Great Blog by Chris Lefteri on a BASF website page.
Some great insights about makers and designers. Getting one’s hands dirty isn’t a bad thing!
And a reference to Leepu?!
There is no doubt that there is a growing movement within the design community that is centered around the use of materials to create new products, buildings and environments. New books, online databases and consultancies that specialise in materials and design are increasingly filling the gap that has traditionally existed between the materials industries and designers. Advanced technologies such as shape memory alloys, water-soluble plastics, translucent concrete and the array of self-forming, self-cleaning, self-lubricating and self-healing materials are all hot property in terms of new materials available to designers. At the heart of this lies a desire on many designers’ behalf to create new experiences based on a kind of ‘function-follows-materials’ approach. Just look up some new materials in the relevant databases and apply them to products to offer new experiences.
You could argue that modern designers working exclusively at the drawing board have lost some of the ability to make decisions about materials and processes. Traditionally, designers were also makers and although it would be impossible for anybody to keep on top of the vast number of materials and processes available to designers today, it doesn’t change the fact that what you really want is to get your hands on some stuff, some thing to play with.
Leepu Awlia’s workshop
It’s a well-documented subject, of westerners visiting impoverished developing or third world countries collecting retired objects and using them in new settings and performing functions for which they were never intended … as if they were souvenirs of the ingenuity of desperation. These provide us with provoking images of salvaged objects that have found new lives in new functions. These “accidental discoveries” of ordinary objects re-evaluate a material, dissect its uses and put them together in a new way – which is essentially what designers are trying to do with new materials. Closer to home we have a long list of accidental discoveries: think of the coat hanger-as-car aerial scenario or the “abducted” stockings for the emergency fan belt.
But what about the world of materials from the developed world? Where do these fit in with our understanding of materials? At the center of design’s new obsession with material and technology is a desire to innovate by looking at new uses for materials and finding new ways of applying old materials in a new way.
What the examples in this article show is how an intuitive reaction to everyday situations can be turned into design statements that twist established ideas of the function of certain materials. And at the end of the day isn’t this what all designers are trying to do? How many people have twiddled with the wrapper for a pair of chopsticks at a their local Chinese restaurant while engaged in fervent discussion? These material doodles reflect an unconscious analysis of a long piece of paper and the ways it can be folded and bent into a mini Christmas decoration or micro-paper puppet or a cute plinth for your greasy chopsticks.
Leepu Awlia: the final result
These are stories that are based more on intuition than the conventional use of materials. Like Leepu Awlia of Bangladesh, who from his garage in the deepest parts of one of the world’s most congested cities destroys retired, rusty old cars and converts them into new cars that look like they have come out of Pininfarina. He treats sheet steel like he is tailoring a fabric over a mannequin dummy, and understands the resilience a material has when folded into a certain shape and uses this instinctive knowledge to craft his vehicles into new forms without the traditional method of first drawing a blueprint.
Ben Wilson’s chewing gum street art
Or Ben Wilson, who in the leafy suburbs of North London takes what is the inherent problem with chewing gum and uses this incredible permanent material as a unique canvas to decorate pavement. This form of synthetic rubber is essentially so hard to remove that it becomes fixed form of street decoration!
Edward Gardener’s bullet-hole illumination
Edward Gardener takes the destruction of buildings as his cue to form a different perspective on symbolism and decoration by suggesting the use of bullet holes left in buildings as a feature onto which lighting can be added to create an illuminated wall. This half-accident and half-designed, adapted surface serves as a modern analysis of a damaged material.
David Hood’s “Green Wallplug”
David Hood’s “Green Wallplug” takes inspiration from the underground activities of guerrilla gardening, and is designed as a new tool in the effort to green our needlessly dull urban spaces. The wallplug is a composite of compressed dried soil and corn starch, both of which provide food for the seed(s) inside the plug. The seed germinates once the plug planted in a wall and watered in. The production technique used for the wallplugs is press moulding, with a two-part mould and a three-part ram. They are then dried for five to seven days for easy removal from the mould.
Plastic cup art
These examples also question the definition of “materials” by using such non-standard ingredients as gum, soil, broken glass, or the semi-formed steel of a disused, abandoned, rusty car. This is more than just re-use and the impact of the green movement. It has to do with the nature of impermanence and the use of temporary materials to create new functions. These people are at once opportunistic and at the same time offering anarchic solutions to established ideas of functions. What lies at the heart of these projects is a series of chance discoveries that re-evaluate ordinary materials in a new way without so much as a sniff of Hi-Tech.