Sustainability in design


Here are some interesting examples that I think fit well into what we discussed in class today:

The following piece is by Emili Padros, called Non-Stop Shoes, made in 1999. These shoes are made to wear, and as you walk, the shoe charges a battery it contains. The energy created by walking can later be used to power small-scale household items.

The following piece Earrings, made between 1994 and 2001, is by Ana Mir. She makes earrings and necklaces out of human hair to challenge the way we look at our bodies, but at the same time, quite obviously, uses a renewable material.

Both these artists work in collaboration with each other, forming a team called “Emiliana”. To see more, go to:

Elisa Heikkila

This ‘Living Pavillion’ was designed by Ann Ha and Behrang Behin. It was designed for the purpose of shelter and shade during the hot months in New York city, it was built using milk crates and a leavy plant called liriope. The milk crates were bought from a plastic company that uses 15-20% recycled resin from old crates, which were then turned upside down and used to form planters for the liriope’s. The whole construction is 10ft tall and quite impressive and was built entirely by volunteers from New York, so this saved on costs also. To see further pictures please visit:

This giant greenhouse wheel was designed by Atelier CMJN, led by Julien Combes, and is intended to be used as a recycling plant, power plant and also a giant air purifier (bio lung). This was designed to tackle the traffic pollution problem in India’s capital, Delhi. The structure will be made up using components from recycled cars, which is a great idea as it is the amount of cars on the road that has caused the problem, but now they are being used to solve it too! The base of the structure will produce waste heat and carbon dioxide, but this will then be utilized by the greenhouse to produce bio-fuel, the wheel will act as a giant wind turbine for energy generation, and then a system of rotating filters will be integrated to purify the polluted air. Sorted!!

Further info at:

Gina Stockwell

Above Below

It seems like Gina beat me to sourcing Inhabitat, but hey who cares. Due to intensive open pit mining there are an increasing number of large scars littering our landscapes. Many of these places are largely inhospitable and far from established civilisation. Matthew Fromboluti has provided a sutainable solution: an undergound skyscraper, covered by a dome of earth.

By icing the cake, he first tackles the issue of the eye-sore. This is an increasingly concerning issue, and Fromboluti proves that preserving the beauty of the landscape can be achieved with careful planning. The dome provides shelter from the heat and the sun, but the large holes act as skylights and help sustain air flow. A large ‘Solar Chimney’ draws air through from the base of the structure utilising the suns power in a simple and efficient manner. In addition, wind turbines collect energy that in turn powers the small city, and at the base of the skyscraper lies a reservoir of collected rain water which supplies the local population.

I think this is a simple yet effective solution that is undeniably idealistic, but also achievable. Building underground is I feel somewhat underrated, it allows for the maintenance of the natural landscape, whilst also bringing its inhabitants into a closer relationship with their surrounding environment.

Adam Cluley

Fumi Masuda: Sustainable?!

Fumi Masuda, mentioned in several lectures/seminars over the last term, focuses his practice on creating new material objects out of, what he calls, sustainable materials. What I cannot get my head around is quite how these are sustainable. Yes they save forests, which is wonderful, but they do not save jobs, create sustainable economy, or, most of all, in a very insular sense, they don’t fit with the title ‘sustainable design’ as they do not sustain any regulated quality control. The main issue I have with this type of design though, is the 1st point, they do not allow for a sustainable job market. Factories paying minimum wage aside, the workers who would otherwise be making these chairs, are out of a job when the arts decide they can become the masters of the design world and stop creating one off, desirable, pieces and begin churning out these reproducible ‘recycled’ works. To sum up: Recycling – good. Fumi Masuda – bad.

Patrick Kirk-Smith.

Droog design, is a company that is based in Amsterdam and New York and specializes in making products, such as lighting and furniture, that enhance and change everyday life. The designs are very contemporary, and in some cases in practical. Below is a link to a sustainable chair design that is on the website. Each chair is made from fifteen bags of rags, from clothes to blankets, that are then strug tightly together. Once bought, the owner has chance to add their own clothes to recycle to the chair, which can also customize the chair, and make a new use for the old top you were going to throw away. Every chair contains the memories of once much loved clothes.

The same idea also applies to making rag rugs…..

I quite like a good Grand design, with Kevin McCloud!

The state of the art designs, encourage sustainable living for the future, with the best technology to get the most out of the natural resources we have. Below shows the Solar panels at a Cotswolds house built into the hillside,

South-facing triple glazing and photovoltaic panels help to make this one of the most efficient homes in the history of Grand Designs.

The solar panels capture the natural sunlight to produce energy, whilst the triple glazing windows keep the heat in and the cold out, to also save energy on central heating.

Solar panels

As well as installing sustainable appliances to the new homes, they are also constructed with natural materials, from recycled timber cladding, to glass and resin floors, and handmade clay tiles for the roofing.

Lisa Haith.

Harmonization : The main thing I wrote down from the seminar about sustainability was “harmonizing with existing systems”. With this in mind I looked for products and designs that inventively use what is already available.

Artist Michael Rakowitz’s ongoing ParaSITE project provides portable inflatable shelters for homeless people. I thought this was a perfect example of how excess energy can be harnessed and used for other things. This is a particularly good example because the people who benefit from the sustainable energy are the homeless, to whom a free source of energy is hugely beneficial.

Temple works is a former flax mill in Holbeck, Leeds, and was built between 1836 and 1840. The strikingly fronted building is now being converted into an arts space. There is a rumour that, when in use, sheep used to graze on its roof, which was apparently covered in grass. A little Internet research led me to discover that this is infact true. The decision to place sheep and grass on the roof was taken to maintain humidity levels in the mill. The primary material produced was flax and in order to be manipulated, it had to be kept in humid conditions so it didn’t become dry. This is an example of how sustainable design can, at no extra cost, make the performance of a building or object that much more successful. Nowadays if such an issue existed humidifiers would be installed without a second thought. Its interesting how, without such technology the mill’s designers still succeeded in finding a solution. In a time when people are looking for sustainable solutions things like sheep on roofs, although unusual, should fit alongside solar pannels and wind turbines in terms of energy efficiency.

There is always someone who takes it too far. Like the people who make yarn out of dog hair, although, I have to commend them on what I’m not sure whether to term their frugality or inventiveness. It’s people like this who turn readily available rubbish into something useful that are the pioneers of sustainable design. I’m sure once the smell of dog is washed out of it its pretty toasty.

Claire Selman

This dress was made by a fashion designer called Gary Harvey; he used 30 copies of financial time’s newspaper for this dress. Everything that was used to create the dress is second hand. This dress shows how you can recreate something by recycling and transforming into something different. He also wants to promote the whole idea of buying second hand clothes as many people will stay away from buying second hand items.

Varsha Chouhan


Taking the current economic climate into consideration, the genius brains at miniWIZ have created what could be the answer to not only our recycling problem, but also our monetary issues.  The POLLI-brick, made from recycled PET bottles, can be interlocked into honeycomb shapes to build an array of structures, from walls, roofing, plant pots and even buildings! The bottles are incredibly strong; according to China Post they can withstand typhoons and earthquakes and also possess thermal insulation, as well as being sound insulation.

A Taiwanese company have erected a 3 storey exhibition hall, made from around 1.5 million bottles. As the bottles are see-through plastic they allow natural light to filter through, genius!

The 3 storey building also has an air conditioning system which uses falling water that has been collected during rain storms!

Lauren Robson.

Laura Holmes:

This paper briquette maker is something that I am currently using in my collaborative project. The bricks for me are a building block with which to make a sculpture, but the idea is to recycle used paper to create a ‘paper log’ which can be used on an open fire for example.
In keeping with the theme of recycling, and how ‘saving the planet’ is becoming a growing trend here’s a few examples from the world of fashion:

‘Eco Sneaks’ are made by Simple Shoes from a range of recycled materials, including old car tyres and plastic bottles.

Love these trendy handbags, made from recycled crisp packets. May have to make one myself, if nothing else it’s an excuse to pig out on Seabrooks 🙂

The website the handbags came from has a fantastic range of gifts made from recycled materials. One I particularly love is this Bush Wire Radio:
Made from recycled drinks cans and bits of found materials, these radios work on two frequencies and let’s face it – look super cool 🙂


3 Responses to Sustainability in design

  1. I came across this artist Amanda Watson- Will whilst looking for ways I could use hair within my current project.

  2. Katie Broadley says:

    To follow on with Varsha’s entry, these are also recycled clothes done made by several different stylists and they were displayed in shop windows for the ‘Trash Fash’ exhibition in the west end of London. The work was a mixture of what would usually be classed as waste for the shops such as security tags, coat hangers and wrapping tap.

  3. Another take on Claires dog hair yarn coats. The hairs from the dog are used to create the sustainable clothing for the human body. So using the hair off the animal to create something useable for the human. Whilst the work of Neozoon, a street artist from Berlin, uses real fur coats obviously made from the animals, to bring it back to life in the form of street art. So twisting the use of the materials. Both 2D and 3D works are made to reconstruct the animals. Some of the 3D works, such as the work with the guerillas, are brought back to life to make out they are breathing animals and are put on ventilators to enable this. So the fur moves as the animal is breathing. The 2D works consist of the fur coats being cut up into animal shapes, then pasted on the walls of the city to construct animal scenes. For more examples visit the links below…

    Lisa Haith.

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