Designs of the Year was recently held to much acclaim at the Design Museum, London. The award is famous for showcasing the best of international design across a range of six categories, including: Architecture, Graphics and Transport. It particularly celebrates entries that promote change and that capture “the spirit of the year”.
This year, a noticeable trend throughout the categories was an emphasis on environmental issues – it is after all a snapshot of the contemporary concerns of the design world. As the Design Museum commented: “We are increasingly seeing that the gap between ‘eco’ design and ‘mainstream’ design is closing. Designers seem to be aware of dwindling resources and the fact that new products need to be sustainable to be attractive to consumers.”
As a society we are becoming more conscious of the environment and our role in preserving it; we shop more ethically, try to recycle and take the bus instead of the car. But as the recent Design Awards showed, this movement is filtering down: conscious decisions are being made in increasingly revolutionary spheres. From trees planted on buildings to billboards that purify the air, we explore some of the most interesting and environmentally minded designs from 2015, as well as look at ways in which you can be inspired by them.
House for Trees
Who designed it?
Vo Trong Nghia Architects in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. A founding partner of this architectural firm, Nghia has received numerous international prizes for his sustainable projects. He experiments with light, wind and water to create contemporary, green designs, while using wherever possible local materials and traditional skills to maintain a sense of heritage.
House of Trees was inspired by the dramatic urbanisation of many cities in Vietnam. Once surrounded by sprawling tropical forest, Vietnam’s popularity as a holiday destination has seen cities expand and buildings overwhelm the once widespread greenery. House for Trees seeks to counteract this change by bringing trees back to the city skyline. Five large concrete boxes act as ‘pots’ above each two bedroom home to plant Banyan trees on their tops. A thick soil layer 1.5 metres deep mean that these buildings also function as effective storm-water basins, and so reduce the risk of flooding. The idea is to spread this over a larger number of houses in the future.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden or a rooftop patio then plant out pots filled with evergreen bushes and perennial flowers. If you want to attract wildlife such as bees to your garden then be sure to plant flowers such as lavender, snapdragons and foxgloves (although be careful of the latter, as if eaten they are poisonous!). If you don’t have much space a window ledge or table by a window is just as good. If you’re looking for a stylish pot in which to house your plants, we love this handmade glass ceramic bowl by Henry & Future.
Air Purifying Billboard
Who designed it?
The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru.
No longer will billboards be erected just for gaudy display. This seemingly ordinary billboard is able to attract and filter pollution from the sky and return purified air to the surrounding environment at the incredible rate of 100,000 cubic metres a day. At this speed, it does the same job as 1,200 full-grown trees. With concerns about the destruction of the rainforest and the subsequent lack of trees to clear the air of CO2, this billboard could be an ingenious game-changer.
If you want to remove toxins from your home naturally, then try beeswax candles. Whereas paraffin candles are derived from petroleum and so release chemicals such as benzene, toluene and soot into the atmosphere, beeswax candles burn with almost no smoke or scent. They also clean the air by releasing negative ions, which bind with toxins and help remove them from the air. Beeswax candles are also especially helpful for those with asthma or allergies as they are effective at removing common allergens like dust from the air. Gold and Black have some cheering yellow-gold beeswax candles in store that will help lighten your home and your mind.
Desert Courtyard House
Wendell Burnette Architects in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.
This unique private house in Arizona, USA can be found out in the Sonoran Desert. It’s clever design means that the whole house spirals up around the focal point, which is its courtyard, from the lowest point at its southwest corner. This positioning means that it finally stretches out to face a sunset view. More environmentally important, however, are its walls, which were created through an ancient construction method of ramming earth from the desert site together before being wrapped in a steel shell. This gives the walls a high thermal mass and so while they are structurally sound they are also heat efficient.
Although you may not be able to re-structure your house to focus around a courtyard, or re-build the walls out of compact sand, you can still create a focal point while maintaining the heat in your home. You could do this by choosing a beautiful, eye-catching and most importantly insulating rug. Jacaranda make stunning rugs on traditional, hand-operated wooden looms and weave the natural fibre viscose into some of their ranges to make sure they are a fraction of the price of silk rugs. Jacaranda is also an affiliate of GoodWeave, an international organisation working to end child labour in carpet weaving communities around the world. Another similarly stylish option would be to add a fire bowl to your garden; it would be a good source of heat and can double as a barbecue. Kadai are a good brand to consider as they make stunning fire bowls from recycled materials.
The Ocean Cleanup
Who designed it?
Boyan Slat (CEO and founder), Jan de Sonneville PhD (Lead engineer) and Erwin Zwart (Designer), the Netherlands.
The Ocean Cleanup is the brainchild of Dutch environmentalist and student inventor Boyan Slat and was prompted after he encountered more plastic than fish on his first dive at the age of 16. The project has now raised over 2 million US dollars through crowdfunding and is calling itself “the largest clean up in history”. The idea is to create a network of floating barriers that create and control natural currents that will push plastic bags and containers along them and into a central area. From there, they will be easier to pick up and extract.
For your own, small-scale water clean up you could use natural charcoal. Charcoal works by absorbing impurities and releasing in their place minerals such as calcium and magnesium. It is an effective way to clean your water without a water filter, and therefore without the need for plastics. Kishu Charcoal have a huge range of charcoal packs, you can even buy some for your pets water bowl!
Words: Jess Bancroft