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Canopy Installation by Sanjeev Shankar, Rajokri, New Dehli, India

Sanjeev Shankar transforms discarded cooking oil cans into a contemporary piece of art. Photography by Adam Roney, Sundeep Bali and Sanjeev Shankar

Readers might be familiar with this canopy installation, which originally formed part of a public arts festival in New Delhi (AR March 2009). Fabricated by locals from discarded cooking oil cans, it is the brainchild of artist Sanjeev Shankar, who aims to ‘interrogate the teetering ecology of the city through the prism of contemporary art’.

Shimmering like a piece of oriental armour, it also embodies the spirit of jugaad, a Hindi term relating to the practice of knocking up improvised, ad hoc solutions using materials to hand. Such responses are impelled by an often astonishing inventiveness that underscores a culture of scarcity and survival.

The canopy consists of two parts: a flat upper layer made from 945 can lids roped together like a patchwork and daubed with a bright pink pigment, plus a lower section of 692 can bodies, resembling a giant honeycomb. Because the cans are quite heavy (each one weighing around 700g), the bodies are joined together with bolts.

Perforations allow light to dapple and percolate through the canopy. The jury admired the way in which the project transmuted mundane, discarded objects into a composition of authentic, rough-edged beauty, drawing on the skills of local metalworkers and the enthusiasm of the surrounding community who collected the unwanted cans.

Architect Sanjeev Shankar, New Delhi, India
Project team Residents of Rajokri, Delhi: Karmdhari, Dileep, Sunil, Raj, Charandas
Structural engineers Aurobindo Sen, Sanjeev Shankar

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