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2010 DAE Master graduates

Design Academy Master graduates unveiled their final works including a fungi-infused burial system and a co-creation tool that allows consumers to help design their own product.

By Katie Dominy / 05-07-2010

Eight Man and Humanity graduates and seventeen IM graduates together make up the Design Academy Eindhoven Masters exhibition this year. Generally, themes focused on a strong social or environmental context, moving away from statement design that revolves around the individual designer. 

Highlights included a project helping homeless people retain their dignity through design by Alessia Cadamuro and an initiative aiding children to have a voice in local neighbourhood schemes by Heather Daam. Sustainable projects ranged from Cedric Ceulemans' ideas on solar energy and dealing with waste plastics to Maurizio Montalti's use of fungi to neutralise plastics and even human toxins.

Montalti’s ‘Continuous Bodies’ is subtitled ‘cycles of decomposition triggering a symbiotic partnership between humans and fungi.’

We asked Montalti how his interest in fungi came about. “Fungi are everywhere - beneath your feet, almost everywhere you look, and even in the air you breathe. Without these strange and fascinating life forms, neither we, nor the inhabitants of our native forests, would survive for long; this is because they are both the grand molecular feeders and dis-assemblers of nature. Fungi are a fruit of decay and of its beauty. They are an active metaphor of the cycle of all things. What is harder to take is that these disreputable organisms are our kinfolk. The fungi are not plants at all; they are closer to animals, to us.”

Stemming from this research, two projects resulted. ‘Bodies of Change’ uses fungi for a new type of burial practice. The Mycelium Shroud is a felt shroud inoculated with fungal mycelia. The mycelium’s action helps the decomposition process of the body, while collecting and neutralizing toxic elements in the body and distributing different nutrients from the body to surrounding life forms.

The ‘Ephemeral Icon’ looks at the application of fungi to synthetic materials that do not naturally decompose and leak dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere. From this, Montalti has developed the Bio Cover, a felted wool cover that gradually eats away at plastic. “By the action of being covered the chair gains a new aesthetic quality, while at the same time the natural fibre cover provides enough nutrients to trigger the action of the fungus. Feeding on the plastic, the fungus gradually chews and substitutes the material, while its expanding biomass acts as a natural purifier, accumulating volatile toxic compounds.”

Once fully ‘colonized’ the user can dispose of the chair by placing it in the garden or literally burying it. The new organic material, once plastic, can be now used as a natural fertilizer, providing extra nutrients to the soil for the growing of new life.

‘Socialism: Looking Forward’ by Erez Tal is concerned with the product designer's relationship with the consumer; the designer moving from being the decider of taste to a more collaborative role. The project began with Tal’s observation of people in Israel using social networking as a tool of consumer power, such as a group of 5000 people joining through facebook to buy a cinema that was faced with closure and destruction.

Tal took this further by researching the new type of consumer created by the internet and how designers could interact with them – playing on the theme of decentralization – every consumer being able to create their own products.

This led to the creation of various ideas such as the coining of the word ‘propjects’  - miniature props that represent our interiors within a Webcam frame on Skype or YouTube. Tal sees this as “a way for consumers and designers alike to intervene in this space by manipulating its composition and components and allowing it to look fantastic; because these are just miniatures, props, and they are free, and don't have to be functional or professional.”

Other concepts include two iPad applications; one called ‘in context’ that allows the consumer to manipulate their virtual interior space, and another that translates physical tools like the lathe or saw into digital, allowing consumers to make furniture, make decorative and programmatic choices, while the designer designs not only the tool, but also the raw materials to use with it; leading to specific results.

'From Language to Design' is a joint project between Leung Chin Pong (Michael) and Chan Hoi Nap (Rony). The project is an investigation into how language can be used as an element within design, reflecting its culture, history and tradition. The research language is Cantonese; both designers are from Hong Kong SAR, China and use traditional Chinese as their written language.

Main image+images 1&2: Maurizio Montalti
Images 3&4: Erez Tal
Images 5&6: Leung Chin Pong and Chan Hoi Nap

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