Blog Submission

week 6, week 7, week 9

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The end of the world as we know it…

Todays lecture, the final of the series, was given by Stefan Hajkowicz, researcher with the CSIRO. His talk, titled “Our Future World” tended to tell us less about the future and more about how different the present is from the past. He spoke of many interesting topics and presented insights into his valuable research, however, I found it difficult to take anything away for the benefit of the Sydney Water brief, especially as the world of ‘limited resources’ (eg. water) was only touched upon.

Hajkowicz’s research focused on a type of thinking that aims to predict the future by identifying trends. Research topics are seen as two distinct types; Megatrends being those that can be predicted (eg. an aging population) and Megashocks being those that are completely unexpected (eg. European volcano), but both completely affecting the way of life. This trend of predicting the future and providing results to large companies has gained popularity post-9/11 when people became concerned about the direction the future was taking.

Hajkowicz identified five current Megatrends. These are digital convergence; urbanising and increased mobility; older, hungrier and more demanding demographics; personalisation of products and services and ‘more from less’- a world of limited resources.

This was a thought-provoking lecture with many valid points to take into consideration whenever designing.

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$#!t Cycle

This weeks lecture was given to us by the sometime potty-mouthed Nick Ritar who most certainly got his message across, even if some of his ideals may seem unattainable.

Ritar is co-founder of Milkwood Permaculture, a family business that offers design consultancy and education programs in permaculture design principles. Living on a 20-acre property at Mudgee, Ritar leads a life of example by maintaining sustainable practice in the areas of food production and land regeneration. He speaks of cities as “giant Hoovers” that suck up tonnes of natural resources and eventually empty the contents of their bags into the ocean. This is metaphor that definitely rings true as he quotes statistics about the 15 million kilograms of food Sydney consumes daily and the 1.3 billion litres of liquid waste that is consequently produced.

After presenting us with a number of frightening statistics regarding our reliance on agriculture and imported foods and nutrients, Ritar suggests his solution home gardens. Unfortunately the size of a home garden to provide a single person with food for a year would have to be 100 square metres, a size Ritar admits as being completely unattainable. Instead he suggests a ‘small’ balcony or yard garden 5 metres squared. I couldn’t help but think how lovely it would be to have a 5m2 balcony… or even that much space free in my yard, and I live in the outer suburbs of Sydney! I’ve no idea how the majority of Sydney’s population who live in small townhouses or the terraces of the inner city are expected to establish a reasonably sized garden… and plant pot of herbs is hardly going to help anyone. While I would love to pack up and move to an acreage in central New South Wales, this is a dream that requires commitment, money and some form of income that is unattainable to most people, especially those city-types who are studying industrial design not agriculture.

Hardly planning to give up my four year degree to grow plants, I much prefer Ritar’s suggestion of designing some way of recycling human waste to avoid the incomprehensible amount flowing into our beautiful waterways.

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‘The Australian Timebomb’- Professor Tom Barker

This weeks lecture was entertaining and provided many true and valuable points. Despite this, I found it hard to ascertain what Tom Barker wanted us to take away from his talk. He spoke of an array of topics related to the Australian design industry, among other things, and mentioned the significance of cheaper manufacturing overseas a number of times. I was unsure as to whether he was saying this was a good thing or a terrible thing, as we’ve been taught in other subjects and lecturers. My understanding of booming manufacturing in Asia is that eventually, companies will stop sourcing designers from Australia and train their own local designers who can do a job just as well. From this we’ve always been taught that this makes it fundamental that as Australian designers we stay ahead of the game, constantly changing and always standing out from the crowd. Perhaps it was this message that Tom Barker was trying to get across to us in what seemed to me a round-about kind of way.

Tom Barker discussed Dinosaur Designs as being a company of successful Australian designers but stated that there were very few like them. He suggested that in a modern economic climate and with issues such as sustainable design such a significant issue, a new way of business needs to be adopted. The use of the internet, online stores and websites such as Core77 to promote design work was recommended.

“The core (skill) belief of designers is curiosity.” Barker stated that curiosity is fundamental to the design profession and to continually staying ahead of the game, innovating and being individual. Some other points he made was the importance of working as a group and the necessity for the Australian government to provide funds and support for the creative industries.

In hindsight, Professor Tom Barker’s lecture “The Australian Timebomb” was a combination of all the things we’ve been taught about working in the Australian design industry, the nightmares and the challenges that our generation of graduates will need to overcome.

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Week 7’s talk was given by an enthusiastic Hank Haeusler on his research and experience in designing ‘media facades.’ He walked us through the variety of media facades that are used in today’s society, most of which I had never heard of or thought about. It is funny to think that a lot of what we see as normal is actually elaborately designed media facades for commercial products, for example the Coke sign at Kings Cross.

Some highly interesting facades explored were those which reacted to the people walking by them via the use of sensors. One example was one which used aperture light sensors to react to people walking past, momentarily displaying voids in the facade like shadows of where a person had been standing.

Hank explained that a successful media facade would need to consider the use of the space/building and whether or not the facade would be ‘on’ for 24 hours a day. If not then it would be vital for the impact of the digital facade on the building to be assessed in terms of aesthetics when not in use. For example, ‘media mesh’ displays, which are basically metal mesh with LEDs, do not necessarily look attractive in the daylight with no display on them.

The images that I have posted into this blog are of a Media Facade that I saw in Millennium Park in Chicago. Information regarding the facades states that they work by the use of LEDs and feature the expressions of over 1000 residents of Chicago. This particular work maintains a high aesthetic without the digital facade as they are large, glass-like towers with water rushing over them and the technology of the LEDs are well concealed within frame.

Media Facades may be an option for displaying information to visitors on the Pipehead site, such as indicating the direction of flow of the water.

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This weeks talk was given by Bert Bongers, who us Industrial Design students are quite used to. His lecture slides are always thrilling and thought-provoking and always seem to reference back to how wonderful Naoto Fukasawa is at reacting to the world.

Bert seems to take banality, eccentricities and pop-culture and put them into a perspective that inspires us as designers to thoughtfully consider the world we are designing for. Studying and mapping ‘traces’ left behind by human use not only provides clues to improve designs but the process is a beautiful visual and conceptual design in itself. Such is his reference to Aaaron Koblin who transforms collected data and work into visual designs.

The most significant points to consider in specific regard to the Pipehead project are those regarding crime and graffiti. He spoke not only of new age/legal graffiti which utilises projections, but also of prevention by making ‘art’ to cover surfaces with. Both of these concepts hold significance to the Pipehead site as we try to find a way around opening a historic site to the public without exposing it to vandalism. Some thoughts we have had include projections, for example projecting the destination and direction of the water flow through the pipes. I was also very interested in the concept of ‘knitted graffiti’ and thought immediately of the street lights I had seen in the East Village, NY which were covered in elaborate handcrafted mosaics. The blend of crime-prevention and art/visuals to provide information or some degree of cultural connection is something that I think we can successfully utilise at the Pipehead site.

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“There is no such thing as waste…”

This weeks lecture by Kerryn Caulfield was about the massive amount of waste produced by consumerism and the textile industry. Although it was not directly related to the Pipehead project it appealed to my stong interest in textiles and eco-design. As I have previously done research assignments on footwear production, it came to me as no shock that there is no such thing as recycling textiles in this country, but I was disappointed at the fact it seems we are no closer to establishing a means of doing so.  The thought of thousands of metres of 5-year-old sunshade being thrown into landfill made me make a mental note to include something more environmentally sound in the Pipehead project, should a shady area be required. It also made me think of the similarly acrylic-lined, UV resistant coatings that are applied to the back of curtains and what an impact that must have on the environment (and potentially our health).

Above all, the lecture relinquished my passion for eco-design and will hopefully force me to think about it more strongly in regards to the Pipehead project. “There is no such thing as waste” is quite possibly a motto I already live my life by, being an inherent hoarder, and perhaps this is something that needs to come through in the project. Already my team have been discussing the potential to include some parts of old structures/machines/movable heritage in our final design and I believe that being used and admired by the community is a much better place for it than in a warehouse somewhere or in landfill.

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