Reclaim Domestic Actions publication autumn 2013

ImageThis magazine publication was great to read. It puts forward 54 actions or “re-processes” for architects and interior designers to consider during construction renovation of architecture in order to achieve living that is based on needs, and in turn, more sustainable results. There are similarities between the ideas here and those addressed within the Ted Ten, however the focus with this publication is on the built environment and presents ideas and examples that are particularly relevant to the design considerations that I make. The magazine highlights the importance of sustainable thinking from start to finish in order for it to be effective.

 Reference: Aurora Fernandes Per and Javier Mozas (editors), 2013, Reclaim Domestic Actions, Issue 41 Spring 2013, Spain,  a+t publishers.

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Using the Underground as a source of Heat

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Islington council in London are beginning plans to supply cheaper power to every home in the borough by harnessing the excess heat from the Northern line. I think this is a brilliant idea and I am surprised it is not already common practice. I like the idea of searching for resources locally and putting waste into good use. It is an example of localised and site specific strategies for sustainability. It also approaches historical means of energy production, which was always produced locally and distributed locally up until the 20th century. If energy was produced locally on a wide spread basis, then sustainable methods can be used according to context, need, available resources and conditions.

Reference: 19/11/2013, http://www.islington.gov.uk/islington/news-events/news-releases/2013/11/Pages/PR5021.aspx, website

TED TEN- Models from History and Nature

This Ted Strategy is one that I find most relatable to my own work because Nature has always been a massive influence for me.

It suggests that Nature is full of brilliant design, not only beautiful but perfectly functional- the models we can source from nature have been refined over centuries through evolution.

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I did not realise until today’s lecture, that Velcro is an example of Biomimicry. In 1941 George De Mestral noticed how the seeds of the burdock plant had stuck to his clothes, and his dogs coat. Examining them under the microscope, he noticed the hundreds of tiny hooks that caught on anything with a loop- this idea was adopted in designing velcro.

Reference: 12/12/2013, http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa091297.htm, website

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Elaine Ng Yan Lings project “Naturology: The Secret Life Of Textiles” creates surfaces that can respond external stimuli, such as movement and heat. The surfaces are made up of different forms, and move gently like leaves on a tree, capturing natures sensory quality and  elegant patterns. Yan Lings aim is to create a subtle harmony in interiors, architecture and broader urban environments.

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://blog.ted.com/2012/08/17/the-secret-life-of-textiles-fellows-friday-with-elaine-ng-yan-ling/, website

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Design duo Ecovative harnessed mycelium (mushroom fungi) and grow rather than manufacture their products, in particular, an alternative packaging to polystyrene. The material is 100 percent natural, renewable and biodegradable. They have given a couple of great talks on TED explaining their processes and ideas:

Video link: http://www.ted.com/talks/eben_bayer_are_mushrooms_the_new_plastic.html

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://www.ecovativedesign.com, website

Ask Nature is an excellent source of information about biomimicry, and how natures properties could be used to our advantage. There are hundreds of detailed articles with clear and concise information- so much learning potential. I will definitely be using the website for research and inspiration when creating designs. Here is the link:-

http://www.asknature.org

It is amazing that despite how “technologically advanced” we have become, there are some systems in Nature that we are still unable to replicate or fully understand. I think it is exciting that there are still so many new resources for us to unlock and utilise in making more sustainable life cycles for products.

There can be many sustainable solutions to be found if we look back in time  and take inspiration from the methods of production used before industrialisation and mass production.

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“Bilik and Bubu” by Lanzavecchia + Wai used an indonesian waeving craft, Rattan, in their design of a room divider, and a bench. The designs utilise the crafts strength and durability, as well as celebrating this crafts quality and beauty.

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://thisispaper.com/Lanzavecchia-Wai-Bilik-Bubu, website

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“Turkish Red” was a project by Formafantasma. THe designers created a product range that was inspired entirely by the archives at the textile museum in Tilburg. Their work explores the continuation of traditional craft, skill, and technique, also looking at how these can be developed to create new pieces. The Red pigment that was used is made from the root of the Rubias plant, and has been used as a pigment since the 18th century.

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://www.yatzer.com/turkish-red-studio-formafantasma, website

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Matilda Aspinall looks at historical attitudes towards materials and production, with regards to textiles in particular. She recognises that in the past we were far more resourceful with our clothing, choosing to alter and repair one garment several times because cloth was a luxury and a commodity. Aspinall takes this approach with her work, designing clothes with adaption in mind so that our products have more uses to us and last a lot longer.

Reference: 10/12/2013, http://www.tedresearch.net/people/research-students/matilda-aspinall/, website

Looking at historical methods of construction could be a way for me to develop more sustainable designs. I really appreciate quality and craftsmanship, which I just do not think can be delivered in the same careful way by many modern technologies and building methods. My nanny always quoted “If you buy cheap, you buy twice”- as a child I had no idea what she was talking about of course, but now I find myself thinking in the same way. If you spend a little more money on a quality product, the chances are you will get longer and better use from it, as opposed to buying something cheaper, only for it to break and end up having to buy again.

Atelier Tekuto- Earth Brick House

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Atelier Tekuto are an architectural studio based based in Japan. They devised a project with the aim to develop a widely available and environmental building material. They focused on soil- one of the earliest building materials. With research they found that adding Magnesium Oxide to natural clay soil makes it incredibly strong and durable. Magnesium Oxide is non-toxic and is not harmful to the environment (Magnesium Oxide is even added to some foods).

The studio formed the materials into bricks, easily manufactured and also possible to make by hand. The Bricks are 100 percent natural, and will stand for decades, at the same time as providing good insulation.

I am very interested in the idea of using the most basic and abundant of materials- earth- to make building materials. It is a method that has been used for centuries and centuries, but with the invention of concrete and steel was gradually over shadowed and somewhat forgotten in the building industry.

I think brick construction is commonly associated with victorian architecture and considered out dated or un attractive. Personally I think this is a misconception. Bricks do not have to be rectangular red blocks stacked one on top of the other. They can be formed into any shape or form, made from different materials that result in a variety of colours. The tessellation of the bricks can be creatively arranged, developing a sense of rhythm and movement through pattern. I also consider bricks to be a comforting material- tactile and warm, they offer a sense of solidarity and security. Having said this I can also see the potential in brick to be a delicate and fragile material, if made thinly like tiles, allowing for detail and elegance.

For my design project this year I would like to explore the potential of bricks, ways to reinvent their use to make something beautiful.

Reference: 14/11/2013, http://inhabitat.com/atelier-tekutos-earth-brick-house-is-the-epitome-of-efficient-local-design/, website

3DReid- Sustainable Office design

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3DReid have just completed the “nations most sustainable office environment”- One Angle Square Manchester. The building will be the headquarters for the Co-operative.

A double-skinned facade was designed to minimise heating and cooling, and underground concrete earth tubes provide free heating and cooling for incoming fresh air. Thermal mass is provided by exposing concrete soffits in the office areas. Waste air is extracted over the balcony edge using the natural stack effect of the atrium, avoiding large extract risers. This passes through a heat-exchanger that recycles the heat to warm incoming air. A water recycling system and rainwater harvesting lowers water consumption. In front of the building, the 3,000ft² lawn and with 75 species of plants, trees and shrubs, provides gardens for the staff and public. I appreciate this element of the design- not only does the architecture benefit the people who work there, but also provides a new space for everybody within the city, and has a positive social impact.

Researching this project has made me think about how to utilise many different strategies to create higher levels of sustainability. There is not just one solution to any project, and actually combining several ideas is a much more productive way to design. 3DReid have considered the proposed environment and designed a system of different sustainable technologies that work alongside each other. They have managed to do this without compromising the aesthetic of a modern working environment, in fact, i’m sure the abundance of natural lighting and connection with plants and foliage creates a fresh and motivating place to work.

Reference: 14/11/2013, http://www.3dreid.com/subsection/20/view?state=120, website.

18 Hewett Street London, “Design Beyond Making”

The current selection of work on display in this exhibition was really engaging. 7 designers (Miriam Ribul, Amy Congdon and J.J Hastings, Lauren Davies, Ann-Kristin Abel, Jeongwon Ji, Lorenzo Oggiano, Paul Ferragut) present their research into innovative and sustainable materials and processes for making. The projects are all unique and look at inventing completely new materials and reinventing existing resources that are plentiful.

Reference: – 8/11/2013, http://www.18hewettstreet.co.uk/, website

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Lauren Davies project “The Alchemist’s Dressing Table” was an elegantly presented display of tools to make scented oils, creams and cosmetics at home. She demonstrates the simple and easy processes that can make organic and natural beauty products. By making our own cosmetics we understand their content, reduce the demand for un economical mass produced products which can often contain chemicals and being localised, there is no need for excessive packaging or transportation. the work look at connecting with materials and how how we use them, and appreciating the resources that nature offers.

Reference: – 8/11/2013, http://www.dezeen.com/2013/08/27/the-alchemist-s-dressing-table-by-lauren-davies/, website

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I also loved Miriam Ribul’s “Recipes for Material Activism” which shared 5 methods for creating your own alternative and sustainable materials at home and how they can be applied to making products. I think the work highlights that being innovative with materials doesn’t have to mean using extremely advanced technologies that are inaccessible to most people. The range of ideas are impressive, and as the project develops will hopefully be published in a book.

Reference:- 08/11/2013, http://miriamribul.com/2013/11/01/recipes-for-material-activism-2/, website

02 Disquiet Luxurians by Emilie F. Grenier_1044

Emilie F. Grenier presented “Disquiet Luxurians”. The work questions the notion of “luxurious” materials- generally a scarce resource and very expensive like Gold, Diamond etc, and puts forward an alternative- selecting plentiful materials and developing processes that can make them seem luxurious. The emphasis becomes about “craft and provenance”. Grenier has been working with feldspar, a material that makes up 60% of the the earth’s crust. She has made beautiful artifacts, transforming an otherwise neglected resource into something beautiful and useful. This concept is one that I would like to explore in my own work. I would like to develop a process that allows me to use alternative building materials that are simple but effective and beautiful.

Reference:- 8/11/2013, http://commedesmachines.com/projects/disquiet-luxurians/, website

All projects were inspiring and the way in which ideas and methods are openly shared and accessible for people to try themselves is refreshing. The aim is to spread the knowledge that the designers gained during their research so that people can start to adopt the ideas and behave in a more sustainable way.

Titchmarsh and Goodwin

For as long as I can remember my dad has worked for Titchmarsh and Goodwin, and for equally as long I have appreciated the “kindness” (as described by my seven year old self) of their work. I remember being taken to the forest which was owned by the company- in complete awe of the vast expanse of autumnal tree tops- “all of these trees belong to your work?”  I asked. And they did. For every tree used, T&G plant a new one. Materials are sourced as locally as possible, and each piece is hand crafted in a small factory, supporting traditional skills and the local community. Furniture is made only to supply demand, so there is no wasteful mass production.  These are quality pieces of furniture, designed and built to last, so their use stage is very long, even spanning more than one generation. The company has worked this way since it began over 90 years ago. Now I can appreciate why my dad has always boasted about the “realness” of his work.

Titchmarsh and Goodwin’s webpage: http://www.titchmarsh-goodwin.co.uk/index.htm?oc=rel&di=desc&subj=about