We worked with non-profit design firm Architecture for Humanity to find designers that would remind us to give a damn and then we sent out a call for ideas around the theme of regeneration. Given the events of Haiti and Japan, the world needs to hear a few actionable rays of hope. Here’s what our call came up with:
With a fedora hat and a confident demeanor, Tom De Blasis did not look like the "corporate tool" he professed to be. He is the global design director for Nike Soccer in Portland. De Blasis presented the idea behind the Gamechanger Bucket, which was essentially a packet that provided clean water and happiness to communities in Haiti. By packaging a soccer ball and water filter together, De Blasis was able to give hope, joy and the taste of clean water to about 100,000 people, preventing the spread of cholera and other water-borne diseases.
The Mossy Foot Project
Gavin Studer is an architect in Santa Barbara. The Mossy Foot Project is a program that’s designed to combat podoconiosis, a disease more commonly known as Elephantiasis that leaves victims paralyzed. Over a million people in the Ethiopia still suffer from this disease that can easily be cured by a bleach treatment.
Studer’s program was made for the Southern regions of Ethiopia. After research, Studer determined that the best way to spread the word about the disease and how to cure it was to create a system. It included designing headquarters from which operations could be centralized, easily erectable field clinics and mobile units designed to go deeper into the provinces than clinics could manage.
The Mossy Foot Project is now the only NGO recognized by the Ethiopian government to treat and eradicate the disease.
Seeing L.A.’s many homeless, Tina Hovsepian sought a solution. She found it by combining cardboard and the Japanese art of origami. She brought on-stage her prototype Cardborigami, a water resistant, fireproof temporary shelter that the homeless could easily carry around with them.
Hovsepian is still in the process of refining the program, but she says the Cardborigami prototype shouldn’t be taken in isolation. It should be paired with a program to put the homeless back on track and on their feet.
T Wall Housing Project
A ubiquitous symbol of war-torn Iraq becomes a re-imagined symbol of hope. New World Design principal Jeffrey Olinger and his partner Heather Boesch have been turning the T-wall, a freestanding concrete structure used to define the perimeter of most military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, into rapidly assembled, high-quality, low-cost housing.
By arranging the T-walls in various L-shaped configurations, New World Design echoes some of the Middle Eastern housing conventions while providing a cost-effective solution to over 2 million Iraqis left without homes because of the war. The firm is currently implementing the homes in two test sites in Southern Iraq.
"This project could be reproduced over and over again," says Olinger, "It also shows us that everyone can take a more active role at looking at how we can rebuild conflict zones, even if we don’t agree with the politics."
Design for Survival Workshops
Students learn design thinking while helping with world in Texas A&M Associate Professor Peter Lang’s Design for Survival Workshops. The workshops gave extreme constraints to students, asking them to review everyday objects to see how they can be re-used for the purposes of survival.
Given such tight guidelines, his students turned dryer lint into sleeping bags and pizza boxes into solar kits for sterilizing surgery tools. One student designed the "Duct Tape Shoe," low-cost footwear that can easily and rapidly be manufactured using the humble duct tape. The design was selected for presentation at the Milan Design Fair in April 2010.
Every project actually works, says Lang, but the more importantly they empower people to respond instead of waiting for others to come along and solve the problem.
Micki Krimmel, founder/CEO of Neighborgoods (and we might add, an all-star roller skater in L.A. Derby Dolls), came up on stage to plead the case of sharing.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Krimmel states, recovery from natural disasters does not depend on the overall amount of aid received or amount of damage done. Instead, it is social capital, the bonds that tie citizens together, that functions as the main engine of long-term recovery. In short, the more a community comes together, the faster they get back on their feet.
Neighborgoods is a online platform that strives to build social capital while also reducing the amount of products that end up in the landfill. Take the case of the power drill.
"An average power drill gets used about 12 minutes in its entire lifetime before it ends up in a landfill," shares Krimmel. Neighborgoods allows people to lend their power drill to others and also borrow other tools from their neighbors. By doing so, they connect to their community, save money and resources. "Sharing a power drill can save a neighborhood $1,000 and keeps about a ton of carbon out of the atmosphere," says Krimmel. What more if we share our toolshed, not to mention our books and video games? Neighborgoods asks its users to help rebuild their neighborhood by simply giving what they already have.
Carren Jao is an arts, architecture and design writer from Manila, Philippines now based in Los Angeles. She’s written for local and international publications like Bluprint, Contemporary Art Philippines, Angeleno and the Architect’s Newspaper. She relishes exploring new cities by walking its streets, taking public transportation and listening to its residents’ stories. Find out what else she’s up to at http://carrenjao.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @ccjao.