Considering the Life Cycle of My Current Project

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Image Reference: “Design For Cyclability” Lecture

We were introduced to The Ted Ten Life Cycle during our lectures, and at the same time I was just being introduced to the first project in my course this year.

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Image Reference: – 02/01/2014, http://www.mappery.com/maps/Greenwich-Map.jpg, website

Greenwich was given as our location, and we were broadly asked to design an “Architectural Device” for a site of our choice in Greenwich.  Basically, my design composes of a small scale space for a child, enclosing a basin of water that fills and empties according to the changes in tidal level in the river Thames. The object of the space is to help the child, who is afraid of water, become more comfortable with it and even begin to find its slow rhythmic movements soothing. I guess it could be considered a therapeutic space. As this project has developed I have revisited the life cycle to assess the sustainability of my designs and highlight areas that I can improve on whilst still in the design process. I am nearing completion of this project and have again been thinking about the life cycle of my design.

Some areas of the life cycle are perhaps less relevant for this project, such as Packaging and Transportation and Manufacturing, but I made notes about the stages that do apply to my design.

MATERIAL EXTRACTION

I have been careful to select natural and renewable materials. I propose to use native English Yew timber, for the main constructed elements of the build. Yew timber has many knots, and this means that much of the timber extracted from a Yew tree can be disregarded as unusable. I however would like to embrace the grains within the wood, and enhance them to create richly interesting surfaces. As a result I could potentially build using only the wood that would otherwise have been wasted, and reduce the need to cut down more trees. I would ensure that I sourced the wood from an FSC certified supplier, and ensure that for all trees cut down, new saplings were planted. By using Yew wood I am reducing the need to import materials as it can be easily grown in Britain. In order to protect the wood against the elements, and from the water inside the structure, I would choose not to treat it toxic chemicals or sprays, and instead use the traditional method (taking models from history) of coating the wood with natural linseed oil, which proves just as effective. The water in the basin is naturally supplied by the Thames. Building a timber frame, and the fact that my design is on a very small scale, about the size of a small garden shed, I would be able to utilise slotting joints, and avoid the need for materials like concrete.

PRODUCT USE

Upon considering the level of use and length of use of my proposal, I realised that as a space designed to rehabilitate the child and help him adjust to the experience of water would not need to last for years and years as many architectural structures do, but rather a month or so. This meant I could reduce the amount of materials I needed to use and simplify my design by considering it only needed to last a short amount of time. I was able to reduce the thickness of timber required, and eliminate eliminate the need for reinforcement materials like steel.

END OF LIFE

This was an important consideration. Having noted that my design would be relatively short lived, I new I needed to create an after use plan so that the materials I had used would not go to waste. The structure is located in Greenwich park. The public use of the park and the surrounding natural, green open spaces inspired me to make the plan to re construct the timber into low level fencing, enclosing the water basin that could act like a pond. The remaining timber could be used to make benches, and raised beds in which to grow small scale produce like herbs, vegetables and of course flowers. It could be a community based project promoting a DIY approach to growing your own food and sourcing local produce.

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Sustainable Aspects Of My Previous Projects

I revisited some of my projects from last year, and considered the areas in which I had succeeded in taking a more sustainable approach to design.

Portobello Road and the surrounding area was allocated as our project site. We were asked to find an area of investigation. Influenced by the hustle and bustle of Portobello, the vibrant colours, and the eclectic mix of objects and cuisine that fills the streets at market times, My focus was on the senses, and I was exploring the ways in which design could awaken our senses, and in turn enliven our daily and spatial experiences.

Project one was entitled “Sensory Mapping”. Whilst maps are generically reliant on vision, I wanted to create a map that would offer a visitor to Portobello a new and alternative experience of place by placing an emphasis on engaging with sound. This began with a series of drawings that recorded my acoustic experience whilst navigating the site.

ImageImage These drawings were very personal, but undertaking them was incredibly rewarding and created a completely new experience and understanding of Portobello compared to the previous visits I had made. I wanted to visitors to Portobello to share this rich experience, and devised a series of maps, void of visual or written information other than the very basic road layout, which users could use to create their own “Sound Maps” by recording their interpretation of the sounds that they experienced.

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This project did not require an abundance of materials. It relied simply on paper, a little printer ink and a pencil. I created a spatial experience, which puts into practice some of the ideas about Reducing The Need To Consume.

Leading on from this project I began to explore another sense, touch, which was an interesting area to explore in relation to spatial experiences because it is rare to find descriptions of place that include what could be physically felt. I became interested in the idea of “Sound Synesthesia.” I worked to translate the sounds around Portobello Market, in combination with it’s visual impact, into a tactile source of information. This sensory information has been layered onto one surface, building an indulgent pattern, and came together to create “sensory wrappings”.

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ImageI developed these wrappings into envelope like objects, their scale developed to make them small and intimate enough to be held and explored with the fingertips- the most sensitive part of the body to touch. This acute tactile experience is combined with sound responsive drawings and graphic notation that aim to evoke visual experience of sound. The curved corners are intended as guides, helping the user to navigate their way through the flaps, and experiencing the layers of information.

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I think this project succeeded in for-filling some of the ideas within the Ted Ten because one surface was used to build a pattern, using only ink and embossing, which uses no extra materials. The objects were designed to be memento’s of a visitors trip to Portobello, something that would be kept for a long time and treasured. Being made mainly of paper the objects were easily recycled.

The final project leading on from my exploration of the senses involved working in a group, and developing a “market stall”. As a group we harnessed my ideas around the senses to design a stall that was engaging and interactive for the user. We wanted our stall to be efficient, and designed it according to our needs. This meant it was only about 1.5m tall, with a depth and width of around 0.75m.  The stall may have been built a lot smaller than general stalls but we did not want to use more materials than we needed to. As a group we discussed the essence of Portobello road, and how this could be captured in our stall design. We thought about the markets and antique shops, and decided to source old objects that were perhaps no longer that desirable, and re work them for use within our stall. This meant we reduced waste and saved using new resources.  We found a broken wooden seat and an old suitcase.

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Our final stall was almost like a game, or an exciting vending machine. Once a customer had chosen their product, they would need to “process their order” by cranking handles, rotating cogs and navigating flaps.

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Looking back at this project I recognise there was so much more that we could have considered in order make our project more sustainable. Learning from the Ted Ten I can see that we could have:-

-Ensured all the materials that we used were either second hand or off cuts, and really pushed the idea of recycling old objects further.

– We could have looked at alternatives to using acrylic for the cogs and inner mechanics of the stall. Perspex can be hard to recycle and often contains toxins. Simply by sourcing more sustainably produced material that was easy to recycle would have been an easy solution, with no aesthetic detriment.

– We made the stall for a one day set up at Portobello market, and did not consider what use the stall could come to after this. Perhaps we also used too many materials for such a short use, and could have designed using less. When people came to our stall at the market, they were intrigued and loved using it. One gentleman said “I want this in my house! let me buy it from you!”. Perhaps we should have passed the stall on to him so that it remained in use and could become a longer lasting object.

Kirst Reitan Andersen Seminar; Design thinking and the Role of Designers

We were lucky enough to have this lecture delivered by Kirst Reitan Andersen, who is currently studying her PHD at the Copenhagen Business School. Her project is funded by the Mistra Future Fashion Program, and Andersen is exploring how businesses can incorporate “design thinking” into their work practice to drive better results towards sustainability.

Andersen defines Design Thinking as “a methodology for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result.”  She suggests that if this approach is combined with the more “scientific” approach that business men and women tend to work by (“defining all the parameters of the problem in order to define the solution”), then we can achieve more effective and complete solutions.

Andersen showed us case studies of her ideas put into practice.

One example was Veja, a French footwear brand that combines better conditions for Brazilian farmers with fashion, fair trade, and ecology. They work directly with small producer co-operatives in Brazil, using materials such as organic cotton, wild Amazonian rubber and acacia-tanned leather to create products for the European market. They do this without compromising on the design aesthetic of the final product.

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Aowen Jin is a British Chinese Artist, who in 2010 worked undercover in factories in China. She interviewed more than 800 of the 16-30 years old girls employed there. The project aims to document China’s economic transition, the changes in contemporary Chinese culture, the changes in the factory girls themselves and the changes in the world of consumer culture. Not only does this feed her own artistic interests, Aowen is able to deliver the information to businesses that use the factories so that they can develop a better understanding of the workplaces they create and understand where they might need to make changes to improve conditions.

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Reference: Kirst Reitan Andersen Lecture, 22/11/2013

Ted Ten- Design Activism

This strategy explores the role of designers in promoting sustainability and change. Theorist suggest that as we now live in a society in which “everybody designs” they have to work as part of a “complex mesh”- among individuals, non-profit organisations and businesses who are working creatively towards sustainability.

“To be a responsible designer requires more than just talent, it requires good citizenship” (Steven Heller – Citizen Designer, 2003)

This quote outlines the idea that designers should not only produce things, but also promote their ideals.

Otto Von Busch is a key figure in Design Activism, and is part of “Fashion Hacktivism”. He wants the consumer to take back control over their fashion choices, taking a step back from mass produced and un ethically sourced goods, and creating a fashion industry in which the customer is far more involved. Von Busch says “I believe it is better to make change from within the system, by not destroying it but building on it.” This image sums up his approach:-

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Reference: 18/12/2012, http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/1466/1/otto-von-busch-fashion-hacktivism, website

AdBusters are a very prolific group of designers that have been participating in design activism for many years. The first piece that I came across of theirs was actually in the Victoria and Albert Museum- “I shop therefore I am”. Often, the designers take adverts or phrases and twist them slightly to reveal a new truth. The pieces are quite subtle but very clever, and have a lasting effect of the viewer. They take something that we know so well and make us realise there is a lot more to think about. This particular campaign worked against mass consumerism and needless consumption.

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Reference, https://www.adbusters.org, website

I think having a kind of personal manifesto to work by, being confident in this manifesto and believing in it, sharing it with others so that they might adopt the approaches themselves is a way that I could be slightly more of a design activist. This lecture made me realise that activism does’t have to be aggressive or vigorous, but can make a big difference.

TED TEN- Design to Dematerialise and Develop systems

This is an interesting strategy, and something that we can all engage with easily, probably saving money and enjoyment alongside. It looks at how systems and services can be used to meed needs in replace of tangible products, and how these systems and services might also allow us to benefit from products without actually having to own them.

Exchange and Swap services, auction sites like eBay, Gumtree, FreeCycle are all examples of systems that allow us to pass on our products once we no longer require them, extending their life span as opposed to throwing them away, and possibly earning a little extra money too. The success of these sites in recent years proves that this Ted Ten has a lot of potential to help us live more sustainably.

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 Image reference: 18/12/2013, http://uk.freecycle.org, website

Reducing the need to consume can also be achieved by sharing, leasing and renting goods. One example of this is the website “Bag Borrow or Steal”, with which you can rent designer accessories for a dramatically reduced fee compared to what you would have to pay if buying new. Once you have used/worn the item you return it to the store. There are services that also This allows one product to supply multiple people. I think this is such a good idea. People buy a whole new outfit when they attend a wedding or party for example, but couldn’t possibly be seen wearing again to the next event! (not my personal view but anyway)- so why do you need to own it just so it can sit in your wardrobe gathering dust.

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Image reference: 18/12/2013, http://hire.girlmeetsdress.com/collections/dress-hire/products/red-draped-dress, website

Recognising that many of the cars on the road are only occupied by one or two people, especially during the commute to and from work, CarShare was a system set up around the idea that we don’t all need a car all of the time. There are specific models for businesses, suggesting that they own a fleet of cars to service their employees, that communities can own a fleet of cars to share, rather than every person having to own their own car. This is also something that has been promoted between peers, particularly during the commute to and from work. Drivers can offer the empty seat in their car to passengers heading in the same direction, possibly in exchange for a small fee towards fuel. If car sharing became mainstream, we would not only save an enormous amount of fuel and Co2, but imagine how much less traffic there would be!

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 Image reference: 18/12/2013, http://www.life-size-media.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Car-Share-Scheme.jpg, website

Services that offer to repair and update goods are a brilliant way to dematerialise. Groups such as the “ReMakery” and Nudie jeans are good examples. This approach can also incorporate social activity and skills sharing. “Drink Shop do” runs with this approach, a cafe where you can enjoy a coffee, learn a skill and make/repair goods alongside other like minded people.

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 Image reference: 18/12/2013, http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-3rsIdoKff3A/TaKy9qk92jI/AAAAAAAACKU/55BQZxJ3Zs4/s1600/drink-shop-do-front.jpg, website

Spoonflower is a service that allows customers to design their own fabric. (This Service also relates to the previous Ted Ten that explored “emotional durability” as it offers personalisation of goods). Spoonflower only makes the fabrics that are commissioned, meaning that there is no wasteful mass production. It is a service that ensures only what is needed is made, and what is made is specific and exactly what the customer needs.

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Image reference: 18/12/2013, http://www.spoonflower.com/welcome, website

I also love services that share skills and information so that we can all become more independent and able to provide ourselves with what we want, and modify it to what we need. “Open Structures”, “Technology Will Save us” are popular examples of this. The internet has made file sharing so simple, and anyone can access and download templates and instructions for products to build them selves.

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Image reference: 18/12/2013, http://openstructures.net, website

To me all of these ideas are great, and personally am actively involved with similar services. Saving money, earning money, and sourcing products that are potentially much more unique than mass produced goods on the hight street is something I enjoy. The internet has made it all so accessible and simple too. What I have not considered before, but has certainly given me something to think about, is how systems and services could be applied on a larger scale. We exchange clothes and skills and furniture, but what about architecture? What about the possibility of developing systems that can help to make buying property more affordable, more sustainable? Maybe holiday homes shared among a community, or open spaces that can be used to locally grown food and produce .

Ted Ten- Design To Reduce The Need To Consume

There is no denying that today, we buy more goods than ever. We buy all the time, and we are buying beyond what we actually need. We buy to make ourselves feel good, we go shopping as a social activity. My experience of living in London is that the opportunity to consume is never more than a five minute walk away, with what often feels like infinite choice and possibility.

“Emotionally Durable Design” is a book and theory written by Jonathan Chapman (2006). He explores the emotional connection and attachment we have with our possessions, and suggests that how well the product maintains this attachment dictates how long we will use/keep it for. He describes waste as “expired empathy” with an object.

Reducing the need to consume new goods can also be achieved by looking at how repairing we can repair what we already own. “Sugru” have developed a self setting rubber like material, marketed to “fix, modify and improve stuff”. This idea gives people control, they can alter their stuff to suit their needs and preferences. It adds a personal touch which extends “emotional empathy” with goods too.

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Reference: 17/12/2013, http://sugru.com, website

17/12/2013,  http://blogs-images.forbes.com/tjmccue/files/2011/11/Sugru.jpg, website

 Melanie Bowles and Emma Neuberg are designers who aimed to extend a products life span by enhancing the emotional “empathy” consumers had with their purchase. They did this by offering consumers the knowledge to design their own textiles using digital printing techniques. If people make their own clothes, with meaningful designs, then it reduces the need for mass produced globalised items.

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Reference: 17/12/2013, http://www.thepeoplesprint.com/about/, website

“Butter by Nadia” developed a garment called “Signature”. This is a single textile that can be worn in so so so many different ways. This means that one piece of material can perform the task of dozens, thus reducing the need to consume. I love the idea of taking one item and being creative about all the ways in which is might be useful. I think designing a product that has many possibilities for use and function is something that could translate really successfully within architecture, the space saved through only having one item over 2 or 3 three would also be a bonus when we consider that, due to affordability, many of us are living in smaller and smaller homes.

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Reference: 17/12/2013, http://www.shopbutterbynadia.com, website

                    17/12/2013, http://cdn.the-dressingroom.com/product-media/1UZ/800/1130/Butter-by-Nadia-lookbook.jpg, website

Materiality also plays a role in a products durability. Hard wearing fabrics for example, made well and put together as a garment to a high standard will physically outlive the opposite, reducing the need to buy frequent replacements. I think sometimes also the longer we own something, the more it seems to belong to us and feels like part of who we are in some small way. Perhaps material longevity also helps to slowly develop an emotional attachment too.

Barbour make a waxed cotton jacket which is really well made, with durable materials. Any customer who buys one of these jackets can return it to Barbour when the wax needs re coating, and they will re wax the jacket, extending its life for a further few years, until it needs waxing again.

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 Reference: 17/12/2013, http://www.barbour.com/uk/l/mens, website

Seb Oddi has created a product which I think is just brilliant – The “stain tablecloth” becomes an even more beautiful product when something gets spilled on it. It is inevitable that before long some clumsy diner knocks over their wine glass or a messy toddler spills their food, and the tablecloth ends up in stained and in the rubbish. Seb Oddi’s tablecloth reveals a beautiful design when something “ruins” it, so that the user might be inclined to keep it rather than throw it away.

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Reference: 17/12/2012, http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/__data/assets/image/0003/38379/SO_sml.jpg, website

Kristine Bjaadal takes a similar approach with her furniture designs, promoting wear and tear and encouraging us to keep our belongings for longer (and name good use of them!)

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 Reference: 17/12/2013, http://www.kristinebjaadal.no/portfolio/underskog/, website

Quite a new and alternative approach to reducing the need to consume is the idea of creating “immaterial experiences”.

Jenny Tillotson describes her practice as “weaving scent into technology”. Using scent capsules into fabric she hopes to develop an “electronic nose” which responds to emotions and releases appropriate fragrances. For example, if the nose detects fear or anxiety, calming essential oils might be released. I can imagine this being incorporated into our homes too. We come home from work, cold from wintery weather, and the house knows it needs to warm up, or we come home after a stressful day and the walls release calming aromas. I like the idea of exploring all of our senses through design. We are always lead visually, but our smell and touch and sound are equally as powerful when it comes to our interpretation of a space/object and our emotional engagement with it.

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Reference: 17/12/2013, http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/csm/2010/05/20/congratulations-to-csm-senior-research-fellow-jenny-tillotson-on-her-knowledge-transfer-award/, website

This strategy is one that I really want to incorporate into my design practice. It seems to me entirely sensible, not only making more sustainable things but things that simply allow us to use them in a more useful way. How much more appreciative and respectful of things we would be if they were personal and useful!

TED TEN- design that explores cleaner/better technologies

This strategy looks at how technology can be used and developed to deliver more sustainable design.

3D printing is a method that is quickly becoming more advanced, and more accessible. I couldn’t believe it when I was browsing in the Science Museum gift shop on Saturday, and on sale was a “Makerbot”- a 3D printer for the home (i’m not convinced how many homes at the moment, at nearly £2000 I certainly couldn’t afford one yet!).  Many consider this technology to be a more sustainable production method because of it’s precision, and the fact that there is less material waste from off cuts etc. The design can be incredibly accurate and refined digitally before any physical material needs to be used for making sketch models too.

Currently 3D printing isn’t extremely flexible, in the sense that there is a limited material and colour palette to chose from and the forms that can be produced are not endless, nonetheless I enjoyed these examples of designers exploring 3D printing in their work:-

Freedom Of Creation are a design group that have built their business on exploring 3D printing. They have developed accessories from jewellery to phone cases to bags, all the way through to interior products such as lighting and furniture and even entire walls. I Love the creation of pattern and texture that is achieved. The lighting products especially are very atmospheric and cast intriguing shadows.

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The wonderful thing about Freedom Of Creation is that they share “product sheets”- PDF files that explain the process, design drawings, and used materials of each product they sell.

Reference: -17/12/2013, http://www.freedomofcreation.com, website

– “Design that Explores Cleaner technologies” Lecture

Enrico Dini, also know as “the man who prints houses”, has helped to develop the D-shape printer, a 3D printer capable of printing large structures, using materials that mimic stone or concrete. By using this technology he hopes to transform the way we construct our environment.

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 Reference: 17/12/2012, http://www.themanwhoprintshouses.com, website

Anish Kapoor is an artist who utilises technology in his work. It allows him to take on an architects role and design buildings. In recent years he has collaborated with architects like Arata Isosaki , and been involved in many projects that offer relief to places that have been stuck by natural disasters. The Ark Nova was commissioned in response to the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. It was an enormous inflatable dome that was easy to inflate, and when deflated it was easy to pack up and transport to another region. The Ark Nova was used as a concert hall, and hosted music, dance, theatre and art. The Ark offered hope, entertainment, joy and the sense that it was possible to re build communities after such a disaster.

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Reference: 12/12/2013, http://www.dezeen.com/2013/09/26/ark-nova-by-arata-isozaki-and-anish-kapoor-completes/, website

Another designer/architect, Thomas Heatherwick, whose projects are vast and varied, has often made use of technology to design products that are innovative, exciting, familiar yet wonderfully new. A really good example of this is his Rolling bridge. The mechanical bridge elegantly curves away when boats need to pass. It acts as a piece of sculpture as well as being incredibly efficient and practical.

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Reference: 12/12/2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/the-ingenious-thomas-heatherwick-designer-and-engineer/7492.html, website

I am not a huge lover of technology. I think I am just old fashioned and have the impression that going digital takes the physicality out of designing, somehow dilutes the process and eliminates individual and creative thinking. But maybe I am under the wrong impression. Perhaps when technology is used as a part of the design process, it can offer fresh and engaging design in a more sustainable and resourceful way.

Reference: – “Design that Explores Cleaner technologies” Lecture, 08/11/2013