Unpacking the Nano Symposium

Nano exhibition

Nano exhibition on display at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. William Staffeld / AAP

“Unpacking the Nano: The Price of the World's Most Affordable Car” is an international symposium addressing the complex and potentially monumental impact of the Nano — the new, sub-$2,500 automobile designed and produced in India by Tata Motors. The Nano taps deeply into the modernist trope of speed, individualized mobility, and mass production. Speakers and panel discussions will explore the myriad issues raised by the Nano including: the design and engineering accomplishment; climate change and social equity on the Indian sub-continent; the cultural landscapes of mobility; and shifts in socio-aesthetic traffic associated with the automobile.

Thursday, March 10

4–6 p.m., Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall
"What Does the Nano Want? Design as a Tool for Future-Building", Keynote Address

  • Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University, keynote speaker
  • Kent Kleinman, Dean, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell University
  • David J. Skorton, President, Cornell University
  • Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons

Friday, March 11

11:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Panel Discussions, Ives Lecture Hall 105

Panel Session 1: Nano Anatomy

Reflections on the Nano design process — technological, aesthetic, and cultural — framed in the context of mass individual mobility and environmental impact.

  • Abhay Deshpande, General Manager, Vehicle Integration, Nano Project, Tata Motors, "Nano — Journey from Dream to Reality"
  • Aleksandr Mergold, Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture, Cornell University, session moderator
  • Linda Nozick, Professor of  Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, "Tata Nano — the People's Car Drives India and the World to a Greener Future?"
  • Phil Patton, Author and Automotive Critic, New York Times, People's Cars and Personable Cars"

Panel Session 2: The Landscapes of Mobility

An architect planner, an environmental policy analyst, and an urban anthropologist reframe the terms "landscape, "mobility" and “the public realm of the city” through the lens of the Nano.

  • Madhav Badami, Associate Professor, School of Urban Planning, McGill University, "The Tata Nano and Beyond: Urban Transport in India"
  • Dilip da Cunha, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania, "The Nano in a Rain Terrain"
  • Neema Kudva, Associate Professor of Planning, Cornell University, session moderator
  • Vyjayanthi Rao, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, the New School for Social Research, "Setting into Motion: Thinking Design with the Nano"

Panel Session 3: Nano Design and Cultures

Starting with the Model T, cars have penetrated far beyond the automotive world, entering into the slipstream of both high design and popular culture. As the world’s most affordable car will the Nano shape our imaginaries and design practices going forward?

  • Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of the City of New York, "Auto-Display"
  • Bijoy Jain, Architect and Principal, Studio Mumbai, "Pocket Man"
  • J. Abbott Miller, Partner, Pentagram, "Exhibiting Design: From Salmon Skin High Heels to Leather Chaps"
  • Mary N. Woods, Michael A. McCarthy Professor of Architectural Theory, Cornell University, session moderator

5–6 p.m., "Storytelling in the City," Keynote Address, Ives Hall, PepsiCo Lecture Hall (305)

  • Durba Ghosh, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University
  • Suketu Mehta, Associate Professor of Journalism, NYU, keynote speaker
The symposium is presented in conjunction with the Unpacking the Nano, exhibition on display at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art through March 27.