During the COVID lockdown, co-founded the Olive Ridley Collective with the hope of architecting a positive ‘new normal’ as we swam along towards our shared futures. The Collective’s response to the pandemic was a visual storytelling contest ‘Karuna Stories’ to spread the message of compassion and hope.
The worldwide contest was launched on 1 June 2020. The response to Karuna Stories was a revelation - of a time of catharsis, of self-reflection, of recalibrating our futures, of finding oneself, of emotional purge and reset. The participants, through their generosity, talent, and imagination, transported us to many worlds - of small joys and anxieties, of nostalgias for and projections of the future, of hope and hopelessness, of reflection and finding fellowship.
The Winners, selected by a diverse and eclectic Jury, were made public on 15 August 2020, Independence Day. We encourage you to read the winning stories on this website. Around Christmas of 2021, the first edition of the Karuna Stories Anthology was published and distributed to the authors, organizers, and patrons.
Was invited to participate in the first-ever cultural expedition to the icy-continent. 20+ artists from around the world, 8 interdisciplinary experts including myself, photographers, filmmakers, divers were among the invitees. The Antarctic Biennale is the bold dream of a wild and wonderful Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev who served as the Art Commissioner of the Antarctic Biennale. Ponomarev’s co-curator was Nadim Samman.
A film by Denis Delestrac ‘Captain’s Dream – Art Biennale in Antarctica’ captures the adventure, the art, the convergence of an eclectic crew in the icy wilderness that is Antarctica. The biennale opened up a unique space for discussion and debate about the future of humanity and responsibility towards our planet.
Participated in the “The Undivided Mind: Art-Science Residency” at KHOJ. Fellow participants included my co-pilots of the City As a Spaceship Collective (CAAS) Collective Barbara Imhof, Sue Fairburn + a Delhi-based Artist-cum-Amateur Astronomer Rohini Devasher. This international residency culminated in a public exhibition titled “KHOJ As A Spaceship”, and a set of publications (postcards + journals).
Under the ‘MAD Lab’ umbrella, I organised an ‘Underwater Movement Workshop’ with French choreographer Kitsou Dubois. Workshop participants included Indian contemporary dancers. Collaborators were GATI Dance Forum and Institut Français.
Served as a Program Consultant for the “MAXIMUM INDIA Festival”. Provided curatorial input, exchanged ideas, connected the organizers to Indian architects, designers and artists. Delivered a lecture on ‘Space Utopias’ at the Kennedy Center and another lecture at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia
Siddharth Das, my partner and I – we started the Mumbai Architecture & Design (MAD) Salon in 2010 after we moved from San Francisco to Mumbai.
The MAD Salon made its debut on 30th October 2010. The MAD Salon aspires to catalyze a movement to make architecture and design more relevant. It provides a platform for passionate discourse and debate. Originally conceived to focus on architecture and design as primary elements of nation building, it has morphed into a lens to look at a broader narrative: culture, aesthetics, the arts, the city, social interaction, mobility, human behavior, politics, economics, urbanism, and more. The MAD Lab is the hands-on twin of the MAD Salon. The Lab fosters experimental and exploratory projects at the intersection of the arts, sciences and humanities.
Visited the Swedish Arctic on invitation from Dr. Lars Eliasson, the then Director of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) out in Kiruna. Was blown away by the psychedelic northern lights, the stark landscape, the ethereal light-scape, the sparseness of human presence, and the heart-rending cries of the wolverines. Gave a talk about designing and living in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to an auditorium full of scientists, researchers and high-school students. Was pleasantly surprised to find a busload of high-school students show up for my talk; apparently there is a high-school in Kiruna and the reason cited by most students I got to speak to – was - they chose to come to Kiruna to study to be able to get away as far as then can from home!
Siddharth Das, my partner and I wrote the City As A Spaceship (CAAS) Manifesto in 2007 while we were residing in San Francisco. In 2012, Barbara Imhof joined CAAS and translated the CAAS concept into “Spaceship City” for the European Space Agency (ESA). Soon after, Sue Fairburn joined and CAAS became a zone of confluence for the three creative frontierswomen
Since its conception in 2007 in San Francisco, CAAS has manifested itself in the form of a traveling lab and has popped-up around the world - Amsterdam, Mumbai, Cologne, Liechtenstein, Paris, Vienna, Ahmedabad, Como, Toronto, and New Delhi, thus far - in different avatars – as essays, lectures, technical papers, workshops, design studios, residencies, art installations and exhibitions.
CAAS is a new way of thinking about humans and their relationships with their habitats, transporters and their environment, an intelligent way of designing future cities, such that each city can be composed of small, spaceship like closed-loop eco-systems. Visit the CAAS website for more details.
SAN FRANCISCO, USA: Spent a night o a World War Two submarine off the San Francisco Bay with her students from the California College of Arts (CCA). The idea was to experience living in a closed, cramped environment as part of a design studio.
Co-founded SSOAR with two friends from UC-Berkeley - Camron Gorguinpour and Raven LeClaire. Supported SSOAR fundraising efforts and supported Camron and Raven in launching two public charter schools in the inner city in Oakland. Space exploration was used as the central theme to design the school curriculum, inspire the kids and steer them away from drugs, gangs and violence.
Conceived and initiated an international story writing competition to celebrate Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury. The idea came about when Neil McAlleer, the biographer of Arthur C. Clarke proposed at the 2001 Clarke Gala (see below) hosted at the Playboy Mansion that just as Clarke was being celebrated we should do something to celebrate Clarke’s contemporary – the Los Angeles based science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury.
The competition had two successful runs and was sponsored by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Technology Transfer and Promotion Office. For the 1st run in 2003, a total of 104 entries were received from 36 countries. For the 2nd run in 2005, a total of 109 stories were received from 29 different countries.
For the 2nd run in 2005, a total of 109 stories and images were received from 29 different countries, and the winners were:
Story category: Christian Doan, a writer and artist from Melbourne, Australia. Image category: Frank Lewecke from Nuernberg, Germany.
Joined fellow alumni from the International Space University (ISU) in starting a forum for young people from around the world to collaborate, debate, catalyze space policy and applications and promote international cooperation.
The first SGF convened at UNISEC-III in 1999 in Vienna; UNISEC was mega world conference organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA). UNISEC-III was attended by nearly four hundred young delegates from around the globe. Some of these attendees of this debut forum went on to start what is now known as the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC).
Trained for parabolic flights (zero-gravity simulation) at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Served as a test subject to determine physiological countermeasure (workout) regimes on the International Space Station (ISS) and to analyze male-female speed and accuracy in Shuttle-Mir docking operations.
Member of an international crew of six simonauts that spent two weeks living and working in isolation on a simulated Martian outpost out in the desert in Utah. The outpost was called the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS).
Initiated and led a design studio pivoted around one of my favorite structures in northern California – a Zeppelin Hangar (called - Hangar One) in the former Navy Airfield next to NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Built in the 1930s to house a US naval airship USS Macon, Hangar One is one of the world’s largest freestanding structures with a whopping footprint of 8 acres. It is a stunning example of mid-century modern architecture.
The design studio engaged advanced industrial design and interior architecture students from the Academy of Art in San Francisco to dream up design concepts for converting the unused Hangar into a ‘space and science center’ called ‘Space World Hangar One’ (SWHO). The design jury for the studio comprised members of the SWHO committee.
There has been long debate between NASA, Navy, and local heritage groups over the renovation / restoration of Hangar One because it was leaking toxic chemicals due to lead paint and toxic Poly-Chlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) used to coat its skin. In September 2012, all previous proposals to restore the hangar were rejected by NASA and it was stripped of its exterior panels.
Co-produced films for the Arthur Clarke Gala hosted at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles to celebrate Arthur C. Clarke and the year 2001. Hollywood celebrities at the Gala included sci-fi and space savvy Tom Hanks, James Cameron, Morgan Freeman, and Patrick Stewart. Clarke himself was beamed live from his home in Colombo (Sri Lanka) to the gala venue live via a 3D hologram.
LaMer Walker collaborated with her (via MoonFront, LLC) to create two films for the Gala, one was a biographical short about Arthur C. Clarke, the second a montage of scenes from his films “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “2010: Odyssey Two”. The voiceover for one of the films was done by Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek.
The films were sponsored by the European Space Agency and were part of the celebration of the new millennium immortalized by the landmark film “2001: A Space Odyssey” created by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.