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Design + Environment + Law Laboratory (DEL Laboratory)

“… In the Tamil poems, culture is enclosed in nature, nature is reworked in culture, so that we cannot tell the difference. We have a nature-culture continuum that cancels the terms, confuses them even if we begin with them.”
- “Is there an Indian Way of Thinking?”
- A. K. Ramanujan

Centre Name:

Design + Environment + Law Laboratory


Deepta Sateesh

The Design+Environment+Law Laboratory is set up to bring a creative approach to working in contentious and sensitive landscapes. Through design practices, transdisciplinary research and creative action, we explore places, investigate issues and create sensitive interventions that are more inclusive and enable adaptation to environmental change and unpredictability. The DEL Laboratory’s mission is to blur the lines between nature and culture, and develop new thoughts towards synchronous engagement in the environment.

We move design thinking out of the institution into the field, pushing towards activating and catalyzing change. We use design as a practice that stretches across inquiring, investigating and imaging ecologies, and how we engage with them. This is carried out through design studios that feed into the larger realm of the design research undertaken in the lab.

We believe that the art and design initiate a transdisciplinary approach to complexities and contradictions on the ground in sensitive environments. Through primary research in the field the lab explores ideas of new ‘data’, processes of synthesis and imagination, to investigate, image and intervene in these places.

The studio-lab carries out collaborative projects to:

  • Explore the assemblage of ecologies and disciplines that design gathers, through active engagement in the environment
  • Bring a design approach to pedagogy and practice contextualized in place

The lab works with communities, NGOs and government bodies to co-create projects that have potential impact, collaborate to bring together diverse expertise, and communicate/disseminate the work appropriately. The DEL Laboratory project portfolio consists of studio projects run at the Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology, as Creative Alternatives, Data Synthesis, and Design Research. Students, faculty and partners work collaboratively to produce the work (from concept to process and final outcomes) that hope to be sensitive and relevant to their contexts in order to have impact on the ground, with people and places.

Watch the following video - “Design Thinking for Conservation Futures”

Ongoing Projects

1. Climate Resilience, Wayanad

In 2018, the lab began work in Wayanad through a studio and internship in the PG program (M. Plan in UDSC) with FLEDGE, MSSRF and the District of Wayanad. The ongoing work in 2019 focused on post-disaster, working towards contributing to a future District Development Plan. The work in 2019 focused on one panchayat that was most affected during the deluge of August 2018. Two students in the Master of Planning course at Srishti in Urban Design, Sustainability and Conservation, worked at the lab on their Capstone Projects in this panchayat in 2 particular areas: writing SDGs from the ground-up using field insights and design tools, as well as extracting ideas of sustainable economic development from the ground-up, that responds to the multiplicity and diversity of the practices of the inhabitants.

The DEL Laboratory team (Deepta Sateesh and two students, Akriti Srivastava and Falguni Gupta) produced a report titled “Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Resilience, Wayanad, Kerala” based on the work carried out in January 2018 and the summer internship. The report highlighted the importance of design research in engaging in dynamic landscapes that are climate sensitive, in order to uncover hidden ideas, concepts and practices of the region. These practices are part of local knowledge systems that are inclusive and responsive to climate, environment and other dynamic and unpredictable forces.

2. People’s Biodiversity Register, South Kanara

The lab ran a 7th Semester thesis project in 2018 titled “Thresholds in Tapestries – Reimagining the People’s Biodiversity Register” for students in the Information Arts and Information Design Practices (IAIDP) Course. The project was conceptualized in 2014 by Deepta Sateesh, Malvika Tewari and Arpitha Kodiveri, and a rich narrative of the terrain, atmosphere and inhabitants was designed titled Malekaadu Kathegalu”. In 2018, it was run as a design research project that was anchored in imaging and imagining new thought about the nature-culture continuum. The site of investigation was Udupi District during the monsoon rain. The ongoing work is in extracting a new framework for a more inclusive and rich People’s Biodiversity Register, that is responsive to dynamic nature of the complex environment.

Achievements (2018-19)

1. Student Conference on Conservation Science, 2018

In September 2018, the two UDSC students, Falguni Gupta and Akriti Srivastava, who worked at the lab over the summer, presented a poster at the SCCS Conference in Bangalore, showcasing their work in Wayanad alongside conservation research students from scientific disciplines. They were the first design students to have exhibited at the SCCS Conference.

2. COP14, UN Conference on Biodiversity - Design for Conservation Futures

Deepta Sateesh, as Senior Advisor to FLEDGE (, participated in the COP14 UN Conference on Biodiversity in Egypt in November 2018 to share the work of the DEL Laboratory at a Side Event. The focus of the event was to introduce and share the relevance and impact of design in the area of conservation action. This was the first time ‘design thinking’ was presented at a global conference on biodiversity and policy-making.

3. Webinar, Design Thinking for Conservation

Deepta Sateesh, along with Dr. Balakrishna Pisupati (Chairman, FLEDGE), conducted a webinar in January 2019 as a follow-up to the Side Event, titled “Design Thinking for Conservation” -

4. Wayanad Community Seed Festival

In March 2019, Deepta shared a presentation at the Wayanad Community Seed Festival, MSSRF, Wayanad, on the importance of design practices and traditional knowledge in dealing with climate change. She highlighted the significance of disaster resilient strategies of the local farmers in the district.

5. Talk by Reynaldo Morales, University of Michigan

Reynaldo Morales, who Deepta met at the UN COP14, visited Srishti in early March 2019, to share his work and experience with indigenous communities in Peru and Michigan, USA.

6. Wayanad Report Launch, April 2019

The DEL Laboratory produced and launched a report on the Wayanad work, on April 3, 2019. The guest speaker at the event was Mr. Rajkumar Srivastava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka. Dr. Geetha Narayanan, Dr. Balakrishna Pisupati and Deepta Sateesh also spoke at the event.


The DEL Laboratory is open to new research and project opportunities, collaborating with research organizations, NGOs, government bodies and communities on the ground, to enable a rich ecology for learning and transmission of knowledge.

In the past, the DEL Laboratory has worked with:

  • Forum for Law, Environment, Development and Governance (FLEDGE –
  • MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, Community Agrobiodiversity Centre (CAbC)
  • Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
  • Bangalore Human Sciences Initiative, Srishti
  • Natural Justice, Global
  • National Biodiversity Authority, India
  • Kalpavriksh
  • Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
  • Sahjeevan (NGO), Kutch, Gujarat
  • Krapavis (NGO), Sariska, Rajasthan


For details of the projects, please visit the DEL Laboratory website at

For more information, please contact Deepta Sateesh at