness and material could be varied as per availability and budget.

Our learning from prototyping and testing stages were immense – we realised corrugated sheets would not work well with slotted angles; the door had to be of a lighter material; a fabricator was not able to handle slotted angles, and so on. This gave us even more room for thought, and gave us the impetus to work on our second version.



The Blue Tent Phenomena

Often glanced over by the eyes of the typical city-dweller, slums fill up at the corners of the streets, the banks of the drainage ways and underneath flyovers.

When slums are browns and greys, they are hidden under the shadows between high-risers and are camouflaged against the piles of garbage. The inhabitants are unknown, their lives a mystery and the communities are reduced to a blur seen from the windows of commuters as they drive by.

But here in Bangalore, the slums shout out from the shadows with vibrancy. One would require significant effort to turn a blind eye to these bright blue tarpaulin rooftops. A blue that cannot hide under bridges and does not camouflage easily creates a string of open ended questions of why’s and how’s. Is the green cityscape of Bangalore being replaced by a cobalt blue?


Let’s assess this situation- The Slum Development Board of Karnataka concluded their 2010 survey with some alarming statistics. 22.5% of Karnataka’s urban population live in slums. 1.4 million of those live within Bangalore’s urban district. Bangalore’s slum population has almost doubled in the past decade. 62% of these slums have been present in the city for more than 30 years.

Where have these people come from? With the rise in Bangalore’s economy, there has been a boom in the construction industry. The sudden spur of buildings created a need for labour. This brought an influx of migrant workers. With an average daily wage of Rs.200 for unskilled labour, what kind of housing can a family afford?

With a sole breadwinner, a family of 6-8 can live in conditions that are at best described as meagre. In a tent of not more than 150sq.ft, all household activities from sleeping to cooking are carried out. Under the bright blue, conditions are dim. Leaking roofs and damp floors encase the smoke-filled interiors. The lucky ones with access to electricity get light into the space, while the rest rely on their cooking fires. Without proper sanitary facilities and drinking water, disease is no stranger in these communities. Medical aid and school education seemed to be absent from their lives.

Just a walk into the community is enough to grasp the sights, smells and the sounds. But to understand the stories, their lives and their needs, an in-depth study would be necessary. Moving to the city presents an attractive prospect. Yet, for years these communities continue to call these pitiful slums their home. What is their future? What can be done to alleviate the situation?



The City’s Invisibles

On our many trips to Thimmaiyandoddi village, at an unlikely junction where the city ended and the villages were set to foray (or did the city encroach into the villages?) we noticed a small low lying land, not yet concretized by its owners. This land had many blue tents that housed families sharing a common bathing tent. They were frail and flailing structures, feeble under the mercy of body and breeze.

We began to wonder; who are the people who live in them? What are the problems they face? What happens to them during the rains, and when the nearby sewage overflows? How do they cook? Do the children go to school? Are the women and children safe? How much do they spend on their housing? Ironically situated just a few kilometres away from Electronics City, this invisible settlement got us thinking…

Perception: Humans see what we want to see. Suddenly, we started noticing these same blue tents dotting the city-scape. For how long have they been Bangalore? The blue tent paradox…