The Lota & The India Report

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Charles and Ray wrote “The India Report” at the request of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958. Within the Report, they referenced the Lota (typically a round, brass vessel for storing or carrying water) by way of discussing everything that one must consider when designing an object. Charles noted that, to develop the list below, one would have to shut out all preconceived ideas on the subject and then begin to consider factor after factor:

• The optimum amount of liquid to be fetched, carried, poured and stored in a prescribed set of circumstances.

• The size and strength and gender of the hands (if hands) that would manipulate it.

• The way it is to be transported—head, hip, hand, basket or cart.

• The balance, the center of gravity, when empty, when full; its balance when rotated for pouring.

• The fluid dynamics of the problem, not only when pouring but when filling and cleaning, and under the complicated motions of  head carrying—slow and fast.

• Its sculpture as it fits the palm of the hand, the curve of the hip.

• Its sculpture as complement to the rhythmic motion of walking or a static post at the well.

• The relation of opening to volume in terms of storage uses—and objects other than liquid.

• The size of the opening and inner contour in terms of cleaning.

• The texture inside and out in terms of cleaning and feeling.

• Heat transfer—can it be grasped if the liquid is hot?

• How pleasant does it feel, eyes closed, eyes open?

• How pleasant does it sound, when it strikes another vessel, is set down on ground or stone, empty or full—or being poured  into?

• What is the possible material?

• What is its cost in terms of working?

• What is its cost in terms of ultimate service?

• What kind of an investment does the material provide as product, as salvage?

• How will the material affect the contents, etc., etc.?

• How will it look as the sun reflects off its surface?

• How does it feel to possess it, to sell it, to give it?”

The India Report

  • Charles and Ray’s involvement with India began with their work on the film, Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India, a cinematic record of the 1955 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. While making the film, they became friends with Mrs. Pupul Jayakar, India’s representative at the exhibition.

    In 1957, the government of India and its leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, expressed concern about the impact of Western design and technology on their country’s culture. At Mrs. Jayakar’s recommendation, they invited the Eameses to visit the country, evaluate the problem, and recommend a course of action. Charles and Ray accepted the assignment and journeyed throughout India, taking hundreds of photographs, and meeting individuals from all disciplines.

    The Eameses submitted the results of their initial study, called The India Report, in 1958. The Report begins with excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita, the Sanskrit poem that explains the importance of work for its own sake rather than for a selfish interest in results. They used the passages as the inspiration for their solution to India’s contemporary problems.

    The Report recommended that, as an arm of the government, India create a design institute dedicated to an awareness of the qualities and problems inherent in everyday life. The Eameses believed this could assist in dealing with the changes occurring in India, which were caused primarily by advances in communication in the modern world. They explained that new designs for modern India should provide the same “tremendous service, dignity and love” as the lota.

    The Report also recommended that a board of governors for the institute be drawn from representatives of many disciplines—sociology, engineering, philosophy, architecture, economics, communications, physics, history, and others. Later sections of the Report detailed the kinds of faculty, trainees, projects, service aspects, and physical plant the design center required.

    On the basis of Charles and Ray’s India Report, the government of India founded the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad in 1961. It still thrives today.