unpacking the tata nano symposium
unpacking the tata nano symposium unpacking the tata nano symposium
mar 07, 2011

unpacking the tata nano symposium

unpacking the tata nano symposiumtata motors ‘nano’ car side-by-side with the concept that inspired it, two mopeds welded together under a golf-cart frame image © william staffeld / cornell university




march 10 and 11, cornell university is holding a symposium entitled ‘unpacking the nano’ that aims to understand the technical accomplishments and social implications of the indian manufacturer tata motors ‘nano’ four-person car available for 2,500 USD. along with an exhibition at the university that runs until march 27th and features a production nano dismantled and suspended in air in its 2,000 constituent parts, assigning weight, price, and environmental impact to the under 1,400-pound car, this collaboration between philadelphia based architects austin + mergold and the students + faculty of the cornell university of architecture, art and planning is the first to question and discuss the impacts of this vehicle. with the nano being reported as financially within reach for 500 million indians and after 250,000 units already produced in 2010, this car has been heralded as the equivalent to the second coming of fordʼs model t and possibly poised to socially, physically, and environmentally revolutionize india.

exhibition hall front located on campus in the herbert f. johnson art museum image © william staffeld / cornell university




the symposium will include keynote lectures and panel discussions around the questions: how was it possible to design and produce a vehicle that will sell for less than 2,500 usd? how will access to cheap auto-mobility transform the global south socially and urbanistically? what are the trans-national environmental consequences of mass automotive ownership? and lastly: where is the balance between competing demands for action on global climate change and claims for social equity? the lecturers and panelists include the chairman of the tata sons holding company, the dean of cornell university, various cornell professors in addition to an international selection of architects and designers.

exhibition hall back located on campus in the herbert f. johnson art museum image © william staffeld / cornell university




the 1,322-pound nano can achieve 65 mph, promises safe transport and exceeds european air quality standards. at just 10 ft in length, 5 ft wide and about 5.5 ft tall, with 60 mpg, this 4-gear 4-person car is revolutionary in comparison with other standards of transportation in india.


the balloon coming out of the exhaust pipe holds 700 cubic feet of air – the equivalent of a month’s worth of nano emissions. the museum’s sculpture court is about 25,000 cubic feet of space or the equivalent of the annual emission from a large, american built pickup truck.

dissecting the nano for the exhibition image © jason koski / cornell university photography

the chassis of the nano dissected image © spencer lapp / cornell university

(left): the box panels that hold the disassembled nano car being stamped, image © william staffeld / cornell university (right): dissecting the nano, image © jason koski / cornell university photography

original idea for how the exhibition would be organized image courtesy of aleksandr mergold

in june 2010, members of the exhibition team visited india on a research trip and toured a newly inaugurated nano image © spencer lapp / cornell university

nano frame in production image © kent kleinman / cornell university

image © kent kleinman / cornell university

unpacking the nano exhibition and symposium video




times and locations can be found here. make sure to check out the multimedia section of the exhibition’s site for more photos, animations, and a virtual tour of the exhibition.

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