Archive for the 'design' Category

Shit rules

This post is from Fionn, who works on a betterplace incubator project:

As Joana has already mentioned in ealier posts, Noa Lerner, Holger Schmitz and I are working on a sanitation project for the bottom of the pyramid market segment.It started as part of this WTO-Project on betterplace. We decided to design a squat toilet which requires no H2O and for which, therefore a drainage system is not required.

Our first prototype/ concept enables the residents of slums, who live in cramped  conditions, often in one room, to own their own toilet.  A mechanical syphon will permit the odourless enclosing of faeces and urine in a tank. The tank, when full,  can be transported to a public bio digester. Here the contents will be turned into methane gas.

A nanotechnological finishing surface will facilitate the complete emptying of the tank. The biodigester can be connected, according to need,  to an energy kiosk in which the methane gas can be transformed into electricity. In turn, slum residents will  be able to charge batteries. Small businesses, such as goldsmiths where well-lit work places are needed,  could  operate using the methane gas.

Maybe you remember Joana talking about a little stop and motion film we made from cut out fotos, finaly here it is :


To prove our concept, we recently went to India for two weeks. Here we had the honuer to work together with Dr. Pathak, the founder of Sulab international. His organisation is successfully trying to improve sanitation in India: up to this day, they already installed 1,2 million privat and 7000 public toilets. Together with his engineers , biologists and mathematicians  we work on all the issues which were still open regarding biogas and electricity.

Another part of our field study in India was to talk to the future owners of the toilets. We wanted to find out if they actually would be open for our sanitation concept and how they would like there toilets  to be designed.

Prepared with specialy designed interview tools we went into the living areas, were we not only talked to the inhabitants, but also tried out our first prototype, which we had brought along from Germany.

At the moment we are evaluating the results from our trip to India and prepare our business plan. This we will be presenting at the University of Arts in Berlin in April.

Fionn Dobbin


Polar Bears make great activists

Over the weekend, two different environmental campaigns caught my attention; both involving Polar Bears:

Last Friday,  Action Forward, a Dutch collective, raised this statue in the city of Den Bosch. The statue is made out of tyres and portraits a Polar Bear who throws a oil barrel to the passing cars. The Netherlands counts almost 8 million cars, responsible for more than 20% of the greenhouse gases. That’s why this Polar Bear can’t stand it any longer, he is angry. 


Also, enjoy this subtle video – Polar Bear guerilla – Subway (thanks Moritz for pointing me to it) 

betterplace designers in Monocle

Part of my summer reading is the summer edition of Monocle, Tyler Brulés latest magazine.

It wasn’t exactly that I had expected to come across anything betterplace, but there it was: In an article featuring Berlin (sorry, for subscription only) as the global cultural capital, I saw a photo of Noa Lerner, „an Israeli student at Berlin’s Universität der Künste in Charlottenburg“, who created the

Music Drop, a small silicone earpiece that can store data equal to one CD. … Companies are lining up to turn her Music Drip into a merchandizing instrument.

Noas next project has a very strong betterplace connection, as she is one of the design students devoting her time to our WTO project, even devoting her diploma to it.

The next paragraph also had a betterplace connection, featuring Hanna Wiesner and Magdalena Kohler from Trikoton, who are

creating unique textiles by generating patterns from their customers voice frequencies and started a fashion label.

As those of you who attended our highly successful x-mas stalls last year will remember, Hanna and Magdalena created for betterplace a beautiful scarf as well as fingerless gloves, the profit of which went fully into selected betterplace projects. For this years x-mas we are planning yet another betterplace product together with the two. 

A big thanks to our friends Axel and Sybille Kufus, who introduced us to the three designers, who are part of Axels Design Reactor


The WTO Project powered by betterplace

Noa, Fionn and Holger in the Berlin WTO-project headquarters at UdK, Berlin

Just before I left for my summer vacation I met Noa and Fionn, the two design students of Axel Kufus, who are going to devote their final design thesis to our WTO sanitation project.

Also present were Prof. Axel Kufus, Christian Zöllner, his assistent, and Holger Schmitz, a branding and marketing expert turned betterplace volunteer, who is researching possible business models. Noa and Fionn presented the first draft of their concept, which revolves around the idea of a mobile toilet production unit, which travels from location to location, offering a modular kit of toilet designs, some of which are standardized, globally produced parts, while others are locally produced. The kit should be modular, i.e. starting with very basic parts and ending with very aspirational additions.

In mid July, just before the end of the summer term, the Berlin students are going to meet the Karlsruhe students to exchange ideas and concepts, as some have started to look more into technology, while others have focused on possible sales and distribution mechanisms etc.

The young designers are now in the process of connecting to a local “Southern” NGO/organisation to jointly develop ideas, enriching and localising their conceptual ideas. Thus we have been turning to Jack Sim for advice.

Later this summer the design group is going to connect with Sören Rüd (from the Gtz ecosan team) to discuss technological questions, majorly effecting the design process. Meanwhile Holger wants to get in touch with local santiation entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia to find out which approaches work and which don’t. 

I find it extremely stimulating to witness the project from the sideline, here and there adding my 2 cents worth of wisdom. The first results should be in by early autumn and I will keep you posted.

A Lion against Child Labour

Gold Lion in Cannes in the category Design. (from osocio
Child labour is a big problem in India. People in India are averse to contributing for social causes because they feel their contributions won’t make a difference. The objective of this piece from the Care Foundation was to reverse the trend and drive donations towards the child labour cause. 

Each individual’s contribution can help alter the current situation of a child; this was the essential message to be communicated in the ambient space.

A life-sized statue of a child, dressed in rags carrying a box above his head was sculpted and placed against a wall backdrop. The box filled with some weights was tied to a rope running over a set of pulleys and attached to a donation box at the other end. The words ‘Your contribution can end child labour’ was painted over it. This installation was placed in several malls with high volume footfalls across the city.

This fits neatly with our conviction – and experience! – that even small donations can really make a difference. my favourite example is Ann Wambuas orphanage in Mombasa.


Next generation design prize

Last week, the fifth edition of metropolis’ next generation® design prize was awarded to architect and professor, eric olsen. The 2008 prestigious design prize was based around the theme of water. Olsen’s project, a solar water disinfecting tarpaulin, was awarded 10,000 USD for coming out on top of a very competitive field. Created for transporting and purifying water, his design can be used in a variety of areas were potable water is inaccessible. the design is a lightweight and flexible bag which is created through digital manufacturing and cleans water through passive solar radiation (thanks to Stefan Legner and Werner Aisslinger for pointing me to this)