Wednesday walls – a hexagon facade…

Regular readers of The Ecospot will know how much of an obsession we have with all things hexagonal. We have written about the lovely hexagon here, here and here and my own watch is the white hexagonal Kisai Spider. So, we are always delighted when we see the joy of hex spreading around a little. These wonderful offices by Format Elf Architekten in Germany are certainly spreading the hexagon about – all around the single storey building in fact.

hexagonal facade

But even though the pattern is delightful, it serves not only as a decorative treatment, but as a solar gain control screen which has been computer generated. The perforated hexagonal facade relates to the natural shading components, ie, the trees, and has larger openings where shade is already existing. Where the facade is more open, the shading perforations have been adjusted accordingly.

This change in the hexagonal facade allows for a gentle ebb and flow of pattern across the building, but in a way which is completely linked to it’s surroundings – not an aesthetic treatment alone.

The choice to use aluminium is also closely linked to the previous activities in the town, which used to house a major aluminium manufacturing plant.

A really lovely example of how design can be aesthetically beautiful and also be contextually driven also – one should not be divorced from the other.

(photo by Bettina Kirmeier)

Monday musings – The Men Who Made Us Spend…

We work as designers. We create new stuff for the world for all sorts of clients with all sorts of budgets in all sorts of styles. However, we work firmly within the ‘green design / eco design / sustainable design’ sphere, which is just where we think everyone should be designing from, regardless of who / what  /where you design. And we get rather incensed by the larger corporations who have the biggest clout and yet, sometimes the lowest regards for responsibility. The bigger you are the harder it can be to create a fully responsible design chain, but it is not impossible.   So it was also rather timely that we noticed the new series on BBC 2, which started last week – ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’.

the men who made us spend

From the outset, this was – by far – one of the most interesting and engaging programmes to have been produced for a long while that tackled the complicated issues of consumer spending and the psychology of why we want the newest, better thing.

These are issues that designers of all spheres work with on a daily basis, and we all know that not everyone within our industries are working within the sustainability bubbles that we inhabit, but it made compelling watching. The decisions made by industries to include planned obsolescence within their products to promote further purchases, the tricks included in products to keep us – the owners – from getting inside and repairing them ourselves. Even the fact that battery packs on some products are deliberately sealed making a perfectly good product useless (unless you pay a large replacement fee) in as little as 18 months.

Even with product reclamation and material recycling increasing worldwide, the actual psychological and design decisions that are imposed on us are worrying and need changing. An interesting comparison was made with the IKEA ‘chuck out your chintz’ campaign and the fact that they are championing sustainability. It was wonderful watching and we highly recommend looking it up on the BBC iPlayer.

But really, this does show the two faces of products and repair – on one hand we have manufacturers creating products that are deliberately ‘disposable’ and ‘fast fashion’ we have the ground roots backlash of individuals and independent companies such as Sugru, Fixers cafes and designers who are not accepting that this is the way we should be creating. This is the camp that we firmly sit within and I am proud to say that I also sit on the British Standard Committee of  BS8887  – MADE, which relates to Design for Manufacture, Assembly, Disassembly and End of use processing, which sets out guidelines for processes for a more sustainable future…

Which is where we should all be heading.

(image via BBC 2)

Monday musings – the power of fixing…

Regular readers of the Ecospot will know that we have a particular passion for all things fixing orientated – how to fix, ensuring that things can be fixed, hacking things and generally the place of fixing and our throwaway culture in general. We even travel about to talk about fixing… Well, this weekend we both undertook a spot of fixing.

sugru fixing

So –  fixing. The seals on washing machines are rather notorious for splitting over time and sure enough, ours had split and was leaking water – dribbling down the front like a toothing infant, creating a puddle on the floor and reducing the performance of the wash.  Options were – new washing machine (not likely), new seal (impossible to find), new fix. We opted for the latter and at the weekend, our trusted Sugru came out the fridge.

For those of you not familiar with Sugru, it is by far the most wonderous material that we have found in recent years. The small packs of self setting, semi rigid air curing silicone rubber are cheap, easy to use and hugely versatile. Keep it in the fridge and it’s use by date extends to about 18 months (even though they new, longer life Sugru will soon be with us…), open the pack, mould it in place, leave it to cure – done.

It can be used to protect things, to bridge gaps between things, to waterproof things – take a look at their website for images of what people have used it for. The seal on our washing machine needed a bit of extra care – we moulded the shape, then covered the Sugru with cling film (so it would not stick to the door) then closed the door. A couple of days later, door opened, cling removed and the seal is as good as new. Perfect.

This took about five minutes to action, a couple of quid of Sugru and a bit of patience. The resulting fix is not only immensely satisfying, it ensures that the washing machine is not losing any water and consequently will be working better. Good all around we think. And if you ever need reminding, check out this Fixers Manifesto too. Stick it on your wall and get fixing. As Sugru quite rightly says – The Future Needs Fixing.

(image by claire potter)

wednesday walls – stick a bike on your wall…

Ok, ok – we know we were not going to talk about Berlin any more (we can hear you all yawning from here) but for today’s Wednesday walls post, we thought we would just add in one more… Got a wall? Got a bike? Add them together and what have you got? The perfect place for a bike rack that’s what.

bikini berlin wall bike rack

The bike rack in my room was rather lovely – simple, wood, felt, shelf. Perfect. There are now lots of these types of bike shelves on the market now and they provide a great solution for an entrance hall, so long as it is not too narrow.

Or, got a bit of dead space somewhere? Why not put your bike up there instead?

bikini berlin bike

There were bikes dotted about everywhere in Bikini Berlin – and always taking full advantage of the dead space. Hallway ends, large expanses of wall – even on the ventilation pipes as above using a very industrial type of support system.

bikini berlin bike 1

So – when thinking about where to put your bike, think about bringing it inside. It will be more secure and could even become an integral part of your interior…

(photos by claire potter)

Monday musings – this years Chelsea Fringe event announced…

Well, well, well. Where exactly has this year gone? We honestly cannot believe that it is a year since we did our Edible City foraging walk for the Chelsea Fringe festival last year. So – what are we planning on doing this year Another Edible City foraging walk, but this year, we are planning a few little extras, which we will be revealing over the next week or so…

Chelsea Fringe 2014 Flyer merged

Yep. A foraging walk, a free map and even a foraged drink at the end…

Extra details coming very soon…

Weekend colour inspiration – a coloured light installation in Berlin

Today on weekend colour inspiration we are looking at something a little different. Using light to create a colour installation. We spotted this lovely installation under a bridge in Berlin, which was nothing short of beautiful.Berlin light installation 2

The linear lights were arranged in a very large, slightly squished circle on the underside of the bridge and provided a beautiful swathe of coloured lights as they grew brighter and faded in turn, creating a phasing effect.

berlin light installation 1

Now, this sort of light installation is perhaps too large for the average residential space, and perhaps a bit too disco, but on a smaller scale, this sort of effect could be used in a stairway, or even in a garden space. Static, or fading slightly would be less distracting, but any coloured light adds real drama to the space.

Give it a go.

(images by claire potter) go see a video of this on our Instagram feed…

Wednesday walls – green walls from plastic bottles…

Today on Wednesday walls we are looking at a little bit of guerrilla gardening, with this fantastic pop up wall garden, which was installed at a home by Brazilian design studio Rosenbaum to help the underprivileged family gain direct access to food and medicinal herbs.

Brazilian design studio Rosenbaum created this hanging garden of recycled plastic bottles to help an underprivileged family with limited space in Sao Paulo live more sustainably. The old bottles were strung together and planted with flowers, spices and medicinal herbs.

We love this idea – we have written before about gutter gardening, which takes a similar form as this, but what we particularly love is the very low tech nature of this design and installation. Using locally sourced, waste 2ltr drinks bottles, the new installation is very simply constructed using suspended steel cables attached to the wall, which means that if any get broken, it is easy – and cheap to replace them.

As far as green walling goes, this is about as low tech as it gets, but the vital part is that the installation is completely suitable for the location, which is key to a great design intervention. Site, and client specific.

A wonderful, simple project that will create a real difference to the family, promote recycling and provide fresh food. And the best thing? It can be easily replicated…

(image via Innocent Facebook)

Wednesday walls – creating walls from cardboard tubes, by Shigeru Ban

As we spoke about yesterday, we visited Ecobuild last week to see what was new in the world of eco construction and building, but we were also rather keen to listen to a talk by the fantastic Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. Well known for his elegant structures, Ban in also well known for creating huge, structural spaces out of cardboard tubes.

Now, cardboard is generally not the material that springs to mind when it comes to creating architecture, but, as Ban has proved, the humble tube can provide immense strength – enough to be used as a structural material if the walls are at the specified thickness.

One of the fantastic things about using cardboard tubes as a building material is that often they are manufactured close to the site (as they are a global commodity) and can be used in a variety of ways. Ban’s own work has used the tube in both structural frameworks and as walls within buildings.

Plus, the buildings have an incredible honesty and lightness to them – something that is hard to achieve with the traditional brick and mortar building methods that we are used to in the West.

Ban has also produced a lot of work that has provided a quick response to disaster relief, creating both individual and community based buildings for areas rebuilding after natural disasters such as earthquakes. The speed that the cardboard technology allows in the building process is perfect for this application, but the buildings have the ability to last much longer and are often adopted into the new communities.

Otherwise, whole buildings have been dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere.

So next time you look at a cardboard tube, don’t just look at it as a cardboard tube. Look at it as a building material.

(images via Shigeru Ban website)

the edible city – window shades with integrated growing

Even though lots of us like to eat local, seasonal and fresh, not a lot of us have either the time or the space to grow our own food. Inner city allotments are harder to find (and take up lots of time) and many of us do not have the option of outdoor space at all – especially if we live in apartments or flats. But, fortunately, there are lots of designers who are thinking about how we can tackle this issue with innovative products – and we were delighted when we discovered the Herbow concept by Hsu Hao-Po, Chang Yu-Hui & Chang Chung-Wei – a window shade with integrated growing.

Acting as both as a sun shade and adjustable rain screen, the Herbow is a series of window shades with integrated growing for a few plants to take advantage of the space and resources at hand.

Even though this product is only a concept, there is a definite need for this kind of joined up thinking – solving a few problems with a single product and allowing us to be closer to the production of our food.

(images via Yanko Design)

Wednesday Walls – sound absorbing wall panels by Form Us With Love

Sound absorbing wall panels may not be the obvious choice for a beautiful wall covering, but these geometric, interchangable, modular designs by Swedish studio From Us With Love are rather tasty indeed.

Constructed from a combination of cement, wood wool and water, the BAUX panels are relatively environmentally sound and moisture resistant as well as being very sound deadening and aesthetically beautiful.

The six shapes are available in two different sizes, which creates over 240 variations in the graphic treatment, with colour themes such as Cloud, Sea and Sky.

So, instead of having a functional yet bland product, you can absorb sounds in a product that looks great too. A perfect product for offices…

(images via Form Us With Love)