At Rhizome, we’ve been working at making the idea of sustainability sustainable through design since 2009. We go beyond sustainable design, we strive to shape a future where sustainability thrives, creating a better world for all.
We believe that sustainability needs to be looked at holistically and across disciplines to actually begin to be mainstreamed. This is why we work at the intersection of craft, design, and sustainability. We go beyond eco-design and look at sustainability holistically. We consider social, economic, and cultural sustainability alongside the ecological factor because we believe that everything is interconnected and that everything counts.
What does Rhizome offer?
Rhizome offers bespoke design services and a wide product range that includes furniture, lighting, parametric installations, and lifestyle products such as hangers and mannequins. The products reflect a contemporary Indian design language while rearticulating traditional crafts for the modern world.
The design team at Rhizome collaboratively designs products and systems that are sustainable and people- and planet-centric. Their handcrafted artisanal products are timeless and can fit into any traditional or contemporary Indian home. Rhizome wants its products to be future heirlooms, which are passed on from generation to generation with loads of love and memories.
How was Rhizome born?
In 2009, Rebecca Reubens founded Rhizome, India’s first multidisciplinary sustainability design studio. Rebecca had just returned to Ahmedabad in India after working in the international development sector for 7 years. Her work across Asia, Africa and Europe had convinced her that the efforts to address the sustainability crises in the global north did not fit the ground realities of the global south. The global north focussed on ‘countable’ aspects of ecological sustainability, whereas the global south did not yet have the capacity to look at these aspects, since it was still struggling to provide basic human needs. Rebecca therefore decided to found Rhizome, as a holistic sustainability design studio that would explore how sustainability could be realized in the global south.
Be the change you want to see!
Taking on holistic sustainability was often daunting and we often wondered if we were biting off more than we could chew. Sustainability was not the buzz-word in 2009 that it is today, but Rebecca believed that climate change and unsustainability were here to stay and that Rhizome was relevant.
Everything we do at Rhizome is our attempt to design a better present and future. Everyone working at the studio strongly believes that faith can move mountains and sustainability is possible. Everyone matters and every drop counts.
Naming Our studio 'Rhizome'
The name ‘Rhizome’ comes both from Rebecca’s extensive work in bamboo and also from one of her favourite books, A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari.
Bamboo’s underground plant stems are called ‘rhizomes’ in botanical terms. Each bamboo rhizome sends down roots or sends up shoots, and links itself to other rhizomes. This metaphor resonates with what we believe design needs to be—a decentralized network, without a definitive beginning or end, with tremendous flexibility to inform and be informed by inputs from every adjacency.
Principles of a rhizome described by Deleuze and Guattari in their book, A Thousand Plateaus:
- Principles of connection and heterogeneity: Any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be
- Principles of multiplicity: It is only when the multiple is effectively treated as substantive 'multiplicity' that it ceases to have any relation to the One
- Principles of asignifying rupture: A rhizome may be broken, but it will start up again on one of its own lines, or on a new line
- Principles of cartography and decalcomania: A rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model it is a 'map and not a tracing'
The Rhizome Approach
Rebecca always believed that design was ideally positioned to be a powerful game-changer in the world’s sustainability story. To deepen her knowledge on the nuts and bolts of sustainable design, Rebecca decided to supplement her NID education in design with a PhD in sustainability from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. One of the outputs of her PhD was the Rhizome Approach—which is the holistic sustainability design framework we follow at the studio.
We strive to imbibe the properties of a rhizome and collaboratively design products and systems that are socially, culturally, ecologically and economically interdependent and yet function independently.
Our Design Philosophy
Years later, we are glad that we persevered with design that integrates each of the beautifully complex, wicked, and non-negotiable pieces that made up the compound unsustainability problem. We continue to look beyond single silo factors—such as the user, the market, and production lines—to an integrated design brief.
Sustainability is not just an add-on to our design brief—it is central to our design brief. Our designs are developed collaboratively with a cross-section of actors, including communities. This helps us look at all the pieces of the sustainability jigsaw—including the economic, social, cultural, and ecological—to design sustainable products with underpinning production to consumption systems.
Collaboration is at the core of Rhizome
Our team comprises a tight ecosystem of people who truly want to be the change we want to see. Our core team is a small but dedicated design and prototyping resource-people led by Rebecca at our atelier in Ahmedabad.
We are a collaborative design studio, and in true rhizomatic mode, have resource people spread all over the world that connect with our core team on projects.
Explorations, Explorations, and some more Explorations.
For over two decades, the design team and the highly skilled artisans at the studio have been working together with non-mainstream materials like bamboo and recycled textiles to create sustainable, slow-designed, contemporary, and ethically crafted furniture.
In order to further explore sustainable alternatives to mainstream materials, Rhizome has expanded its material palette to include repurposed teak wood, brass, aluminium, paper-mâché, and so much more. The entire team works mindfully toward producing handcrafted and artisanal products that go through rigorous quality checks in order to ensure high quality.