Innovative design in India topic at Live Talks

President Lorne Buchman, left, and Trustee and Idealab CEO Bill Gross at Live Talks

Art Center College of Design President Lorne Buchman and Idealab CEO and Art Center Trustee Bill Gross bonded over socially conscious design in India Thursday morning at Live Talks Business Forums, a one-hour conversation focused on innovation and design held in downtown Los Angeles.

Through WorldHaus, longtime entrepreneur Gross has ventured into creating eco-friendly, modular housing in more rural parts of India starting at $2,000. Buchman highlighted furniture created by a Designmatters student that features creative seating with storage for low-income city-dwellers in Bangalore.

“We have to go make a deal with that student and start that right away!” said Gross.

WorldHaus has the goal of adding 200 homes in India this year and increasing that number to 1 million houses by decade’s end. The for-profit company manufactures the structures for $1,800 and owners pay $200 down and $10 a month.

“We think paying and having pride of ownership is an important factor” as opposed to receiving free housing, said Gross. WorldHaus designers also integrate themselves into the community and ask residents about which amenities they most wanted (in-house toilets were not high on the list — a surprise to the designers).

“Design begins the minute you see the customer’s problem,” Gross said. “And the best design happens when you experience the problem personally.”

Buchman and Gross discussed other parallels between Idealab, a Pasadena-based think tank for startups, and Art Center’s Designmatters program, which offers students many opportunities including travel and design in developing countries.

“It’s frugal innovation to solve problems and make the world a better place” through real-world projects, Buchman said. “It’s a certain type of learning … Art Center could be called Idealab.”

A video of the Buchman-Gross conversation that will be posted on Live Talks LA in the coming weeks.


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