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MuseLAB’s hand-cart inspired innovation wins Coronavirus Design Competition in US

‘Market on Wheels’ by MuseLAB from Mumbai proposes to transform a hand-cart into a standalone kiosk, addressing social distancing and sanitisation through its design during the pandemic.

by Meghna MehtaPublished on : Jul 17, 2020

MuseLAB’s design concept called ‘Market on Wheels’ has won the Coronavirus Design Competition, organised by GoArchitect, an organisation based in California, USA. The design by the Mumbai-based architecture and design firm re-purposed the humble hand-cart, an accepted method of hand delivery in the Indian subcontinent, to create a reformed and mobile version that transforms into a standalone kiosk.

01 min watch MuseLAB’s ‘Market on Wheels’ and its functionality | Market on Wheels by MuseLAB | STIRworld
MuseLAB’s ‘Market on Wheels’ and its functionality Video Credit: Courtesy of MuseLAB

These carts have been designed as three-tiered modules that slide open to allow the display of groceries while providing physical distancing between customers, as well as the customers and the vendor. The idea was to separate the two main functions: the selection of products and the checkout process. The cart has been created with sanitisation points incorporated within each of its zones. It also has been provided with refrigerated containers that will allow for the supply of dairy products and help in keeping the produce fresh. The self-checkout area offers a contact-less exchange between the customer and the vendor.

Here, STIR speaks with the MuseLAB on what went into the conceptual approaches of this proposal and the unique aspects that led to its win at the competition in the US.

Meghna Mehta (MM): With your proposal for the competition, what was your initial intent?

MuseLAB (ML): In early 2020, we at MuseLAB launched MuseX, our studio’s dedicated research arm. Through this conscious effort, we were looking to explore relevant technological tools to be able to adapt to changing environments and deliver unique solutions. The proposal ‘Market on Wheels’, our entry for the Coronavirus Design Competition, is our conscious effort to build on that conversation and establish the importance of resilient design.

01 min watch MuseLAB’s Market on wheels in action | Market on Wheels | MuseLAB | STIRworld
MuseLAB’s ‘Market on Wheels’ in action Video Credit: Courtesy of MuseLAB

MM: The design intent seems to be all about its functionality. Is that how you conceptualised it?

ML: Yes, as designers we wanted to make something functional. We were not designing for aesthetics - we were designing for something to be honest and functional. So, we added materiality as an extra step for ourselves. We had to think about materials that were affordable and have a larger lifespan. We did not want it to be just another product in the market.

MM: How did the team go about putting this proposal together during the lockdown period? How was the experience?

ML: The early stages of design overlapped with the initial stages of lockdown. As we were researching and brainstorming ideas, we were experiencing the issues this design aimed to resolve. One of the biggest disconnects we observed was the disrupted supply chain and that idea immediately resonated with all of us. 

MM: How did you think as architects and designers would you be able to contribute to this current situation?

ML: We all wanted to do our bit to contribute to the situation, but we all realised that our skill set does not allow us to be at the frontline. The competition brief puts it very well, where they state “ may not be able to produce a vaccine but it can make life possible again. The question is, how and in what way”.

‘Market on Wheels’ is designed to function as a mobile module | Market on Wheels by MuseLAB | STIRworld
‘Market on Wheels’ is designed to function as a mobile module Image Credit: Courtesy of MuseLAB

MM: Coming back to the proposal, what was the core idea that you all worked with?

ML: From the get go, we knew this was not about reinventing the wheel, the reason the cart works right now is that it is simple and low tech. During times like this, the best approach is that of quiet subversion - where the idea of change is applied in a subtle manner so that you nudge people towards the change rather than forcing it upon them.

MM: What are the significant features of the cart that differentiate it from other initiatives being made for life during the pandemic?

ML: A pandemic triggers a ripple effect and does not just lead to loss of life but loss of livelihoods as well. ‘Market on Wheels’  not only creates a resilient delivery system but also allows to sustain the livelihood of a vendor while still protecting their health and safety.  

Axonometric view showing the construction details of ‘Market on Wheels’ | Market on Wheels by MuseLAB | STIRworld
Axonometric view showing the construction details of ‘Market on Wheels’ Image Credit: Courtesy of MuseLAB

MM: Are there any unique materials or methodologies that have been envisioned to be employed here?

ML: We did think of including a lot of new age technologies for it to be an autonomous vehicle. Although these upgrades would create job opportunities in another market, it was taking away the job from the vendor. We wanted to make something that could be put together today itself, so it was important to look at readily available materials and revamp them.

Made of bamboo, the container modules of the cart are securely placed on a metal base frame. The canopy is held up by bamboo poles. Solar panels are mounted atop the canopy that has retractable awnings providing shade for both the customer and the vendor. ‘Market on Wheels’   is made from circular and safe materials in response to sensitive and responsible design, another need of the hour.

Project Details

Name: Market on Wheels
Location: Globally applicable
Design firm: MuseLAB
Design team: Jasem Pirani, Huzefa Rangwala, Namrata Tidke, Bhakti Loonawat, Atharva Gune

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