20 May 2014

Kangeri Nomadic Radiator by Satyendra Pakhalé / Disegno Daily / Oli Stratford

Satyendra Pakhalé’s Kangeri Nomadic Radiator is entering a market with a reputation.

Oli Stratford interviews Satyendra Pakhalé for Disegno.Daily

Portable radiators heaters are not the best designed objects. They are frequently ugly – monolithic slabs on castors – and, more pressingly, often expensive to run and dangerous. A report released by London’s fire brigade in 2013 found that electric heaters were responsible for a third of all fatal electrical fires in the preceding five winters.

Many of the problems objects are matters of usage –people leave clothing too close to the radiator or leave the machine running unsupervised – but there is also a sense in which the objects are themselves undesigned and ripe for revision. "Raditators are an important area of architecture, but for a long time they’ve been neglected and not really considered,” says Pakhalé, an Indian designer working out of Amsterdam. “A lot of personal radiators are quite unpleasant and the controls are badly put together." The Kangeri is Pakhalé's interpretation of a considered radiator.

Designed for Venetian brand Tubes Radiatori, the Kangeri's profile breaks from the oblong grill form traditionally used in radiators. The Kangeri is small and cute, sat on wheels so it can be towed through a house. Its aluminium body is highly rounded, while a small neck and oak top rises up from the radiator to provide a cool handle by which it can be moved. The Kangeri resembles a curled up pet or one of Mickey Mouse's boots; a charmingly styled companion that heats small areas of a house to define a user’s personal space.

"My concern for a really long time has been what sensorial qualities such a type of product should have? That becomes an interesting philosophical question,” says Pakhalé. "I’ve always felt the objects we have around us are not just things. They have tremendous power and there is not much discourse talking about the influence they have on people. We hardly talk about objects, but they have an immediate impact on us."

Pakhalé’s emphasis on a user’s relationship to the Kangeri forms an essential element of the project. While much of the development of the radiator was concerned with technological issues geared towards improving the performance and safety of electric radiators – engineering the internal resistor; developing sensors to regulate the machine’s output and thereby reduce operating costs and prevent overheating – Pakhalé also used the Kangeri as an opportunity to redress what he sees as an imbalance within industrial design.

"Our industrial environment is often quite cold and cut-and-dry. In terms of aesthetics, the way things are made, the way details are manifested, they’re all very aggressive," he says. “Being an industrial society we often take such things for granted. There are a lot of repulsive computers, keyboards, but we never talk about it. Look at the PC industry, it’s terrifying. All the accessories, the peripheries, the chargers. It’s high time we think and act in terms of an object’s implied and symbolic meaning.”

The symbolism of Kangeri – as well as its title – is derived from a traditional form of personal heater, the Kashmiri kanger. The kanger is a earthen pot that is filled with hot embers and placed under clothing to provide warmth. Temperatures in the north of India frequently fall below freezing in winter and the Kanger has great utility to those who use it, although there are health concerns regarding the smoke it emits. Yet the kanger also has a symbolic value. The pots are frequently decorative and beautiful.

"I come from India and there is an interesting poetry about that object," says Pakhalé. "Think about when there was no electricity and comfort: those objects really had a positive value for the people because they were a survival tool in that extreme cold. It’s making a cultural connection. My concern is how to bring a human aspect so people feel comfortable. We’ve got so many things that are impersonal. Can we make something sensorial with comfort?"

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