2017/8 design magazine

Get inspired by the latest innovations, such as building with micro-organisms, hue, recycle Italian cargo bike, eta clock.

Micro-organisms as a building construction school

Each year we produce about one and a half trillion bricks – this is one of the most massive products of modern civilisation. The manufacture of concrete, one of the most energy intensive materials, uses limestone shale converted into Portland cement through high-heat processes. Global cement production amounts about 2.8 billion tons, with equivalent quantities of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

Both concrete and clay manufacturing include energy intensive processes for raw material extraction, transportation, and fuel for the heating kilns. But this is still not enough. Hundreds of millions of people have a shortage of housing. Some experts say we need to increase production. But other experts look at different solutions.

Microorganisms are great builders. A number of chemical processes in a living cell lead to the formation of calcium carbonate, which accumulates solid insoluble precipitate, calcite, aragonite or waterite deposits. These are complex mineral formations, which are sometimes easily confused with the works of human hands.

Small, harmless and widespread soil bacteria Sporosarcina pasteurii cause local “cementation” and hardening of sand. In 2008 the Swede Magnus Larsson proposed to use this ability to create an artificial border in western Africa in front of growing deserts.

Ginger Dossier brought the technology to its logical limit by proposing a method of “microbiologically induced precipitation of calcium carbonate” (MICP) for the production of building bricks. Like traditional bricks and cement, it all starts with sand. It is covered in molds, mixed with calcium chloride and urea: absolutely safe substances used even as food additives. What remains is to add the magic: the Sporosarcina pasteurii bacteria and after two or five days the brick will harden to the required strength.

While Ginger Dossier was conducting his first experiments, students at Newcastle University experimented with Bacillus subtilis bacilli. The resulting BacillaFilla GM line is designed for repairing concrete structures. Penetrating deep into the crack, the bacilli mineralize and fill it with calcium carbonate, which is further strengthened by sticky polysaccharide.

To control the process, biologists worked out some signaling pathways by which the bacteria coordinate their collective activity. This makes it possible to artificially stimulate the entire population to actively synthesize levan and carbonate and form a solid film that fills the crack.

Professor Rachel Armstrong from Newcastle University coordinates the implementation of the Living Architecture (LiAr) project. Scientists from LiAr try to introduce microbes into already used ceramic bricks. In the fall of 2016, the Armstrong team presented a prototype of “refined” bricks, in the cavity of which a cocktail of substances and microorganisms is introduced, which turns them into microbial fuel cells capable of generating electricity, at the same time cleaning the air or used water. According to the LiAr project participants, it is possible to bring the technology to the ready-to-use level in about ten years.


Hue is a concept of a multi-dose inhaler for kids. The concept is meant to make a bold statement instead of being a source of self-consciousness. The design aims to change the stigma around the disease and having to use medication daily.

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ReCycle Italian Cargo Bike

REcycle is an italian artisanal workshop that since september 2016 is producing cargo bicycles recycling old mountain bike frames. Each bicycle is unique, bringing together the story of the recycled bike frame and a new CNC-machined front loading, designed with only three bent tubes to reduce welding and improve robustness.

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Eta Clock

Eta Clock isn’t an ordinary clock. It doesn’t tell time. Instead, it keeps you connected to those who matter most, exchanging time for location. The Eta Clock tells you where the people in your life spend their time, with each hand representing a person in your connection circle and each segment of the clock face corresponding to a destination.

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Blossom Robot

Project “Blossom” is a robot that is soft inside and out. It is built using traditional crafts like wool and wood. The goal is to bring back warm materials to home robotics, instead of more plastics, glass, and metal. Blossom is currently used in research at Cornell University as new mechanical design for social robots. This robot is also used as a platform to study how Machine Learning can be used to make a robot react to YouTube content. One of the aims is to help children on the Autism spectrum to develop social skills.

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Yellow Teapot

To celebrate its 40 years of success, passion and pride of appearing amongst the historic F1 makes, Renault has decided to revive this anecdote from the past by creating an actual “Yellow Teapot”.

It was at the 1977 Silverstone Grand Prix that Renault took up its position with the first Formule 1 turbo engine in history in a car called RS01. A few years later, the turbo was used by the other racing teams, and still today, modern Formula 1 models are equipped with this technology.

When new technologies are introduced difficulties and reliability problems would crop up. So, carrying the make’s yellow and black colours the RS01 often entered the stands lane streaming white smoke, synonymous with engine trouble.

Ken Tyrrell, the boss of the team, seeing the smoking car pass in front of his garage, yelled out the nickname “Yellow Teapot” as a joke.

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100 popsicles

Popsicles mad eof sickly polluted water highlight the problem of water contamination in Taiwan. Three students of the national Taiwan university of the arts have created 100 popsicles made from polluted waters of Taiwan’s lakes, rivers, beaches and ports. The project highlights the contrast between what is beautiful and what is problematic for the environment.

Sound-absorbing ‘beetle’

Interested in resolving the problem of unpleasant background noise and inspired by entomology rooms of a natural science museum, MUT design developed this product that aims to find the right balance between sound dissipation and decoration.

Kilner’s Butter Churner

In the time when we brew our own beer and bake our own bread at home it seems to be totally right to make our own butter as well.

Kilner’s Butter Churne keeps things traditional but contains the entire churning process into a rather convenient mason jar with a hand-cranked, gear-operated paddle that takes milk of your choice and with ten minutes of productive fidget spinning splits it into creamy butter and buttermilk.

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