We all know the oceans are filled with plastic waste, and we've seen the horrific photos of dead animals that have ingested the stuff. It is up to activists, responsible corporate citizens and lawmakers to stop these plastic garbage patches from growing. But that won't solve the problem of how to get rid of the stuff that's already floating around in there.
Enter Boyan Slat, just 19 years of age. At 6, he was diving in Greece—that country whose postcards show pristine beaches and blue water--and was horrified at the amount of floating garbage he encountered. "I saw more plastic bags," Slat told the BBC, "than fish." When he returned home to the Netherlands, he started working on a way to rid the oceans of garbage—and his design solution is as promising as it is out-of-the-box.
The conventional thinking goes that ships need to be sent out into these garbage patches with huge tow-nets. The problem is that these nets would capture aquatic life as well as the garbage they're trying to collect. And ships burn fuel. So Slat took a closer look at how oceans operate and how the garbage migrates around.
Oceanbound trash tends to gather into their own little garbage continents, driven by "gyres," or rotating currents. There are five of these trash gyres worldwide.
Although the concentration of plastic in these areas is high—it's sometimes described as a plastic soup—it's still spread out over an area twice the size of Texas. What's more, the plastic does not stay in one spot, it rotates. These factors make a clean-up incredibly challenging.
"Most people have this image of an island of trash that you can almost walk on, but that's not what it's like," says Slat. "It stretches for millions of square kilometres - if you went there to try and clean up by ship it would take thousands of years." Not only that, it would be very costly in terms of both money and energy, and fish would be accidentally caught in the nets.
Slat reasoned that it would be more efficient to let the ocean move the trash around, as it does on its own. We would then simply place floating barriers in the known trouble spots, allowing the floating garbage to simply run into the barriers. Aquatic life could still flow under the floating barriers unmolested, with no nets for them to get caught in, and the barriers would be anchored to the seabed via cables to prevent them from floating off. Garbage could then be harvested and recycled from an area with a much smaller footprint.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 14 Oct 2014
When I write about projects and people that I find interesting, I often wonder "Why the heck don't more people know about these projects/people?" You can say that I see it as my duty to spread the word, to inform people about the things going on out there, and make sure that you don't miss out on all the awesomeness that is to be found in various places, and within people... which is a long way of introducing Communitere.
When disaster hit Haiti back in 2010, Sam Bloch was working on a custom-made lighting system for a weekend cabin up in the mountains. He had finished work for the day and was sitting in a bar, drinking a well-deserved beer, when he saw the news about the earthquake. Right then and there (because it sounds more dramatic that way), he decided that he needed to be there. He packed his big backpack with as few private things as possible and filled the rest up with tools. About a week later, he was standing in the middle of the disaster area with the feeling that he had made the right choice and was in the exact place that he needed to be. And although that moment marked the beginning of Communitere, Sam had already been working in disaster relief for about six years.
The name itself, Communitere—which I first thought was French—stands for Communities United In Response, Relief & Renewal.
What works, and what doesn't
With quite a few years within the field, Sam had gathered a fair share of insight into what worked and what didn't work. One of the problems he had identified was the lack of innovation within the global aid industry. Where there's no margin to fail, there's no margin for innovation, at the same time as it's easy to argue that this lack of innovation is failure in itself.
This lack of innovation is the problem that Communitere took to heart and decided to make into its main focus. By creating Resource Centers, spaces that also know as "Spaces of Safe Failure," they have established big workshops where the locals inhabitants can learn how to build their own homes; use the tools provided in the workshops; use the space to work on new ideas; and collaborae with visitors on prototypes and projects to solve a specific problem.
As Bloch says, "You can't empower people, the only thing you can do is give them the tools to empower themselves."
"Focus on solving the problems that others are not"
It's one thing to think that you know what the people you want to help want, but actually knowing what they want may be a whole 'nother thing. There's also a difference between knowing what they want and what they truly need. Needs can be tricky in the sense that sometimes what you need the most is something that you didn't even know existed—a problem that might be so ingrained in your day-to-day life to that you don't even see it as a problem, but rather you take it for granted.
One of the problems you encounter in the world of aid is oftentimes many organizations focusing on solving the same problem without communicating with one another what they are up to, at what time, where, and so on and so forth. This results in redundant efforts, resources going to waste, as well as other areas being neglected when it comes to support, products or medicine.
Most new sneaker designs we see these days involve fancy new materials, new production methods and/or experimental soles. But in terms of function, they remain the same as they've been for decades. Inventor Steven Kaufman's Quikiks, on the other hand, have a very unique design feature: They can be donned and removed without the use of your hands.
"There are 50 million people just in the United States," says Kaufman, "with various physical or cognitive challenges that greatly limit their ability to don their own footwear." Kaufman was inspired to design the opening/closing mechanism, which can be applied to a variety of footwear styles, after his son Alex was diagnosed with scoliosis and forced to wear a brace that prevented him from bending over to manipulate his shoes.
"I didn't know anything about shoe making," writes Kaufman. "I just had a vision of how it might be possible." He then put in five long years and produced dozens of prototypes, and now his designs are finally ready for primetime. Here's how he developed them, and how they work:
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 7 Oct 2014
When I first started writing for this wonderful blog, the one you are on right now, I started off by writing about co-creative processes in relation to education and learning spaces. One of the offices that contacted me in relation to these articles was STL architects, a Spanish architecture studio based in Chicago. I arranged a Skype call with the two directors of the office, Luis Collado and Jose Luis de la Fuente, and we ended up talking for over an hour as shared our previous projects, work methods, processes and personal experiences.
In this interview you will be able to read about their way of working, the strategies when entering a project and their latest project, developing a 20-year master plan expansion for Wilbur Wright College in Chicago, which started working on in the beginning ofJjune this year.
The Wilbur Wright College is one of seven Chicago City Colleges, designed by Bertrand Goldberg architect studio back in 1986, all of which are currently undergoing a major remodeling. At the moment, the college hosts students from the age of 18 and up. It is divided into three different programs:
- Credit programs
- Continuing education
- Adult education
Course offerings range from African American Studies to Zoology.
The goal for the central authority of the Chicago City Colleges is to create a 20-year master-plan expansion, while the end goal with the expansion plan for STL is to "create spaces that promote learning."
A 20-year master-plan expansion
STL's mission is to create a 20-year master plan expansion for Wright College, which includes taking the university through a major transformation from the inside of the organization to the outdoor lawns. One of these changes is transforming Wright College from being one of seven city colleges—which allow the students the possibility of studying almost anything between heaven and earth—to focusing on IT, making it the IT hub of the Chicago universities.
In order to be able to handle this big change, STL had to dig their teeth into more than just the exterior and interior of the building—they had to study the existing structure of the organization to get a true understanding of how to create, and be a part of, a lasting change.
Based on previous experience, STL had prepared themselves for a rather stubborn, and difficult-to-please client, similar to the ones they had encountered in the past. But to their great surprise, that wasn't the case this time around. The client, which in this case consists of administrators, stakeholders, students and the central authority of City Colleges, completely broke this perception by giving STL loads of encouragement and support.
In an earlier entry we looked at inflatable airplane slides, which are designed to allow passengers to safely descend from a couple of stories in height. But what about when the distances are greater? For that there are escape chutes.
The central design challenge with an escape chute is how to arrest gravity to modulate the escapees' speed, so that you don't have people breaking their legs at the bottom and/or piling up on top of each other. What's interesting are the different approaches by which companies try to tackle this. The Ingstrom Escape Chute, for example, works by pure friction:
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 6 Oct 2014
It's interesting how things sometimes end up in your lap—in this case, it was a bag belonging to a friend of a friend that ended up on my kitchen table, and things developed from there. Those of you who already have read a few of my interviews from this interview series know that I have a tendency to stumble upon people and things that catch my interest. Well, the bag on my kitchen table sparked my interest and led me on a quest to find out more about the woman behind the brand. Turns out, she's been staying in Copenhagen for a few months. Lucky me!
Read on to learn how a woman born and raised in Australia ended up starting a bag brand in Guatemala.
Core77: What inspired you to start designing?
Athena Maroulis: I've always loved colors, patterns and dressing up since I was a kid. My mother is an architect and both of my parents have travelled a lot and have an appreciation for art. Our house was full of paintings, art deco furniture (my dad's obsessed), African jewelry, millinery ribbons (my great grandmother was well known hat-maker) and exotic fabrics amongst other things. I think that growing up in this kind of environment makes you conscious of shapes, colors, textures and how things are put together.
Other than that, I have been sewing since I was around 13 and learned how to make garments. From there, I placed top 10 in the state in my final year textiles and design and knew I wanted to have my own fashion business. It seems that design has been in my life from an early age.
Being exposed to items from so many different cultures most have triggered your imagination on many levels. Do you remember any particular piece that you found extra interesting?
It's hard to pinpoint one piece specifically. I have a huge appreciation for structured lines and symmetry and I think it's due to the art deco buffet table, drink cabinet and side board that we had in our home. However, I think my favorite thing (now and forever) has been dressing up, so I've probably spent countless hours fossicking through and trying on the fabulous pieces in my great grandmother's old costume jewellery box. There are the most amazing chintzy, glitzy, rhinestone encrusted statement jewellery pieces in there. I still find them so fascinating and beautiful.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 1 Oct 2014
Founded by Ian Hall, Arkitrek works to the create socially and environmentally sustainable buildings in Malaysia. I have been following them for several years now, just looking for a reason to contact them other than to just say "Hi! I like what you do. Keep up the good work," and now I have one, so here we go.
Core77: Can you give us a short outline to what Arkitrek is about?
Ian Hall: We are architects and we're motivated use design to solve environmental problems. Problems, like resource consumption, pollution and energy use. To solve these problems usually involves working with people, so we are highly socially minded in the way that we work, but I'm a nature lover foremost and love of wild places and nature is what inspires me
What lead you to start Arkitrek?
Haha. Long story...
One thing led to another. I always knew that I did not want to follow a 'conventional' architecture career. After completing my Part III and getting solid commercial experience, I decided to look for alternatives and I joined an expedition with Raleigh International to Borneo. They asked me to lead a team of young volunteers to do a feasibility study for a jungle research station in Borneo. That was a dream job. I swapped designing shiny urban hotels and started work on primitive huts in the jungle. I joke that 'the people I worked with were primitive too': gap year students mostly. The Raleigh ethos is empowering young people by giving them responsibility for delivering project work in challenging places. After some initial resistance, I embraced this philosophy.
After my Raleigh expedition in 2004, I volunteered to work for The Sabah Foundation, Raleigh's local partner in Sabah, Borneo. The Sabah Foundation manages three rainforest conservation areas and I went on to volunteer for them as an architect, designing jungle camps, staff quarters and research facilities on and off for two years.
I funded this with contract work in London. Six months in London would fund four months in Sabah. During this time, I met the people who would become my first paying clients in Sabah. That's how Arkitrek started.
The name, Arkitrek, was coined by my mate Andy Lo. Andy is a Londoner whose parents are from Sabah. We worked together in London and he came out to visit his family in Sabah and then joined me for a month long design and trekking stint in Sabah's Maliau Basin Conservation Area.
I worked in the most awesome and wild and beautiful places.
What was the main foundation when you started Arkitrek?
During that time with Sabah Foundation I was very concerned with two questions:
1. Should we build anything here? [in this wild and beautiful place]
2. If we do build, what kind of building is appropriate?
A little later, when I was no longer supported by high paying London contract work a third question came into play...
3. How can I keep saying yes to designing small buildings in beautiful places for worthy clients, who can't pay professional fees?
I think that my 'ground pillars' are those three questions.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 22 Sep 2014
The young Danish designer Mikkel Mikkelsen first caught my attention when I saw a series of experiments he had created with wood, aluminum and acrylic/plexi. A dining table with the same honesty as the original experiment captures the lessons learned.
Ever since I first saw the experiment, I've enjoyed following his progress as a designer, and a few months ago, one of his latest endeavors caught my attention once again. This time around, it was due to a duck. I know it sounds a bit odd, but this little character with a metal beak is a remarkable duck, one that you fall in love in a heartbeat, part of a grander book project created by Aviendo Fairytales. Seeing how far Mikkel has come since the first time I saw his work, how true he has been towards himself, his design and the people he come into contact with, I figured it was about time you all got a proper introduction to his work.
Core77: How did you get into the field of design?
Mikkel Mikkelsen: Before I started in the school of architecture, I was working in construction while I was doing business school. I was working in building high-end private homes in a company where my dad was a constructing architect. So the interest for architecture started there I guess—my dad also had his own studio before this, so drawing houses has always been in my life. It was like it was meant to be.
I think after architecture school, I was looking for a way to keep working on mikkelmikkel because I was, and am not very interested in a 9-to-5 job in one of the big companies. I tried this a couple of times but I always end up feeling stuck behind a computer and very detached from the projects. I think it has something to do with the scale of the projects in the big companies. I have always preferred the smaller scale that relates more directly to the basic needs of human beings.
To me, the interaction with clients are what drives the projects. A new project is always kind of a journey where you get up close and personal with the people you work for, which I find very interesting. Half of the journey is identifying and understanding the needs and challenges in a project before solving them.
As someone recently introduced to regular bicycling by Citi Bike, New York's bicycle share program, I love bike lanes. I just wish there were more of them; their relative Manhattan scarcity, and my unwillingness to brave the laneless streets with the battle-hardened bike pros, mean I must often choose circuitous routes in order to safely remain a wussy.
I assumed NYC won't add more bike lanes because of the added cost and the resultant auto traffic congestion (more room for bikes means less room for cars). So I was very surprised to read a NYC Department of Transportation study [PDF] released this month that found that adding bike lanes actually increased the flow of auto traffic.
How is this possible? In two words, clever design. But before we get into the details, for those of you not familiar with the style of NYC's newest bike lanes, let's have a look at the old system:
As you can see, placing the bike lane there leaves the cyclist in danger of getting "doored" by someone getting out of a parked car without bothering to look first. And the painted buffer between the cyclist and moving traffic offers zero protection from a car that veers out of control. So in 2007 they started shuffling things around like this:
With this improved design, the cyclist now rides adjacent to the sidewalk. The painted five-foot buffer prevents the cyclist from getting doored by a parked car, which now resides in a parking lane that provides a solid physical barrier protecting a cyclist from colliding with a moving auto. And if you look at the dimensions listed, you'll see the buffer can now safely be reduced by two feet in width, while the bike lane got wider by the same amount.
So right off the bat this second design is smarter than the first, and the numbers bear that out: In 2001, the old-style lanes were in effect. In 2013, the new-style lanes were in existence. And there has been a "75% decrease in average risk of a serious injury to cyclists" in that time period.
This amazing footage of an Amish barn raising has been making the blog rounds. As fascinating as it is, the things about this activity that you cannot see in the video are of equal interest. But before we get to that, let's see the vid:
Ohio-based non-Amishman Scott Miller secured permission to record the activity, likely because he pitched in to help on the ten-hour job. And while all you see in the video are men, an Amish barn-raising is actually an all-hands-on-deck affair. Attendance is mandatory in the community, though the Amish don't view "mandatory" as the pejorative we selfish Americans do: "We enjoy barn raisings," an Amish farmer told writer Gene Logsdon in 1983. "So many come to work that no one has to work very hard. And we get in a good visit."
Photo by Eliza Waters
That's because to the Amish, a barn-raising falls into the category of activity known as a "frolic," a combination of group labor and social mixing, which builds and solidifies the community as surely as it does the barn. All able-bodied members of the settlement are in attendance, meaning there can be more than a hundred families on hand, and with Amish families averaging eight children each, you can do the math. It's not difficult to see that what might take a conventional construction crew armed with cranes a month or more to complete this task, start to finish, is performed by the Amish in a week or so.
School is back in session, so you know what that means: The a Better World by Design Conference will be returning to Providence, Rhode Island, in just a few short weeks, for the weekend of September 19–21. Born as the collective brainchild of RISD ID and Brown Engineering Students in 2008, the conference has grown into one of Providence's most looked-forward-to annual events. Each fall, it draws an international audience of hundreds to discuss the impact of interdisciplinary design. But perhaps more impressive than the fact that it's now in its seventh year, the conference continues to be completely student-run, and has the tendency to completely take over the two campuses for three days that include not only talks and workshops but also design challenges, a design expo and of course excellent afterparties for attendees and speakers.
This year, the theme for ABW×D is Wayfinding':
Wayfinding is about orientation. It's about developing and reading signs, navigating new terrain, and processing the unfamiliar. It encompasses understandings of both where you are and where you are going—individually, and in relation to your community. The 2014 conference will challenge attendees to create a more comprehensive understanding of our relationships to spaces, problems, and experiences.
For a student event planned by first-timers with full course loads, the conference has had incredible success entering its seventh year. The audience comprises students, Providence natives and professionals, whose ranks include multiple-year attendees who prefer ABW×D over more established design conferences. The collegial atmosphere, in which presenters, attendees and students intermingle freely, is made possible largely due to the enthusiasm of the young group of organizers. With the implementation of last year's presenter "office hours" in combination with a number of social events, the team has further demonstrated its ability to achieve personal rapport in where many conferences fail. Likewise, boasting previous presenters such as former AIGA President Doug Powel, who also previously served as Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts, or Lorna Ross, Design Director at Mayo Clinic Centre for Innovation, certainly doesn't hurt. It seems that the RISD/Brown penchant for innovation is alive and well. Not only does the ABW×D team find a way to pass institutional knowledge down through the ranks to new team members (who are often only freshman or sophomores), but they actually manage to improve the conference each year.
Here are a few of our picks for this year's must-see presenters during the upcoming weekend of design, social good, engineering and a healthy dose of sticky notes:
The phrase "First World problems" was trenchant the first time I heard it. Now five years later, with everyone braying it and hashtagging it as the laziest of punchlines, it irritates me. But I guess it won't go away, and that's partially because of objects like the Hapifork and the people who patronize it.
That ridiculous piece of silverware is supposed to help you "eat healthier, eat slower and lose weight by eating at the right time and at the right speed." The freaking thing senses when it's in your mouth, then silently counts off the seconds until it's in your mouth again; eat too fast, and it vibrates to remind you to slow down. It was successfully Kickstarted last year and is now in production. (You can read a New York Magazine article here from a writer test-driving one.)
Meanwhile, Glasgow-based ID firm 4c Design is working on an actually useful eating utensil. Working closely with a gent named Grant Douglas, who has "a combination of ataxic and athetoid cerebral palsy [that] has affected my hand control, speech and walking pattern since birth," 4c designed the S'up Spoon, whose particularly ergonomic handle and deeper bowl are meant to ease mealtimes for those with hand tremors.
"Eating in a restaurant would just be unthinkable before," Douglas told Design Week UK. "[The S'up Spoon] is a major breakthrough. I can eat Chinese with two portions of rice as well as ice-cream totally independently and with very little spillage."
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 1 Sep 2014
Open Air Neighborhood (OAN) started off as a collaboration between KaosPilot Theis Reibke and architect Louise Heeboell, back in 2011. At first, the idea was simply to develop "Building Playgrounds" through co-creative processes with the users, as a way to develop the city itself. They applied for and received grants from both the EU and RealDania, and started working on the project. After meeting Ellen O'Gara at a conference in 2012, the project has since been a collaboration between Heeboell and O'Gara.
The main focus for OAN has always been on creating a strong connection with the users by making them a vital part of the processes. Here they share some insights into what made them decide to work together, what brought them onto the path of co-creative processes and what they have learned throughout the various projects
Core77: Let's start off with a little bit of history about each of you.
Ellen O'Gara: Architecture seemed like an interesting thing to study because it combined books and creativity. I liked that combination and I still do. While I studied I really liked that everyone could participate in a discussion on architecture because it is something that is relevant for all. And in some ways we are all experts.
Louise Heeboell: I was both creative and good at math and physics. Good at drawing. I thought I was going to be an engineer. But I figured that the mix of engineering and being creative was being an architect. Besides from that, I had no clue, what being an architect was about. I'm happy about my choice now. Years before Open Air Neighborhood, I worked as a 'normal' architect. But I found that there was a conflict in the way architects work and the way the city develops. I had been looking for a way to work differently, open and with the users as a central part of the development—and still be an architect.
Louise, why was this so important to you?
Because I found that the urban space that was built as a direct result of the architects drawings had no life. (And I'd been drawing some myself, so I felt bad about it!) I was interested in finding out what created the places in the city that are filled with life and where people liked to stay.
Ellen, what brought you onto the path of co-creative processes?
Ellen: I studied at the school of architecture in Copenhagen. At the beginning of every year we went abroad for two weeks to do field work. In Sarajevo, Porto, Lisbon, ... Here we were free to find something that interested us. I would walk around and talk to people. Ask them what was important to them. This would always lead to something interesting. A topic would emerge, a need, a potential. I would gather all the information I could, measurements, conversations... the rest of the year, I and all the other students would develop each our project. I find this way of working very interesting. Looking at the needs and the resources and developing a program from that. It results in some very interesting synergies and very relevant programs. It is bottom-up development.
Of course you can't always just wander around and hope to run into something interesting when a developer wants something built but it is an approach I find very valuable. So what I mean to say is that my education has very directly led me to what I am working on today.
So, when did you two start collaborating?
Ellen: We met at a conference in august of 2012 hosted by the city. We each presented projects we had worked on for the previous months. It was clear that we had the same interests and some of the same ambitions for urban planning. The conference was about a project called Skab din By. Very interesting and experimental project by the municipality.
Louise: After that, we had a coffee and I think I asked if Ellen wanted to take part in the talk, that Open Air Neighborhood was going to give at the Think Space conference in September that year.
Ellen: Yes, and from then we started building OAN together. By January, we were working full time. Doing projects for the city and housing organizations.
During the Think Space conference you each presented a project. What were these projects about?
Ellen & Louise: We presented several projects where you could see that we had some common ideas for how to develop differently, our approach to urban planning and the process by which the city is and should be made. These ideas were about including the users in developing their own urban spaces. We were both very interested in processes where the citizens take a more central part of the development, and we both had experienced first hand that this kind of process can have some good social benefits.
Last year we wrote about the Knee Defender, a pair of plastic gizmos that an airplane passenger can use to prevent the person in front of them from reclining. We wrote it up in utter dismayed fascination at a product directly designed to increase one's comfort while inconveniencing another; we called it the "Me-first" approach to product design.
Now it's in the news, after a flight was diverted and a man and woman tossed off the plane for arguing over the thing. On Sunday United flight 1462 was en route from Newark to Denver when a fortysomething woman tried to recline her seat. She could not; the fortysomething man behind her, using his laptop on the seatback tray, had deployed the Knee Defenders. United officially bars their use, and this is what happened next according to the AP:
A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman [whose seat was barred from reclining] then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, [a law enforcement official] says. That's when United decided to land in Chicago. The two passengers were not allowed to continue to Denver.
USA Today subsequently interviewed the inventor of the me-first device. Unsurprisingly, he passed the buck:
"Sometimes people do things they shouldn't do on airplanes, but as far as I know this is the first time anything like this has happened," involving the Knee Defender, said Ira Goldman, the man who invented the device in 2003 and continues to sell it online.
"United could make seats that do not recline, but they have not chosen to do so," said Goldman. "In the meantime, the Knee Defender says right on it: 'Be courteous. Do not hog space. Listen to the flight crew.' Apparently that is not what happened here."
What do you guys think, is this an irresponsible product design, or do you have the if-you-design-a-car, someone-will-use-it-to-rob-a-bank, it's-not-my-fault attitude about it? And do you think we'll see more me-first product designs in the future? One popular NYC pet peeve is guys who sit on the subway with their knees spread wide open—what's the ID fix for that?
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 25 Aug 2014
A few months ago, I was contacted by an organization called Women Engineers Pakistan, which introduces girls to the field of engineering and technology. Just reading the name made me curious. For those of you who don't know, I'm an architect, and I come from a family full of engineers and tech-heads. In other words, my choice of becoming an architect has never, at any point of my life, ever been questioned. I went to a technical high school in Uppsala, Sweden, always with the support of mom and dad, brothers and sister, my grandmother, aunts, uncle and most of all my wonderful grandfather. With 26 boys and 5 girls in my class, the male-to-female ratio was rather high, but my knowledge and competence was never questioned by anyone of the male gender. Not by teachers, nor by fellow students.
Hearing about an organization like this and its origins was inspiring, and it takes more then a bit of willpower and skin on the nose (Swedish expression) to start something as groundbreaking and controversial in a country where female students are told that they should reconsider their choice to study engineering and start studying something more suitable for women...
In this interview, I've had the great pleasure of talking directly with Ramla Quershi, the co-founder of Women Engineers Pakistan. She recently moved to the U.S. to study engineering on a full Fullbright scholarship. So even though she's busy with the big move and getting her bearings, she set aside some time for this interview. I hope you get as inspired by reading this as I did from writing it.
Core77: Tell us a bit about the organization and the thoughts behind it.
Ramla Quershi: The organization is a budding startup, which looks to increase participation from Pakistani women in Pakistan in engineering. Women have always been by and large in domestic and agricultural jobs in Pakistan, and their participation in science and technology has been minimal. We realize that women make over half the Pakistani population and we're working to prevent that potential talent for technical prowess from going to waste. We're working with young girls at high schools to encourage them towards science and math
When did you start working on getting Women Engineers Pakistan up and running?
It started with a Facebook page last August. But it's wasn't until six months ago that we started working as an organization.
Why did you decide on starting WEP?
Throughout my engineering degree, I felt a nagging lack of women in this field. We were often discouraged by our professors that engineering is a 'big boy' area. It was disheartening to realize that there weren't many role models set out for us. So I created this organization to give women engineers a platform to represent themselves.
When the professors talked about it being a "big boy" profession, how did your fellow male students react to those sort of comments?
My fellow males knew that I was good at my studies, so they would often turn up for a group study option and ask me to explain things to them. So they had found out that the women in their class were just as good (some even better) engineers. Barring a few, many were courteous and encouraging. However, there were some 'go make a sandwich' sort of comments—but not many.
There must have been many ideas/incentives to make it go from an concept into reality, what were they?
Oh yes, there were. Initially it was just a Facebook page, but then it started getting attention, and I realized that I had hit a niche. We were contacted by the U.S. Embassy through the Facebook page for meeting with a NASA engineer coming to Pakistan. And i thought, 'Oh wow, not much representation for the women in engineering crowd.'
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 19 Aug 2014
Cansu Akarsu is one of those people who you can't help but notice when she enters a room: Her bubbly and positive energy more than makes up for her small stature. I met her during the INDEX: Design Awards a few years back, and have had the great pleasure of seeing her grow as a designer with her many socially conscious projects. Her résumé includes projects such as Happy Baby Carrier, Pad Back and Soap Shish. She moved from Copenhagen to Stavanger, Norway, this year and is now working at Laerdal Global Health.
Tell us a bit about your background?
Cansu Akarsu: I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. I studied at an American high school called Robert College in Turkey, followed by studies at Istanbul Technical University (ITU), which led to an exchange semester at TUDelft, Netherlands, and a year as an exchange student at Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Tech.
What led you to study design?
At the international school, I had a chance to chose courses more focused on my various interests, which gave me a chance to study and experiment with web design and graphic design. I was very lucky, my school was very good in this way. They also conduct various personality test as to help you understand where you fit on the job market, and how you can direct your studies in that direction.
If you think about your closest family and friends, have they influenced you in any way?
If you ask my mom, my 'design genes' came from my father's side :). They fell in love at the university as my dad helped my mom with her technical drawing courses. So far, I am the only industrial designer in my family of engineers. What fascinates me most about design is the human aspect—that we focus more on the everyday behaviors of people than technical solutions to products.
For the last few years, you have been working with socially conscious design. How did you get started with that?
There were many small events to lead to this decision. One of them being a trip to the eastern part of Turkey that I took with my class at ITU. I had traveled a lot to different countries, but i had never visited cities outside of Istanbul, and I thought that they were going to be more or less on the same level when it came to the standards that I knew growing up. I was surprised and shocked to see the lack of resources that existed in my own country. This inspired me to see what sort of impact that I, as designer, could have on peoples' everyday lives. I understood that I could do something to help the development of my country and the world as a whole and that was really exciting for me. This is one of the reasons why I decided to participate in OpenIDEO. Here I attended the design challenges, and it was one of the places where I found that design skills could be used to address worlds' biggest problems.
Posted by | 7 Aug 2014
As the eyes of the world fell on Glasgow, a special countdown was devised by Jack Morton Worldwide to promote community and craft groups through out the city. 14 groups were approached to make the numbers involved, as a billion viewers around the world counted down to the start of the XX Commonwealth Games.
The numbers were filmed at locations around the city to showcase to the world both the talent and the sites of Glasgow. Clocking in at number 7 was the amazingly brilliant social enterprise, GalGael Trust, a community and heritage association located in Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, near the River Clyde. Aside from fabricating the elm handle for the Queen's Baton for the XX Commonwealth Games, GalGael is best known for its fight against the problems of unemployment and poverty, especially the high incidence of family breakdown, alcoholism and drug problems. Founded in the mid-1990s by the late Colin Macleod, GalGael has been providing participant based programmes that help people regain a positive sense of both self and community ever since. The phrase "GalGael" comes from 9th Century Norsemen, who mingled with native Celts; gall meant "foreigner," and gael meant "native." When they adopted the emblem of a 9th-century birlinn (a highland galley or large rowing-boat) as a logo, it occurred to them that they could achieve many of their social objectives by actually building a boat, so this is what they set out to do: to provide learning experiences anchored in practical activities that offer purpose and meaning to marginalized people. From there they took inspiration in the community boat-building revival in the Shetlands and in Norway, which they envisaged also would make a good template for reclaiming heritage and reconnecting to Clyde coastal communities.
The diverse activities at GalGael range from producing a small selection of crafts and reclaimed timber for sale to volunteering for the organization itself, but the main activities are a joinery apprentice program, community boat-building and voyaging and, most recently, recovery stays at Barmaddy Farm in western Scotland, just southeast of Oban and the Inner Hebrides.
Despite the first part of their name, Brooklyn Boulders is a Massachusetts-based organization that runs the oddest co-working space we've ever seen. Their Active Collaborative Workspace has got the desks, tables, counters, couches, lounges and Wi-Fi you'd expect, but it's located atop an enormous climbing wall in a 40,000-square-foot "hybrid climbing facility."
While workspaces have traditionally been about focusing on tasks, either alone or with others, the ACW is designed with physical distractions aplenty: Standing-desk-height counters are topped with pull-up bars, and in addition to the rock climbing wall there are cardio machines, a weight room, a yoga studio, a slackline facility and a variety of fitness classes and personal training sessions one can sign up for.
The company's thinking is that these diversions will not only get you into shape, but ultimately boost, not curtail, productivity. "Positive disruption of sedentary work sessions," they write, "in the form of play, movement, and exercise fuels creative thought, encourages collaboration and results in a happy and healthy work environment."
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 18 Jul 2014
In part one of this two-part series, we introduced Natalia Ivanova, educator and founder of the Hal X parkour training center in Copenhagen; as a passionate traceuse, or parkour practitioner, she has long incorporated physical education into her work with children. Here is a more detailed outline of her method.
Getting the kids involved and excited about a new project is normally never an issue—they are more than happy to get out of their routines and try something new. Seeing as this is the case with most projects, the challenge is to make the project become a part of the everyday culture, to ensure that the students continue to practice after the official project is over and Natalia and her crew leave the school. Unfortunately, she has yet to come up with an answer... so No, no formula to be found here. At least not yet.
(When working with co-creative processes at various schools, my colleague Heidi and I encountered the exactly same problem. No matter what approach we tried, we never really managed to implement the way of thinking and working we used when collaborating with the students and teachers in such a way that it became a part of their everyday culture.)
Breaking Down Borders
No matter how much we try to ignore it and think or act otherwise, the fact remains that we live in a system where the gaps between the various social classes are visible to the naked eye. Just as with other sports, parkour is a means of breaking down these imagined barriers and connecting people from various cultures and social groups
Parkour transcends these social borders by creating a common ground—wall, ledge or bench—for participants.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 17 Jul 2014
For those of you who conduct interviews with a voice recorder, you know that the transcription is typically a slow step. If you're lucky, the interviewee speaks slowly or spends a long time thinking before answering, and the transcription process only takes two or three rounds. This was not the case when it came to Natalia Ivanova: On the contrary, the words flow as quickly from her tongue as the movements that flow from her limbs. She has a fluidity and energy in her way of thinking that comes across in everything she does.
Ivanova is the founder of Hal X, a small indoor training hall for parkour in Copenhagen, and the coordinator of especially designed courses, where parkour is a force for positive change for youths.
Originally hailing from Russia, Ivanova speaks fondly about the memories she has of jumping from garage roof to garage roof in the oppressive heat during summers back home. She remembers how fun it was to run as fast as she possibly could, in bare feet on the burning hot rooftops. Jumping over the gaps between the buildings, she knew that one misstep could mean an unpleasant tumble into rubble that might contain rusty scraps of metal, crushed glass and used needles.
Needless to say, this love for exploring urban spaces and challenging herself with her surroundings has been the defining element of through life. As a child, the hijinks and hyperactivity were just called "fun"; now it's called "parkour," and it has spread around the globe with the help of aficionados and YouTube like wildfire.
However, you may not realize that—beyond the physics-defying wow factor of the sport—parkour can serve as a positive alternative to destructive social cultures. In contrast to several other street activities, the philosophy behind Parkour is not only to challenge yourself and push boundaries, but to develop the best version of yourself. You have to have a totally clear mind if you want to be able to get the most out of your practice. That means little or no alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. If you are under any kind of influence, you risk not being able to judge distances properly and having a serious accident. "Alcohol and other substances are off the table since your mind has be clear and focused for practice."
Observers who aren't familiar with the sport and the philosophies behind it might see nothing more than loose-limbed young folks jumping from building to building, doing double backflips and hanging from rails, which might lead one to the conclusion that these people are more than a little bit crazy. But as with any sport, parkour practitioners—known as traceurs or traceuses—must train extensively, with utmost dedication, and exercise discipline on every level of their life in order to do what they do. You will never see a traceur leave empty bottles or discarded sandwich papers smeared in mayonnaise behind—they don't want to mess up their surroundings, their space for practice.
Those of you who attended the Core77 Conference probably caught Dong-Ping Wong presenting +Pool in a talk entitled "Doing Rad Shit Where Nobody Asked You To Do Rad Shit." For those that didn't, +Pool is the crazy, successfully-funded, currently-in-development project to hatch a floating swimming pool in NYC's East River.
Now comes a project proposal with both similarities and contrasts to +Pool. Entrepreneur Blayne Ross also wants to provide New Yorkers with some river-based respite from the summer heat, but Ross' scheme is targeting the Hudson River rather than the East, and using IndieGogo rather than Kickstarter. City Beach NYC, as the project is called, is a proposal to turn a barge into a floating beach.
The plan calls to cover the barge in 1,200 cubic yards of sand, creating an artificial beach. The barge would be further kitted out with beach chairs, restaurants, a children's science lab exhibition and a waterfall.
Unfortunately, there's a huge catch...
Posted by core jr
| 14 Jul 2014
Industrial designer and professor Lance Gordon Rake previously shared the story behind the Semester bamboo bicycle, developed with Pamela Dorr and various collaborators in Hale County, Alabama. Now, less than a year later, HERObike is pleased to present its second project on Kickstarter, the Beacon Alley Skateboard, which represents Rake's further research into bamboo as a versatile, renewable raw material for the socially conscious organization. Once again, he was willing to share the story and process behind the project.
Since the beginning, I have been working with John Bielenberg at Future Partners and the graphic design partnership Public Library to develop the products and the business. Ultimately, all we ever wanted to do was create some nice jobs making well-designed products using the resources and people of rural Alabama. The bamboo was there. Traditional craft skills were there. We used design to put these things together in a way that could make a sustainable small enterprise that might serve as a model for developing rural communities all over the world.
The MakeLab shop in Greensboro Alabama has become a kind of research center for bamboo fiber composites. Many of the materials that are in a Semester bike—bamboo, fiberglass, carbon fiber—are also in a Beacon Alley Skateboard. The skateboard is a product with a very demanding user group who expect incredibly high performance at a fair price. The Semester bike is in a demanding, competitive category as well. And if your product doesn't look good, it's a non-starter.
The past 11 months have been a bit crazy: We had a successful Kickstarter campaign that finished last August and we managed to deliver all 45 bikes and frames by our promised date in February. Since then, our little shop has been building about ten Semesters per month, in addition to our standard "Gilligan" bamboo bike and our Gilligan kits for the DIY crowd. We are developing international markets for Semester—we've already shipped them to seven countries and this seems to be an area of rapid expansion. Right now, I am working on ways to dramatically lower costs so we can make a bike that delivers the look and ride quality of bamboo for less than half of the current price.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 30 Jun 2014
Schools kill creativity. This simple message was the point of Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, now the most viewed of all time. Robinson challenges the way we view education in todays society, and highlights the fact that it hasn't developed in the speed that it needs to, but is stuck in the old way of thinking.
The talk was released in 2006. And while much has changed since then (how many of you are now reading this on a smartphone or a tablet?), our schools have remained dully familiar. In the UK, things have arguably got worse, with unpopular figure Michael Gove damning progressive education as a 'misplaced ideology' and swinging the curriculum back towards good old traditional methods.
Four students at Royal College of Art in London have decided to do address this issue by developing a summer program where kids can enjoy thinking and learning in different ways. Project 42 is expressly intended for creative learners (ages 9–12) who really don't fit into the framework of today's educational institutions. The program will take place between July 28 and August 8 at the Royal College of Art. Why Project 42? Well, according to the one the founders, Ed Tam:
The name is inspired by the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, a supercomputer was tasked to find the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. Millennia had passed and the computer came back with the answer 42. But the people soon realized that it's going to take a much bigger, more complex computer to arrive at the question. Project 42 was set up to help young people discover the power of the question.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 4 Jun 2014
About one year ago, I was giving a talk to students who were about to graduate from the various design schools in Copenhagen. After I finished, I leaned back in a chair located rather close to the door (and close to the drinks and snack section...) when I caught myself staring at a bag. It captivated me to the extent that everything around me disappeared, and the only thing left was the bag and me. Once I snapped out of it, I went up to the person holding the bag as to ask him where he had bought it. To my great despair, it turned out he had made it himself, and he was holding the only sample. The Man with The Bag turned out not just to have a great eye for design, but to also have a great and intricate mind, and his name is Brian Frandsen.
Core77: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you end up in the field of design?
Brian Frandsen: I was not supposed to study design to begin with, I never thought I would do anything like this. It sort of just happened. I've always been a bit of a book nerd— I live very much in my head. I've always loved school, mathematics and humanistic studies, so I thought I was going to study Danish, rhetoric, philosophy, political science or something along those lines.
After high school, I was lucky enough to get a job in quality control for a Danish mainstream clothing brand at their office in Hong Kong. I spent half a year there, with my partner at that time, and while I was there it hit me how disgusting the fashion industry really was.
My boss would find something she liked, draw it in Illustrator and send it off to the factory in China. After we got the sample and established the price of the product, they took away a few details to make it cheaper to produce and sent it back to the factory. The entire fashion and design mechanism was without feeling, without heart. I felt offended by the way it worked, yet at the same time it fascinated me.
I lived in Hong Kong for a while—just as with the fashion industry, I had contradicting feelings for the city itself. I loved it and hated it at the very same time. It's the most constructed place I have ever been. It feels like nothing in Hong Kong is natural, everything is man-made, everything has its place, and all of the buildings are built in a specific way. But at the same time, when you walk around and truly look you can see how the traditional Chinese culture is creating its own space in the cracks of the perfect façade. It grows like weed out of the asphalt. These perfect glass buildings and the uncontrollable growth that is happening in between theses buildings ignited something within me that changed me on a fundamental level.
After I got back, I still thought I was going to go to Copenhagen to study and get a serious degree in one of the rather academic fields. I don't know if they have it in other countries as well but in Denmark, universities have something they called Open House where you can visit the uni's and check out all of the courses available. I visited all of the ones I could think of, but in the evening, only Copenhagen design school was open so I went there just to see what they had to offer, and I was hooked. There was something about it, the same thing that had fascinated me with China, that was man-made and then the other side, the one that you could not control. That you should put yourself in the space between what the logic tells you and what your intuition tells you. That's where I wanted to be.
Another important factor in my decision to go to design school was a reform that resulted in a more theory-driven education. After that I went home, did some research and found out that there is only two design schools in Denmark: The Design School of Copenhagen and Design School Kolding. I visited Kolding and realized it was time for me to choose between a life (in Copenhagen) or a superior (to me, at least) education (in Kolding). I went for the latter. I applied the same year, and I actually didn't expect to get in that same year, but to my great surprise I did. So that was how I got into design.
Posted by erika rae
| 12 Feb 2014
Every family has their own lingo that's only understood within the doors of their abode. Some of my fondest memories growing up involve fighting my younger brother over the dobber in an attempt to nix the constant stream of college football that graced our home's living room and the never-ending injury-inducing dobber tosses from my mom to my dad. After a few confused looks from visiting friends, I eventually realized that not everyone referred to their television's remote control like we did. In fact, we were probably the only ones in the world to call it a dobber—which made it that much more special. No one in my family knows where the term came from or when we started using it, but we never skipped a beat using it in conversation—and every time I make the trek back home, it slips right back into my vocabulary. Luckily for families like mine (and yours, I'd be willing to bet), San Francisco-based illustrator Rinee Shah is compiling a collection of niche neologisms and creating illustrations to go with their descriptions in a series called "The Made-Up Words Project."
Posted by erika rae
| 8 Jan 2014
Trying to find some sort of beauty in the noisy traffic of a busy city street probably isn't your first thought as you're walking down an overstimulating sidewalk. In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll do anything you can to mentally take yourself away from the bustling environment—starting with plugging in to your headphones and creating some high-decibel eardrum damage. Urban Matter, Inc. is taking a different approach that present itself as such a blow to your hearing.
You can find your own personal moment of tranquility underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) in the most populous borough thanks to the Brooklyn-based design studio. Like many places in New York City, the traffic noise never stops and it gets quite dark, so the team took on the challenge of turning the noise into an interactive light exhibit. Enter "Silent Lights," a series of gates housing 1,400 LEDs located in a Brooklyn hotspot.
At the intersection of Park Avenue and Navy St., you'll find a series of square arches that slowly transition through a rainbow of colors according to the level of traffic noise in the area. Check out this behind-the-scenes video on what it took to create the installation: