Since we are gradually running out of natural resources such as clean water, cotton and silk, a lot of designers have been working with scientists to innovate some form of technology that could either self-replicate the resource, or a creation that could essentially replace the resource itself.
In 2010, Dr Kaplan and his team managed to develop a spider silk protein with the bacteria e.coli by decoding and reprogramming the bacteria. The scientists are hoping to produce genetically modified plants that produces spider-based silk, which could be harvest like cotton. This would eventually replace silk, the team is working towards engineering artificial spider glands that work like real spider glands.
Since the bacteria and the plants will be programmed, the product could be a lot more controllable and particular, they could essentially customise different function for different brands.
Dr Kaplan and his team attempted to reprogram e.coli without using harsh chemicals and without generating any toxic, however it was not successful until in 2010 when they did eventually started using what is seen as the unethical. There has been some voices who are against the development, considering the current ecological crisis, however this is when we have to choose between whether to be unethical or to loss a natural resource. This has left me wondering, will all natural resources be replaced by programmable coded products? Including our necessity such as clean water, and oxygen even. Will our world gradually become a huge factory/ playground for scientists? And if that happens, will we, (i.e. the scientists) be in total control?
This blog has been a helpful for me to recall and secure memories from each week’s lecture/ workshop. Through out the weeks, I have learnt about different aspects of innovative materials, from the beginning of learning about raw materials, which allows me to think about sustainable designs and products from the very first step as a designer and consumer. Then we learnt about biomimicry where we use nature as a model to design inventions to solve existing problems. We also looked at speculative design and human-centred design, which are two different ways of designing for our future. I find the 4 design steps for human- centred design extremely useful, especially having a persona throughout the design process made it a lot more specific and precise.
Overall, I enjoyed the lectures and workshops. I think I have learnt a lot about both sustainable and innovative designs, through completing the tasks, I also had plenty of opportunities to research before analysing them critically. The design steps and researching skills are techniques that I have learnt from this expanded practise and will get to put to practise again and again in the future. I also find the workshop on human-centred design on our last meeting was especially fun, it was my favourite meeting out of the all. I especially loved the two examples I found for the speculative design, although they are not necessarily textiles related, both ideas are so innovative without being very science- based.
I really love the idea of the Light Showers, which embraces the unwanted discharge and turning it into such a beautiful installation. A lot of people nowadays have a lot of misunderstandings towards discharges and waste, which is understandable, but everyone needs to stop being to repellent and be more open-minded towards them, because we can find ways to beautify them. Just because we don’t the landfills and waste does not mean they don’t exist.
Parts where I found difficult was the beginning of the expand practise, as I had a different expectation to what it really was, I was not expecting there to be any scientific elements to it. I thought it would be more focused on materials that are innovated, i.e. more textiles based, but there was a lot more to it than just learning about new materials. As I eventually became more comfortable with the unit, I learnt to enjoy it more.
On the other hand, I was pleased with how committed I was to attending and completing all the lectures and tasks every week. Since I did not have a lot of knowledge to innovative materials before attending the expanded practise, it was a bit difficult sometimes to be 100% committed, especially when some of the lectures focused on the scientific research, which has happened once or twice. But I made it through with commitment and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Surprisingly, I also quite enjoyed completing the tasks, although they were very time-consuming, a lot of them were quite fun and I gained a lot of knowledge through researching.
We were put into groups to come up with a human-centred design. Following the four design steps: reframe, personas, brainstorming and selecting, and storyboarding.
Reframe: We were given the issue of climate change, and for our group in particular, our issue was more frequent extreme weather and rise in temperature in 2050.
Personas: Our group decided to come up with a character who is a french farmer. The apple farming business is a handed- down family business, although it is not run by a chain company, it is the main employer in the region. The business has always replied on seasons, therefore he is not familiar with dealing with climate change.
Brainstorming and Selecting: as a group of four, we brainstormed some ideas individually. We then looked at them together as a group, and realised that a lot of them are similar in some ways. We selected and combined a few main ideas and added more precise descriptions to them, in order to create a final complete storyboard.
Storyboarding: The french farmer has always been happy with his apple harvests, until recently the weather has been very extreme, he even starts experiencing droughts. He finds a solution of having a protective greenhouse-like shelter, which not only is it portable, it could also collect the heat from the outside, then cooling it down before releasing it into the protected space. Since the shelter is designed for extreme scenarios like droughts, first layer of roof would open up when it is raining, rainwater would then be stored and treated in the roof, and would be released into the soil when needed. Moisture monitors are obviously installed in the soil, which is connected to the shelter. The monitors are made of fibre that could trap excessive moisture from the soil and release when it is too dry.
I find the workshop very helpful in terms of allowing us to practise designing human-centred designs. I especially enjoyed it because it allows us as practising designers to be very creative and imaginative through out the process. I also find the personas very helpful, it could get difficult sometimes to design for future scenarios, because the topic is so broad that it is easy to get lost. Having a persona helps me stay on track and a lot more focused. I also enjoyed working in a group with others, although we have had group workshops before, they did not require as much creativity and effort as the human- centred design workshop. It was really interesting to hear others thought and see how wide of a variety of ideas we could come up with as a group. The most challenging part I would say was when we had to create the persona, of course we wanted to be as precise as possible, and so we had to almost create this person based on the background information we were given. Since the situation is set in the future, it was difficult to be so precise with the person we were creating, which is why we chose to create a person who is from a small town, where nothing too dramatic happens.
The human- centred design is definitely something I could continue practising in the future. Especially with the works I am creating, they are often design around human beings, they are not necessarily very high-tech, but the human-centred design would definitely make it easier to create a tailor-made model for humans. The four steps are also easy to follow, and are easy to build designs upon them.
Future Past –> Future Present –> Future Speculative
Future past is reinventing ideas from the past to create a new design, for instance the TV glasses from 1963, and Rift.
Future present is NOW, which is to produce innovative products by looking at models from the nature, i.e. biomimicry and synthetic biology, for instance velcro.
Future speculative is basically designing for future scenarios. As designers, we have the responsibility to create in response to real world problems, we should not only consider ways to improve and enhance our daily lives, instead we should focus on what is needed in the real world. It is not just about what we would like to be capable of achieving, we are in fact responsible for aiming to create a better world. Since we have been churning the Earth with its natural resources, a lot of them will soon be running out, even commonly used materials such as cotton, paper and even clean water.
Here are a few examples of existing speculative designs.
Biolace is created in response to the loss of natural fabrics such as cotton, the idea behind it is to grow fabric to help with the loss of fabrics that are likely to gradually run out in the near future, e.g. cotton. Because the lace is grown, it won’t have to go through harmful processes, which would be a huge cut down on the energy level and resources needed for those processes.
Climate tile is created in response to climate change that has caused cities to experience an increasing amount of rainfalls. It is designed to collect and manage rainwater to prevent damages to pathways and plantings due to flooding. The Danish architecture studio Tredje Natur has been developing the climate tile since 2014, and it is now on trial in Copenhagen. The tiles are either replacing the existing pavements or are placed alongside them. There are holes, tunnels and ridges in them that collect and manage the rainwater, which is then stored and diverted, some is even percolated if necessary.
The amount of waste we produce everyday is unbelievable, since textile and clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world, I decided to attempt to solve one of the most severe problems existing at the moment. In the US, more than 15 millions tons of textile waste is generated every year, and the amount has doubled over the last two decades. We are running out of spaces for more landfills. Building more landfill is not the ultimate solution at all. Inspired by the animation Wall E, we could compress chucks of trash from the landfill, and use that as a base in architecture.
If we compress the chuck tight enough, it should become brick-like, which would be really convenient to work with. Even though the smell and appearance would be unpopular, we could learn from the water filtration plant system in Toronto, where the dirty storm water undergo UV treatment before they come in contact with any human interactions. We could try the same method of treating them with UV, which I believe could take away the smell and bacteria before they get compressed, to make sure they are completely harmless to work with. If we are only using them as a base in architectural structures, they would not be visible, therefore the appearance would not matter.
A lot of things that end up in landfills are recyclable, if not some are decomposable. The things that we need to desperately deal with are the ones that cannot be recyclable nor are they decomposable, which is what we would be using in the process. In order to make sure none of the recyclable and decomposable items are in the collection, they need to be separated either by machine or by humans. If machines are used, a huge amount of energy would be needed, but the selection would be more accurate and quick; if it is done by humans, a lot of resources would be needed too, however humans make mistakes and are sloppy sometimes.
To enhance the proposal further, we could also learn from the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, to encourage the creation of habitats. We could add a layer of soil on top of the compressed brick and plant on that, creating a green building. By doing so, the plants would be taking in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and releasing more oxygen, it is a proposal that kills two birds with one stone.
We would have to consider how we could water the plants since the soil and plants are directly placed on top of the bricks, somehow water channels would have to be inserted in between the layers to release water from time to time.
We also have to think about the colour, even though green is the colour of nature and the presence of plants relaxes people’s nerves, green is not the colour for everyone. Also, if we have doing it to the whole of the outer of a building, the building would pretty much look like a plant house, which is not necessarily a bad feature, it is just not everyone’d cup of tea. I do not think we should try and alter the colour of the plants at all, because they would be ruining the natural quality of them.
‘We address the problems of tomorrow not with today’s tools,
But with tools of tomorrow. This is what we call process.’ Kevin Kelly
Kelly quoted in Congdon (2016) Biolace By Carole Collect. Available at: http://www.amycongdon.com/bio-lace/ (Accessed 28 Nov 2017)
What if: we embrace the the beauty of stormwater, and turn it into art? Sherborne Common holds a new feature in the park, where unwanted storm water is collected and purified before discharged in Lake Ontario.
For a long while, the water filtration plant had been neglected proposal in the neighbourhood due to the off-putting smell and aesthetic it carries, therefore this idea of ‘beautifying’ water filtration plants is an absolutely brilliant idea. The water is collected and UV treated before it comes in contact with any humans with no chemicals involved, which makes the waterfront completely safe to touch. After it has been purified, there is a 240m long water channel, which is fed from three 9m tall sculptures called the Light Showers. Through the channel, it passes through a biofiltration bed which is filled with aquatic grasses.
The majority of the process is visible, people can see the dirty water getting filtered before it comes out in a thin veil of purified water. Instead of hiding away the process, the designers are embracing it and educating people at the same time. Now not only does the storm water does not get dumped directly into the lake, the 3 sculptures also meet both physical and psychological needs of the urban area.
I really appreciate the idea of embracing something that has always been a huge issue to people into something beautiful and educational. I am sure the park has become a popular place for people to hang out as well. Although in the official website of Sherborne Common, it has no mention to whether or not the amount of energy has increased since the process of transporting storm water to the lake has prolonged. I doubt they are reusing the energy produced from the sculpture, however it is not impossible to make the process more sustainable. Since the sculptures are as tall as 9m each, they could really make a good use of the kinetic energy produced from that and use it to generate power/ energy to support the process, whether it is the UV treatment or in the water channel. Or they could even take that to generate the lighting system in the park.
What if: Hospitals become a place to chill, as well as its original services one provides.
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore has a reputation of being the hospital in green and having a garden in the hospital. It is a hospital that encourages creating habitats for different species. The CEO of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Liak Teng Lit wanted to create an environment that would decrease people’s heart rate and blood pressure when they are in the building. Since hospitals are normally very stressful, the people who visit and stay at hospitals are either undergoing operations or the participants’ family members, being neither of them are nice. And Liak likes to consider the environment as part of the healing process, therefore they came up with the idea of growing a lot of greens inside and outside of the hospital. The hospital habitats an impressive variety of species, there are ponds and a waterfall where many species of fish consider a home. One of the roofs is also an urban farm, where herbs and plants are grown and harvested.
Security levels are normally very high in hospitals, however that is not the case in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Because the ‘garden’ is so overwhelming that it attracts a lot of visitors from the neighbourhood and even students, who come and relax and study.
I think it is so smart and considerate of Liak to have done such an achievement in the hospital. Not only are the plants extremely good for our health, it also definitely physically reduces stress in the building, and psychologically it provides an excellent environment for the healing patients and their families to walk around and relax. I also really like the idea of growing herbs and plants on the roof, allowing patients to see their growth and development everyday, I believe that would encourage them to heal faster and stay faithful to themselves too. It is often said that being in the nature, reminds us human beings that we are only a small part of something ever-evolving and complicated, and that being part of something so strong, we do have the power to grow and heal as well.
Since the garden has attracted many visitors in the hospital, that would bring a lot of positive vibes into the environment. The atmosphere is not so nerve wrecking anymore, instead it is more cheerful and relaxing. The hospital is very colourful with green plants and flowers all around, which attract butterflies, bees, beetles, all sorts of living organisms, they add so much life to the building, which doesn’t only benefit the patients, but the staff as well. Happy staff, happy patients, happy family, happy ending.
I am going to explore the material behaviours of three materials I have used in the past in my projects.
In the most recent project I worked on, I was really intrigued by the red lighting people use in local old-fashioned wet markets in Hong Kong, where butchers use red lightings to make their meat look fresher.
I explored the idea of looking under a certain source of red light, and I started playing around with glass wax and placing textural items in there, to see how the wax has almost distorted them. Glass wax is originally clear, I added red pigments in order to recreate the similar atmosphere in wet markets. Once it is completely dry, the surface is very flat and hard. Because it is transparent, the colour of was get more concentrated when there is more volume of it. There are some occasional bubbles in it though when you stir it too much during the process of melting. Like any other waxes, glass wax is also malleable, in my project I wanted them to be in cube form. In order to do so, I had to pour molten glass wax into silicone whiskey ice cube moulds. The results are some very angular red transparent wax cubes, the way i see them is almost like I captured the bits of moments in wax, they give out a very calming and still atmosphere when you look at them.
Jamison (2011) Shigeru Umebayashi- Yumeji’s theme. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ss15M5O2V8 (Accessed: 28 Nov 2017)
The cubes do not curate any sound, but they remind me a lot of Kar-wai Wong’s movies, especially in ‘2046’. There is something rhythmic about the cubes- the repetition of the arrangements it is, that links with this song. Both my work and some of these scenes have a few things in common, both red of course. These three screenshots are still but they give out this impression of chaos and surreal-ness, which I think my work does carry too. The was is so still, but the threaded items in them disturb the stillness of them and have added a hint of chaos to them, which links to the song too.
I worked with concrete before in a project where I challenged the idea of usefulness. I mainly used to concrete to securely trap ‘useful’/’necessary’ items on display to ironically make them ‘useless’. The colour of concrete is this dirty grey, with a hint of green, I almost want to describe it as a shitty colour, it is not the most aesthetically pleasing colour either. When concrete is dry, it becomes very cold and hard, and the colour remains the same regardless of the amount because the colour is solid, unlike glass wax. There is something about the qualities of concrete I really liked for the project, which was the colour and the finishing. I feel like the cold and hardness of concrete makes it so heartless, together with the ‘shitty’ colour, it added life to the ‘unwanted-ness’. Working with concrete, I always had to wear masks because of the weird and off-putting smell, it smells like soil but without life to it, again this was another quality I liked about it.
Haider (2012) Milonga for Three- Astor Piazzolla. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yJo9_SlsQM (Accessed: 28 Dec 2017)
From the movie ‘Chungking Express’, the three scenes I have screenshotted all have a yellow-y green undertone to them, Kar-wai Wong described them to be scenes that show desire, desire to be loved. The green undertone adds a sensual atmosphere to them, they also appear to be quite cheeky and playful to me. I think the way I used concrete portrays a very similar atmosphere to these scenes, except my work is not sensual at all. But the desire and cheekiness are still within each tile. The angles Wong chose to take is also very playful, there is also this sense of confusion to them. The ‘useless’ tiles I did also portray confusion, the fact that all these items that we use in daily lives are trapped in concrete, they are almost tempting the viewers to reach out and grab them.
The Milonga For Three is an orchestra piece I chose to represent the way I used concrete in the project. It is a an interlude played in ‘Chungking Express’, the song is quite heavy but I think it represents concrete well because of the darkness, disgust and creepiness it brings at the beginning of the song. The song then gradually becomes calmer and has a depressing tempo to it, which I think is how concrete seem to me. It is mostly used in construction work, it does not have the most popular colour to it, and it is certainly not a luxury material to be using, compared to wood and marble.
I used bamboo in a project where I played around with the idea of artificial and natural materials. Bamboo is extremely tall and thin, it is green but not as bright as grass green, it is the colour of life and nature. When you run your fingers through the bamboo and its branches, the surface is relatively smooth but they get a bit spiky sometimes, bamboo is not as kind as you think it is.
I actually sawed them off from a bamboo garden myself, so I choose the tall and strong ones beforehand. It really was not as easy to saw off as you think it is, the fibres are extremely strong and stiff. Because they were still relatively fresh, I could still smell the bamboo juice whilst working with them. I would even get stains of green juices on my hand afterwards- such tenacious plants.
OldSchoolLad (2009) Days of Being Wild- Jungle Drums. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgM5mqBgh18&index=8&list=PLeXCrNC_xKCIL4o4VaCYhyR_WlQ9oGhsU (Accessed 28 Dec 2017)
Days of Being Wild (jungle drum version) is a very suitable piece to match bamboo to me. The first verse is so creepy and all of a sudden the drum comes in with the violins and all the other instruments, it becomes so cheerful. The tempo and rhythm have a very typical Chinese taste to it, which is exactly what bamboo is to me. It is very cliché but the drums makes me feel like I am in the jungle, which is how I felt like when I was cutting the bamboos down in the bamboo garden. Bamboos are very thin and tall, so is the song. Compared to the two other songs I found for glass wax and concrete, Days of Being Wild is a lot light and cheerful, it is the least heavy and depressing amongst the three songs.
After Francesca Persona’s lecture, I started thinking a lot about biomimicry in everyday life. As the weather is getting colder, I have been wearing beanies a lot recently, and it reminded me an example Persona brought up in the lecture about pine nuts.
The structure of a pinecone stays shut when the level of moisture is enough within the cone, it opens up when the level of moisture is low. It makes crucial adjustment itself causing the cell wall of fibre to be substantially closed or to bend and open up to collect more moist from the atmosphere.
What if we could apply that to beanies, where it shuts tightly when it is cold, and opens up to let air in when it gets warmer. Because in our society, we do not only wear beanie when it is cold, it has become a part of a lot of outfits. A beanie is rather cool and casual nowadays, it also hides your (my) messy (sometimes greasy) hair. However, there has been studies that prove wearing hats in general are not healthy for your scalp as it does not allow your scalp to breath, in severe cases it could lead to hair loss and even baldness. Allowing the beanie to open up from time to time could really help the situation, allowing the scalp to breath but still hiding your messy hair at the same time.
Or even a head piece, where it does not just close to keep your head warm, but also to shut people out, and would open up whenever you feel more sociable again. It happens to a lot of people where they just don’t feel like socialising, especially after a long day at work, I am sure you have certainly felt the same way before. Imagine if there was a head piece that allows you to have a few moments to yourself, some peace and quiet, that surely sounds pretty good to me. It would also prevent awkward eye contacts on the tube! And when you have picked yourself back up again, just open up and back to reality.
As you can see in the picture above, the segments would open up seperately, and would all be connected on the rim of the beanie, a bit like how leaves are attached to a tree. The segments would be made of thin metal wrapped around by a knitted fabric with thicker yarn. The knitted fabric would wrap around each segment like a sock, and the movement would be responded be the metal inside. Since knits are stretchy, it would not be an issue for the core metal to open and close accordingly.
Textiles is constantly being remade, it is always adapting to our body, as well as to enhance it. Persona showed us some interesting examples of how textiles interacts with technology in different ways. There was one particular example that caught my attention immediately, which was the Finger Gloves by Rebecca Horn.
Finger Gloves (1972) are a pair of prothesis, which are altogether 10 thin, long artificial fingers, these wooden fingers are a metre long each, and are designed to be worn by a performer, allowing the performer to be able do everything you can with your normal fingers except from a metre. The material is very light, it allows the performer to do anything with no extra effort. The structure of the gloves are designed in a particular way so that whenever there is a lever- action, the prostheses intensifies the sensation one would feel on the hand. The performer is now in control with the actions the fingers do in a certain distance. The Finger Gloves are part of a bodily extension series Horn worked on from the late 1960s to early 1970s, the whole series seem to useful tools to improve what we as humans are capable of doing, however in reality these extension pieces only get in the way of normal everyday human activities, they also emphasise the limited actions of the performer.
In my opinion, the way of showing how limited our body is through these tools is so clever, as protheses are supposed to improve one’s activities. The complete is very thoughtful as well, Horn has chosen to use material that is light which won’t add extra weight to the fingers. Although it would be really interesting if she used extremely heavy material such as metal or glass, the purpose of the performance would not be as clear, as they would not be as realistic and identical compared to real fingers in terms of function.
Persona then went on to discuss the idea of biomimicry, which is when we look at how nature resolves problems, we learn from nature and we then produce a design based on the formula the nature gives us. I found an example that has been one of the most commercially successful in everyday lives, it is velcro.
The idea of velcro was first discovered in 1941, when the Swiss engineer George de Mestral fond his dog covered in burdock burrs. He found out how simple the structure is when he had it under a microscope, which is just hooks attached to fluffy surfaces. And after years of experimentations he finally invented velcro.