A mechanical engineer with a postgraduate degree in industrial design, Sandeep’s tryst with bamboo started when he observed locals from North-eastern villages work with bamboo with merely a sharp knife as a tool, yet showcase spectacular designs. A look at the versatility of the engineer’s products by Nandhini Sundar

Bamboo has predominantly been associated with buildings, be it resorts with an eco-friendly or rural tilt, rural houses or even structures that were erected with the deliberate intention of bringing in the least carbon footprint. While its green properties have been widely recognised and sought, presence of bamboo in furniture has been fairly toned down, its strength and flexibility not explored and tested fully.

Noting the very special features as well as the versatility of bamboo, Sandeep Sangaru of Sangaru Design Studio decided to experiment with it.

Thus was born an eclectic range of furniture designed from bamboo, each displaying an exquisite design sense while addressing multiple functional requirements.

The inspiration

A mechanical engineer with a postgraduate degree in industrial design from the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad where he specialised in furniture design, Sandeep had his first tryst with bamboo when he made a visit to the North-eastern villages of the country.

Watching the locals work with bamboo with merely a sharp knife as a tool, yet come with spectacular designs and products, set him thinking, prompting him to dabble in a variety of designs using this versatile input.

Says Sandeep, “The local people would create plenty of products using bamboo to address their varied functional requirements but not all they made reached the market.”

He then explored the possibilities of bringing such products into the market. He also set about tweaking the designs of some of the creations to address the functional requirements of a larger audience who were outside the North-eastern villages.

His famous stool that has no seat or legs but is merely a triangle was one of the first designs that emerged, offering the extraordinary.

This stool, which is nothing but a sheer triangle, can be hung on the wall like piece of art when not in use. Incidentally his stunning designs earned him the Red Dot Design Award for the best of the best across categories in the year 2009.

Furniture workshop

Soon was born his own furniture workshop which focused on creating bamboo products. While his focus was on bamboo products, the artisans who assisted him had no idea of quality control or finish and durability. It was then left to Sandeep to understand the inherent strength as well as the weakness of each species of bamboo and come up with designs in accordance which effectively addressed durability as well as offered an exquisite finish.

Says Sandeep, “Bamboo needs a lot of understanding of the material and also requires precision to ensure the individual pieces are aligned right. This is especially so with the products being handmade.” His products include chairs, lamps, bookshelves, tables and many others, each product displaying a design that evinces exceptional craftsmanship as well as shapes that reach beyond normally conceived structures.

His display in the Beijing International Design Triennial 2011 under the theme of ‘Rethinking Bamboo’ emerged as the largest collection of bamboo products by an individual designer in that category.

Multiple uses

While designing, especially for children, Sandeep also believes in ensuring the same piece of furniture can be put to multiple uses. Thus, a child’s play item would also be designed to alter into a high chair or a storage shelf when required, especially once the child outgrows it.

The design of a seating likewise would pack in storage nooks to house books or odd items so as to offer multiple uses. Some of his products can also be displayed as a piece of art when not in use, given their unique shape and structure.