Town Square is an adult day centre (and a kind of a time machine) designed to help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia elicit memories from their youth in the 1950s and encourage conversation and engagement.
Town Square is a safe indoor setting that mimics the urban, American environment of the 1950s. It uses reminiscence therapy by surrounding participants (don’t call them patients) now in their 70s and 80s with tangible prompts from their past, such as vintage storefronts, retro signage, and interior designs typical in the mid-century.
Of course, reminiscence therapy does not reverse Alzheimer’s, but it can give seniors a better connection with their past, improve their mood and enhance communication.
Participants are guided by caregivers through 14 storefronts that evoke the time when the average participants were between ages 10 and 30 – the time of life during which many of people’s strongest memories are formed.
At Town Square, seniors could be served a lunch at a 1950s-era diner, watch a vintage black-and-white film in a movie theatre, enjoy hairstyling at the on-site salon, spend some time in a clothing store, library or a museum arranged around a central green, and even tinker with a restored 1959 black Ford Thunderbird.
Town Square is the result of a collaboration between George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers (a California-based nonprofit organisation) and Senior Helpers (a national in-home senior care provider). It is located in an industrial building in Chula Vista, California, just south of San Diego. The goal is to build 100 more Town Squares in the US by 2021.
Photography by TrendNomad.com.
Do you like this article about Town Square? Maybe you think that I deserve a cup of coffee (or two)? Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will help me to finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences about design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.
What an architect should consider when he or she designs a home or a caring center for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? Architecture and interior design can not inhibit patient’s progressive decline in mental capacity, but if they are properly planned, may alleviate some of the symptoms, such as night-time restlessness, sense of loneliness or being lost. That is something that matters.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia: it is one of a range of conditions that progressively degrade the synaptic connections within our brains. It brings about a loss of those faculties that allow us to orientate ourselves, to navigate and to remember. Dementia erodes the ability to remember where you have come from and to plan where you would like to go.
The exhibition ”Losing Myself” inside the Irish Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale explores the lessons learned through designing and revisiting buildings for people with dementia by architects Níall McLaughlin and Yeoryia Manolopoulou.
At the heart of the exhibition space stands a complex drawing machine that appears to sketch out imagery onto the floor. Sixteen projectors show the entire plan of a building designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease located in Dublin, Ireland.
– The coherent, fixed plan an architect depends upon can never be fully brought into being by the buildings occupants: they cannot use memory and projection to see beyond their immediate situation and can no longer synthesise their experience to create a stable model of their environment. This produces a fragmentary world – we can learn at the exhibition.
The most informative and interesting part of the ”Losing Myself” exhibition is the list of sixteen lessons by Níall McLaughlin and Yeoryia Manolopoulou learned through designing and revisiting buildings for people with dementia. Here you can find an abstract of what they shared.
All architects need to understand dementia
Hellen Rochford-Brennen, chair of the Irish Dementia Working Group and vice-chair of the European Working Group of People with Dementia, has dementia. She finds that people often misunderstand what that means. When she books airport service to assist with her navigational difficulties, she is invariably presented with a wheelchair despite her lack of physical disability. – It’s my brain that’s slow, not my feet – she tells.
The tragedy of dementia is that the brain is hidden: we cannot see the physical degeneration caused by the condition. Architects need to design houses, public buildings, and cities with a full understanding of the cognitive difficulties that people with dementia face every day.
Risk and autonomy
There is a tension between the need to keep people safe and the need to preserve their quality of life. We are preoccupied with health and safety, the reduction of risk and controlled institutional environments that can eventually devastate the individual.
Lesley Palmer challenges the notion of the balcony as a risky building element for older people: ”We’re depriving everybody of daylight, for fear of someone jumping”.
When we remove opportunities for exploration and decision-making, we dehumanise people. It is easy to identify the physical damage of a broken arm, but it is difficult to quantify the mental damage inflicted by the loss of autonomy due to excessively restrictive policies.
Daylight is critical
Night-time restlessness is the main reason why people with dementia are committed to full-time institutional care. The person’s partner can no longer cope with the disruption.
For very many people with dementia, just increasing the light level in the place where they live can make more difference than medication. A combination of high levels of light during the day and melatonin supplements greatly ameliorates night-time restlessness by helping to regulate circadian rhythms.
The design of buildings with high levels of daylight must go hand in hand with careful management of that light to minimise confusing glare and shadows.
Like all of us, people with dementia need a connection to the outdoors. They should be enabled to go outside freely, to feel the sun on their skin, through the provision of safe external space. The effect of vitamin D on improving bone density in older people is well known. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of depression in older people.
Minimise visual and physical barriers
”Wandering” is a characteristic behaviour of many forms of dementia. Instead of trying to prevent wandering, we must strive to create an environment in which it is safe to wander.
Do not tuck bathrooms away at the back of the building. Think of people who experience navigational difficulties. If they can see the toilet from their bed, they can work out how to get there.
Routes should be composed to allow people to move through a building independently without getting lost. Where possible, the number of doors should be reduced. Clear visual connections between spaces facilitate passive surveillance, and the removal of physical barriers, such as locked gates, reduces the potential for frustration.
We need connections
Isolation is endemic among people with dementia. This is an important emotional issue but also a significant risk factor for health. There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that interaction with babies and children enriches the lives of people with dementia. Sabina Brennan, a dementia expert, says: ”We should care for our older adults in the same places that we care for our young children”. Successful models for this exist in Japan and Holland.
Life with purpose
Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon, writer, and public health researcher, stresses the value of giving older people a living thing to care for. Care and respite buildings for people with dementia must accommodate and facilitate meaningful activity, fulfilment, and creativity: for example, through singing, painting, dancing, gardening or cooking.
In Hammond Care facilities in Australia, clients spend time cooking. If the care staff believe there is a food hygiene issue, they simply serve a different meal.
My personal daisy-chain
The care environment and assistance for people with dementia should draw a lot on a person’s biography. It is common for dementia care facilities to prohibit users from decorating their rooms. But the provision for personal object placement (a spatial ”daisy-chain”) in the building is vital for the individual’s emotional well-being, their sense of personhood and ease of navigation.
Consider the city
Architects of public buildings are now required to consider physical accessibility from the outset. The same should be true for dementia. On our streets, as in building interiors, we should prioritise clarity of signage and routes. Buildings themselves with distinct identities may act as landmarks.
Assistive technologies can promote independence, autonomy, and confidence for a person with dementia and limit their exposure to risk. Movement and energy consumption sensors within the house or wearable location devices are very common and allow a degree of independence to be retained. Crucially, tools like these may reassure and empower carers.
The best place for someone with dementia is at home. Lesley Palmer, an expert in design for dementia, stresses that ”you shouldn’t have to leave your own home until your care needs are so acute that it is absolutely required”.
Allowing people to stay at home and in their communities reduces the risk of loneliness and isolation. The familiarity of the home is vital for a sense of belonging. As little is changed as possible.
Support at home can be enhanced by engagement with day-care centres, which provide daily stimulation and sociability and give carers much-needed respite.
Learn from other disciplines
Maintaining a constant dialogue with expertise outside our own field is key to developing a better understanding of dementia. The best work is done when architects speak directly to people with dementia, their families and collaborate with experts in other fields – from neuroscientists, carers and graphic designers to anthropologists, philosophers and furniture designers.
More information, including conversations, drawings, stories and experiments around the subject of dementia you find at www.losingmyself.ie.
Photography by TrendNomad.com
Do you find this material interesting and useful? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will help me to finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.
Does the mainstream media reliably inform us about everything that we should know about refugees? Or maybe media shows these people only in a bad light because sad news is more catchy? It’s time to look at refugees through their eyes, to understand who they are and how their lives really look like.
How refugees can build their better image in the media, and how they can improve their self-esteem at the same time? To find answers to these questions I talked to Marie-Louise Diekema and Tim Olland, designers of “Reframe Refugees” digital platform. The Dutch duo was one of five winning teams of WDCD Refugee Challenge, a contest that was a part of What Design Can Do international conference devoted to social aspects of design. The event run at the turn of June and July in Amsterdam.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity. To listen to the original conversation conducted just after the announcement of the winners of WDCD Refugee Challenge, press play on the video embedded below. If you find this material interesting, you can, literally, buy me a coffee, wherever you are. You can find all details about the donation at the bottom of this page.
TrendNomad.com: What problem do you try to solve? Marie-Louise Diekema: During our research, we noticed that in media refugees are pictured the same. They are all hopeless and victimised. Photographers are being sent to the camps with professional gear and they take photos that all look the same. Tim Olland: Refugees are not portrayed as people. They are shown more like objects and numbers invading our countries. We want to try to reframe that image.
Sad news dominates the headlines, because bad news sells very well. M.-L.D.: It’s true. Sad news sells. T.O.: I always prefer good news. M.-L.D.: Finally good news are just around the corner. They are really easily accessible for news agencies, or people like you and me.
Have you found a solution? T.O.: I wish we had a complete solution. Media show only one side of the problem. They are not lying, but they don’t show everything. We want to show the other side as well. Refugees are people. They have human connections and families in camps.
Good things are happening as well in refugees camps. These side is not shown in the media at all.
M.-L.D.: We want to show ambitions of these people and inventive ways the refugees live in camps, despite the fact that they live in horrible conditions. As Tim said, they are people, they have feelings, they are just like you and me. So why not let them show us that?
What is “Reframe Refugees”? T.O.: “Reframe Refugees” is a stock-based photo website with pictures taken and uploaded by refugees, accompanied by their stories. Refugees can show their side of the problem. We sell their photos to different media and blogs.
How to convince refugees to use this platform? Is it only about the money? M.-L.D.: It is not about the money. The sad thing is that as long as they don’t have asylum, they are not allowed to earn any money. They don’t have anything to do over there. We wanted to give them an opportunity to get some sort of self-appreciation. If their photo was used in media, they would get a notification. They would have a sense of: „WOW! My photo is in a big newspaper!”. T.O.: Social media shows us that everybody likes to share his or her photos and stories. People want to tell the world how they are doing, and how their life is looking. You want to do it anyway, and now you can do something good with it as well.
What does happen with the money you collect online? M.-L.D.: It’s a form of a donation that helps refugees. Money goes to charities that give aid to refugees. Media companies can choose where they want to send the money. We make sure if the money goes to the charities helping refugees.
What kind of devices refugees must have to be able to use this platform? T.O.: 90 percent of refugees have a smartphone. What’s the better way to reframe their image than reframing themselves with photos taken with their smartphones?
Is the quality of a picture taken with a phone good enough to be published in a printed magazine? T.O.: It’s not about the quality of a photo. It is about the story the picture is telling. It doesn’t have to be HD, crispy and sharp. It’s about the subject of the photo and what the author is trying to tell by it. A photo taken with a new smartphone can be easily used for print.
It has more to do with the skills of the photographer. The National Geographic has photography schools in camps across Europe. We want to connect with them and make people living in camps enthusiastic about taking photos and reframing their own image.
Is it useful only for new refugees? Can people who came here ten years ago also use it? T.O.: People who came here ten years ago could also share their stories. M.-L.D.: Maybe they don’t feel as comfortable as they should. They can take their image into their own hands as well.
Who will have an access to the photo library and be allowed to buy pictures? M.-L.D.: Everyone will be able to see the photos, buy and download them. The main audience is the media companies, but everyone can purchase a photo if it is to his or her liking.
What will you do with the money you have just won in the WDCD Refugee Challenge? M.-L.D.: The funding we have just received, 10,000 euros, will help us to start. Experts will help us to make a business plan, and to contact with new partners. We can really make this work. T.O.: We will be working on a prototype. We must find a way to reach out to refugees and make them aware of our idea. It also takes some money. M.-L.D.: We need to build the platform. We need a help from many people. If anyone has an idea or can offer any form of help, reach out to us.
Do you find this interview interesting? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will help me to finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.
The mobile advertising space located at the front of my eye-catching suitcase-tripod-billboard-scooter is for rent! While I am spotting trends travelling around the world from Tokyo to Las Vegas, the all-in-one scooter captures designer’s, entrepreneur’s, tech and start-up people’s attention and can make thousands of them look at and instantly love the logo of your brand.
I am a nomad. Every year I visit more than 20 fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design, consumer electronics and new technology that take place in cities such as Tokio, Dubai, Milan, London, New York, Las Vegas, and many more. I work this way since January 2013, and since June 2015 I am an independent journalist and a blogger.
I am always on the go, traveling by plane, or, when I reach my destination, riding my suitcase-tripod-billboard-scooter. The all-in-one equipment does not only make it much easier and even more enjoyable to do my job, but it also catches a lot of attention. Wherever I go, „the world’s smallest news van” always arouses positive emotions and feedback.
Many people take photos of the vehicle, ask questions, and keep my name cards. When we chat about the scooter, I would love to mention also about advantages of your brand. Our partnership may go beyond the mobile advertising space, as I can be your brand ambassador.
In total, there are more than 1,5 million visitors of events I attend each year. But the mobile advertising space can reach not only professionals who work on a design, tech and start-up fields. The scooter is also interesting for other passengers I meet at airports, as well as for tourists and local people I pass by in the trend-setting megacities.
I would love to travel around the world with the logo of your company set in the front of my all-in-one scooter. Online shops, airlines, hotel chains, travel sites, international mobile network operators, footwear, energy drinks and bars, coffee brands and coffeehouse chains – we are meant to work together.
Please contact me if you are interested in renting the mobile advertising space for one or more design and tech events I will visit in the following months. From September to November 2016 I will visit Berlin, Linz, London, Łódź, Eindhoven, Dubai, Masdar, Tokyo and Lisbon.
Do you like my articles? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.
Design is so much more than an aesthetic layer, design may have a huge social relevance – this is the message preached by organisers and speakers of the annual What Design Can Do conference. This year, one of the main themes at the event was the design for refugees. Here you can find quotations selected from the five most interesting speeches on this subject.
What Design Can Do 2016 conference that recently took place in Amsterdamwas a memorable edition on such subjects as refugees, the desperation of Europe and, for the balance, the relatedness of design with music. Here you can find the selection of quotations from five best speakers and panelist who attended to the sixth WDCD live conference that run 30 June and 1 July 2016 in Amsterdam to focus on and talk about the most urgent issue that is designing an aid for refugees.
1. Floris Alkemade
Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands (Rijksbouwmeester)
– In Europe, we have received 1,25 million people last year. It’s a lot, over one million, but at the same time, it is only one quantum of one percent of the European population [more than 700 million people – ed.]. In that sense the number [of refugees – ed.] is not that big.
How do we provide proper housing for these people? Once you do that you will not solve everything, but it is something at least that you can do to help. If you look what is happening now, this [kind of temporary buildings –ed. ] is often the answer. Born out of the necessity, there is an urge to build quick responses. The benefit is that they are flexible, you can put them anywhere, but the benefit is also the downfall of it. Because they are temporary, you invest a lot of money in temporary foundations, installations, you have to transport them, you have to store them when they are not needed.
A lot of money, I think almost two-third of the money, is going on effect that is temporary. They are not going into quality of houses. Try to go for more permanent houses.
In Holland, there are a lot of vacancies, a lot of abandon buildings. This is about 50 million square meters, and if you also have counted all kind of industrial buildings, old churches, schools, you end up with at about 100 million square meters in The Netherlands alone that are available. Part of providing cheaper dwellings can come up with a strategy to use the empty buildings. And we are not talking about empty vacant buildings somewhere at the highway, but about empty buildings in our city centres. If we use them for proper housing, then we can provide housing that stimulates integration at the same time.
Don’t look at asylum seekers as a group apart. Look at [them as the part of – ed.] the wider target group, as everybody who needs a flexible home. Once you use the urgency of this question to provide better dwellings, you not only provide the solution for asylum seekers, but also for the much wider group.
See them [refugees – ed.] as normal people who need a home, normal people with a very limited budget. We have a lot of people with a limited budget who need a home, so take that entire group.
Design can do something, even if the budget is so low, because, I think, low budget is never an excuse for a low quality. You can deal with it as a good designer.
One of the key things in Europe is no longer to talk about refugees crisis. If you have one-quarter of one percent of the population, the world crisis it totally obscene. See this [situation –ed.] as a kind of a new people entering the country that you deal with.
2. Dagan Cohen
Designer and leader of the What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge
– I’m a big fan of [Evgeny – ed.] Morozov, who is a huge critic of the Silicon Valey’s philosophy of solutionism, the way of thinking: There is an app for that, and that the technology can solve everything. Neither technology neither design can solve everything. What is very important is that when you put designers at the table with NGOs, decision makers and end users, you might have a very interesting discussion.
We should not consider designers as magicians who wave their magic sticks to make something beautiful that makes everybody happy.
What Design Can Do has always been educating the social impact of design, basically through international conferences, publications, organising debates and workshops. After five years the feeling started to grow that we need to be more active. Richard [van der Laken, the founder of What Design Can Do – ed.] summed it up saying: We need to move from inspiration to activation.
Designers like [those gathered – ed.] here are very much representing a generation that is thinking that their role is not [a holder of – ed.] a magic stick and not to make beautiful things, but to collaborate [with other people – ed.] and within collaborations show that designers also create toolkits and programs to help others.
3. Ruben Pater
– The law need to be changed, so refugees have these things that are [guaranteed – ed.] in human rights.
I don’t think refugees need designers. I don’t think they need stories. I don’t think they need a website. They just need a fucking good lawyer.
We should really be careful that designers are not used as a kind of excuse for our government not to do anything and to say: Look, designers come up with all those cute things, so we don’t have to provide actual housing.
4. Corinne Gray
Acting co-lead UNHCR Innovation
– We have more refugees, less money, political will is very hard to change. We realised that we needed to find better solutions to the program that we are doing.
As a unit we are not trying to create any solutions [by ourselves – ed.]. We think that the solutions already exist outside of our sector, so our role is about [finding – ed.] collaborative partnership connections.
We look for private sector solutions, solutions coming from other NGOs, academic institutions, and then we try to bring as many different actors together [as we can – ed.] to find the best possible solution for the best possible context. It is important to understand that not every refugee context is identical. In choosing solutions we look very much at what is appropriate for that specific context.
5. Petra Stienen
Arabist, publicist, independent advisor
– Humanity is about being able to be an owner of your own life at whatever circumstances you live. Being in the camp, being at a shanty tent [people need – ed.] to be able to design their own future, to have a hope for a better future.
I think that all of us [in The Netherlands – ed.] live in the cities or villages where refugees have arrived. As an individual, you can do much more thank one thing.
Look around you, maybe there are talented people from Syria, or maybe from other countries, that are designers, artists or singers. Give them a stage, give them an opportunity to develop their arts and creativity.
If you are in doubt or if you do not know what to do, there are many organisations [that may help – ed.]. Don’t hesitate to write me an email at email@example.com, I’ll be happy to connect you to people I know, who are looking for networks. They can work with [refugees – ed.] to design their future in The Netherlands.
Do you like this article? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.
German designer Katja Riley found a way to translate music into a tactile experience. Her project “Touched by Music” is an example of tomorrow’s wearable technology that does not bring the feeling of wearing tech. According to her vision, next generation of electronics will become soft, visibly disappear, and will relate to different human senses.
– Usually, hearing sense overpowers our touch sense. ”Touched by Music” project gives people a new experience of music, which is a tactile way of hearing – said Katja Riley, the author of the research that is much more than an ambitious bachelor project. ”Touched by Music” is a fascinating story about human senses, technology, wearable devices, music, dance, design, fashion and e-textiles all at once.
New textile-based products will move the technology to the fiber level.
”Touched by Music” is a top made of electronic textiles that makes music feelable on the human body. There are twelve small vibrating motors integrated with the garment. An MP3 file is sent via Bluetooth to a microcontroller integrated with the device. When the controller receives and analyzes the data, it activates motors adequately.
There are low frequencies vibrating motors on left and right sides of the stomach. Medium frequencies motors (the drum) are placed on the upper chest. On the back on the neck, there are high-frequency motors.
In contrast to today’s most products that bury technology inside a hard shell which consist of many materials, the next-generation products and their interface may be made of the same soft material.
The microcontroller and vibration motors are connected to each other and powered trough a conductive thread integrated into the fabric. A removable battery is located just next to the microcontroller on the lower back.
Katja Riley emphasizes that motors do not simply vibrate in a rhythm of a music. Vibrations rates are dynamic, which means they portray a mood of each song. If the wearer is happy or sad and chooses a matching song, an adequate emotion will be felt on his or her body.
Quotations used in this article have been edited for space and clarity. To listen to the original interview with Katja Riley watch the video embedded below. To learn more about conductive threads, pay particular attention to the part between 6th and 7th minute of the video.
Katja’s wearable device enables anyone who can’t hear or has limited hearing to experience music, but the designer does not address her project only to deaf or hearing impaired people (though, she is very happy that they can benefit from her project).
– Music is not just something we enjoy. It makes us feel better. It can heal. With this device, you can either choose just to feel the music, or you can listen to it and feel at the same time – Katja explains.
– All of us, those who can hear and those who can not, feel the music on our bodies, as music is nothing else than sound waves that hit us. The tactile experience is what makes us to really like a song. That’s why we turn on music very loud when we really want to feel it. When we are at the concert our experience is different from listening to music at home. The emotional side of music, which is the feeling of it, can be portrayed anywhere with my wearable – the designer continues.
Katja is the most excited about the materials she discovered during her research. She is fascinated by electronic textiles and how they could make electronics soft:– With e-textiles, we can give a new feel to electronic products and make them more human.
The first “Touched by Music” prototype is at the testing stage. It is not ready for a consumer market, and it is just a suggestion of how the final product may look like. The prototype was sewn, but Katja wishes to manufacture its final version on a seamless knitting machine.
– The technology chosen to produce this product is not something I can make a model just like that. There are very specific and huge industrial knitting machines necessary. It’s expensive at the beginning, as there is a lot of know-how and specialists needed to set-up such a machine, but when you go into production, then it is not expensive anymore. It is quite sustainable and much quicker method than cutting and sewing fabrics. Seamless knitting is kind of 3D printing for clothes. It comes out of a machine in one piece, cutting or sewing are unnecessary – Katja adds.
In the next 5-10 years we will see e-textile-based products that enable completely new ways of how we deal with electronics.
On the other hand, reusing and recycling e-textiles, including separating conductive threads from regular textiles, are near-future-problems the industry will encounter and should think of solving them in advance. Katja Riley suggests that the solution may be found by working with e-textiles manufacturers from the very beginning. Moreover, smart textile products must have specific new labelling standard to ensure correct disposal.
The designer believes that people will treat e-clothing differently than a regular garment which sometimes has a lifetime of a week. In her opinion, with additional functions and increased value people will use electronic clothing much longer than they do today with cheap fast fashion.
I met and interviewed Katja Riley at the exhibition organised by University of Applied Sciences in Berlin at DMY 2016 design festival, which ran June 2-5 in the capital of Germany. If you would like to ask some questions regarding ”Touched by music” project, please contact the designer directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos 1, 2, 3 and 4 depict slides included in the presentation shown by Katja Riley at DMY Berlin 2016.
Do you like this article or the video interview? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.
Visitors of Milan Design Week admire the thousands of new well-designed products. At the same time, it is not difficult to start questioning whether we really need such overwhelming amount of brand new things being launched every year? Maybe instead of half of them, it would be more useful to find an idea of how to reduce an amount of waste that is made during the production of everyday objects? According to some designers, we could use it to make… other pretty things. It does not solve the basic problem, but at least it could slightly decrease the amount of garbage going to landfills.
Milan Design Week organized in April is the best event in the world to notice that interior design industry does not follow important megatrends. Most of the top furniture companies have stuck in the twentieth century – the century of overproduction, irrational use of resources, environmental pollution, putting pressure on the superficial marketing and driving unhealthy consumption.
Old ways of advertising, including the one translated into quite new languages of Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is still, more or less, effective. Some people are still eager to pay a lot of money for buying iIllusions. Companies can still pretend that society does not age, cities are not overcrowded and polluted, and everyone is young, healthy and rich. Business goes quite well, so it’s still easy to ignore clients who are interested in something more than pure aesthetics and good PR that can be found in design magazines.
If reducing consumption seems to be an utopian idea, maybe at least we should try to produce less waste? Or find a way to use them in a reasonable way?
It may take a dozen or more years for some well-known design companies to emphasize, instead of boasting the names of design celebrities and telling fabricated stories, any true information about the origin, list of components and properties of the materials, fabrics, dyes, glues and varnishes that they use in production, as well as work conditions of their employees, sources of electric power that is used to drive machinery in factories and vehicles for transporting materials and finished products, and sharing tips on how to repair or recycle household items they offer. Today, they do not answer these questions.
Clients who more and more carefully read food labels, as well as tags of purchased clothes, consciously choose electric cars, public transport and bikes for commuting, use renewable energy sources, and are willing to pay higher prices for organic products or those manufactured in the countries where decent salaries are paid to employees, will also pay much more attention to the impact of a furniture company on the environment when making a next purchase. These customers will not believe that the transition into a sustainable, environment-friendly production is too expensive.
Trend from Milan 2016: remnants
Nobody will replace rules and mechanisms driving the furniture industry today or tomorrow, but few brave young designers shown in Milan their interesting ideas of how to make use of remnants instead of disposing them to a landfill.
Some remnants can be used to make valuable things – objects that are pretty enouht to be featured in popular design media, which usually ignore enviremental issues related to furniture industry.
Below is a subjective selection of the most interesting projects presented during the Milan Design Week 2016. They are not branded by fancy labels neither designed by celebrities. They are derived from the sensitivity of young designers and their sincere – though perhaps a little naive – concern for the world, environment, and other people. And, what it’s much less important, they are all eye-catching.
Waste from 3D printers
Hot Wire Extensions by Studio ilio is a material process that exists out of a heat source, which is the nichrome wire, and a composite of nylon powder and sand. The nylon powder is a waste product collected from SLS 3D printing companies, where it is used for building several times and then thrown away (who has known that 3D printers also produce waste?!). Watch the video below to learn more about the process.
Being able to transform simple wire structures into solid bodies, the unimaginable freedom in shapes and properties of the material mixture make this process easily distinguishable from traditional manufacturing processes. The first collection of twelve stools aims at exploring the unique characteristics of the developed process opening up possibilities and further applications.
The sand acts as a filler material as well as a heat conductor by distributing the heat around the wire. The nylon powder melts and bonds during the curing process that turns the mixture into a solid body.
Studio ilio is a London and Berlin-based design studio established in 2015 by Seongil Choi and Fabio Hendry who formed the partnership while studying at the Royal College of Art.
Mineral mining in Quyang Town, known as “The Town of Sculpture” that is situated in Baoding City in Hebei, a province of China, is one of the largest industries in the area due to its rich mineral resources. At the same time, the area generates prolific amounts of dust – Quyang ranks as the second-worst town with air pollution in the country.
The stone dust has a detrimental effect on air quality and people’s health, not just in the quarry itself, but also in the surrounding towns and villages. These people, often on very low incomes receive little or no healthcare support and many suffer long-term health issues as a direct result of this dust.
The project by Mi Zhang explores the potential of mining the dust. By mixing marble dust, pine resin and natural local pigments, it is possible to engineer a very tough yet fully biodegradable material that can be utilised by local makers, industries and communities whilst also improving overall air quality.
The Mining Dust by Mi Zhang was one of the projects shown at the exhibition prepared by students of MATERIAL FUTURES, a two years masters course taught at Central Saint Martins, which is a part of University of The Arts London.
Chen Ju Wei (ViiCHEN), Taiwanese designer and founder of ViiCHENDESIGN studio shown a stool with a soft seat along with accessories that are made of leftovers from a production of PVC-free TPE yoga mats that were developed by Taiwanese composite company Microcell.
It’s not easy to believe, but legs, all joints and the shell under the cushion of the stool that all look and feel like ones made of natural wood, are entirely manufactured of the same Thermal Plastic Elastomer material as non-toxic yoga mats. Though, hard parts do not origin from yoga mats leftovers – they are made of a composite branded as CELLwood, which it is the same hazard-free TPE that is used in yoga mats production, but has a higher density.
As all parts of the furniture from N Collection are made of TPE, it is easy to recycle and reuse the material to avoid environmental pollution and reduce waste. In other words: brilliant, cool, nice and awesome.
When the wood is being lumbered, there are those small parts that were left out. Even though they are harvested from the same tree, remnants are marked as low-value from the start. The intention of designers from Osaka-based Kairi Eguchi Design studio was to create something beautiful out of these remnants, even more beautiful than being made out of lumber. And as you can see on pictures below, they undeniably reached their goal.
Top boards of furniture and lighting from Wood Mosaic Collection are made of remnants of Japanese cedar in block shapes and put together in a mosaic.
Marlène Huissoud, London-based but French-born designer coming from a family of beekeepers, is interested in the viability of utilising insects and their waste. In her project named Of Insects & Men, that continues her From Insects work, she combined honeybee bio resin (also known as propolis) with common industrial waste materials such as glass.
Marlène Huissoud has been collecting discarded glass pieces from different companies in London. The honeybee bio-resin is used here to bind the glass pieces together in sculptural alien look pieces.
Of Insects & Men project shows how two waste materials, natural and industrial, can perfectly complement each other. These objects question what is natural and what is not, what is fake and real, testing our knowledge of materiality, a visual perception of materials and a textural vibrancy.
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