There's no shortage of beautiful product launches during Milan Design Week, but that's certainly not all you'll find. This year we have our eye on the Design Switzerland exhibition, which will take residence inside the Teatro Litta, Milan's oldest active theatre. Selected from a call for proposals, 11 designers will be showcasing clever and ambitious solutions that aim to improve people's day-to-day lives. One of them, Reto Togni, will be sharing two projects that have piqued our interest.
First up, Togni will present Reagiro, a wheelchair featuring a steering system based on upper body movement. Instead of using a joystick to control direction, the backrest—which is attached to an axel—acts as a steering wheel. It tilts from side to side as the rider leans in different directions, and mechanical linkages transfer those motions to two small steering wheels at the chair's base.
The evolution of Reagiro prototypes
Togni says he was inspired by the bicycle industry and wanted to create a sporty-looking wheelchair that expresses this novel way of moving through its design. The frame uses a combination of digital and conventional manufacturing methods. To keep costs low, Togni designed his wheelchair so that any components that need to be customized to the exact requirements of a particular user can be 3D printed.
The Reagiro has been under development for several years, in partnership with the Laboratory for Movement Biomechanics at ETH Zürich and with additional support from Invacare International GmbH. Though it's yet to undergo clinical trials, it touts several healthcare benefits, including increased core muscle stimulation and reduced strain in the user's hands.
Togni will also be showing his Instant Windows project, designed to keep residents in war-torn regions from being displaced. "Depending on outside temperatures and climate, something as simple as a damaged window (e.g. from the shock-wave resulting from the use of explosive weapons in the vicinity) can leave the housing uninhabitable and push residents over the edge into displacement," he writes in his project description.
In response, he developed a "brutally simple" transparent insulation that conveniently comes on a roll, like plastic wrap. The product is made of two layers of plastic, with an air pocket between them created by horizontal latches. "The volume that forms the air pocket for insulation easily folds flat so that it can be stored and shipped on a roll from which almost any size or shape can be cut only using a pair of scissors," Togni explains. Once in place, a Ziploc mechanism ensures the latches remain at a 90-degree angle. The final result provides insulation similar to a single-pane glass window.
As with the Reagiro wheelchair, Togni is seeking partners to help roll out production. The prototype was finalized in 2016, but Togni hasn't had the opportunity to field test it yet.
Reagiro and Instant Windows will be showcased in the Swiss Pavilion at Palazzo Litta April 9 - 14.