The Image that Changed It All for Me

While reading and compiling 15 Social Impact Designer’s Career Defining Moment, I was reflecting on my moment, and for me it was an image.

I was two years out of school and came across an image of a canopy in Architectural Record. I had just begun an evening class, ‘Architecture as Activism,’ at Berkeley Extension and this suspended, sculptural object represented what I wanted to create. It was essential–used to shade an open area and create a gathering place; resourceful–reused discarded, everyday containers; and beautiful.


In the New Dehli village of Rajorkri, Sanjeev Shankar, the artist and creator, worked with 90 residents over a period of three months to collect and construct the oilcan canopy. It’s appropriately named Jugaad, which is a Hindi word for jerry-rigging, and was first showcased at 48°C Public.Art.Ecology festival in December 2008.

945 can lids and 692 cans make up this spectacular canopy and cover 70 square metres. The can lids were hand painted with gulal, a deep pink pigment used in holi, which is an Indian festival of color. Using thin metal wires, they stitched 945 lids together and then attached light fittings. The 692 cans were perforated to allow light and air to pass through and then joined together with bolts. These two layers–one lighter but solid and the other heavier but perforated–were suspended with steel cables that were then fastened to ground anchors.



The most rewarding part of this project was that Jugaad became an integral part of village life and its people. “There was song, dance, food, laughter, and an overall spirit of celebration through the journey,” Sanjeev writes in his artist statement. “It marks a humble beginning for a radical way to design community places and bring democratic design to the fore.”

Yes, indeed, Sanjeev. Let’s keep enlightening the human spirit through improvisation, community, and beauty.


Is there an image that sticks in your mind and reminds you why you do what you do? We’d love to hear it below!

image credits: Sundeep Bali and Adam Roney from

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2 Responses to The Image that Changed It All for Me

  1. Alysha says:


    Love your blog! You’re an amazing writer. I love the canopy article- unique way to bring the community together for all to share for generations. Your passion you are dedicating to this blog to share with other like- minded people is awesome. It has been enlightening for me to learn about architects like yourself with a unique vision to give back to the community in this way. So proud of you. Keep it up!

    • katie says:

      Thanks so much, Alysha! I look forward to sharing all the exciting, uplifting projects and organizations people are creating. I’m happy that you’re enjoying it so far!

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