This month’s stories look at effective ways to tackle complicated problems. There’s a German company using design to combat e-waste in home electronics, a cosmetics company researching how to create the perfect red for vegans and filmmaker Mohammad Gorjestani has created a project which celebrates the lives of victims of police violence, while raising awareness of systemic racism. If you’d like to read more stories that look for solutions, sign up for the Design Review newsletter.
For anyone who has kitchen cupboards full of underused gadgets, here’s an appliance you don’t need to feel guilty about. Berlin-based tech company Open Funk’s new food processor, Re:Mix, is made from sustainable materials, easy to repair and compatible with standard glass jars.
The co-founders of Open Funk, Ken Rostand and Paul Anca, became friends in 2018 after meeting at a circular economy conference. They decided to take on the home electronics industry after both experienced the annoyance of a kitchen mixer that broke just months after purchase. Though this sounds like a very first-world problem, by the time you’ve factored in e-waste pollution, poor industrial working conditions and transport emissions, it really isn’t.
The Re:Mix’s base is made from reclaimed waste plastic (assembled with puzzle joints, so no glue required), replaceable and durable blades, and a motor. There’s a QR-code linking to a repair manual. It’s compatible with European jam jars found in cupboards throughout the continent.
Open Funk can repair and upgrade the Re:Mix at its Berlin workshop, but the open-source blueprints are available if you want to give it a whirl at home. The company also only ships to the EU, so it can guarantee repairs and reduce emissions from shipping. The co-founders also hopes this exclusivity will be a challenge to other markets. The Re:Mix designs are open to everyone. If you want to modify the design to be compatible with jam jars and electronics in your locality, Open Funk would love to see it.
Walk into the studio space on Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, and you’ll find what looks like a community celebration. At the show 1-800 Happy Birthday, there’s a recreation of a corner shop where you can buy birthday cards, balloons and flowers; a joyous mural; a newsstand with information; and even the facade of one of the local brownstone houses.
But this community has one focus: a circle of 12 recycled 1970s pay phones each decorated, shrine-like, with memorabilia provided by the family of a victim of police violence. When these phones ring, you pick up and listen to recorded messages from well-wishers for these members of the black and latino communities who’ve lost their lives.
The project started in 2020 as an online message service created by filmmaker Mohammad Gorjestani and the 12 bereaved families of Dujuan Armstrong, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Fred Cox, Eric Garner, Oscar Julius Grant III, Xzavier D. Hill, Donovan Lynch, Sean Monterrosa, Tony Robinson Jr and Mario Woods. Messages were left to mark their birthdays each year.
This new physical exhibition in Brooklyn is a collaboration between Gorjestani and the Worthless Studios founder, Neil Hamamoto, and curator Klaudia Ofwona Draber. It allows new memories to be made, introduces these stories to a wider audience and increases awareness of police violence and racism. The space is running a related events programme, including healing walks, music sessions and events with grief advocates and family members.
Ofwona Draber says that “celebrating birthdays is a way to bring local communities together. It has been an honour to work with these strong families, to be allowed a chance to amplify the fight they undertake against white supremacy, and for human rights.”
1-800 Happy Birthday is at Knickerbox Avenue until 16 January 2023. A recycled pay phone is on show in nearby McCarren Park until March 2023
The Dezeen Awards are now in their fifth year, and for 2022 the online design platform received a record-breaking 5,400 entries from more than 90 countries. The judges this year included designer Alberto Alessi, architects Tom Kundig and Zhang Ke, furniture restorer Jay Blades and designer Lara Bohinc. Though the top awards for design, building and interiors are still to be announced, category winners have been revealed in previous weeks, highlighting some great projects.
A privately owned ranch with rammed earth walls and porches made from recycled oil field pipes built in the artist haven of Marfa, Texas, won best rural house project, and the renovation of the Jubilee Pool in Penzance, UK – one of only five salt water lidos in the UK – was named best rebirth project. Winning sustainability projects include a Ugandan passive design primary school built from components mainly sourced from within 2km of the site.
The Circus Canteen in Bangalore bagged sustainable interior. This farm-to-table restaurant is housed in a former steel factory with a workshop space and community arts centre. Its interior is created from a marvellous jumble of salvaged and recycled materials. The building also has a rainwater salvaging system, passive solar design and a passive cooling system using cross ventilation, indoor plants and whirlybirds.
The head of Dezeen Awards, Claire Barrett, said: “It is such a joy to see real innovation across all scales of project, both large and small – and a mindfulness about re-use, whether that be of entire buildings or materials. These are projects that display such wit and rigorous design thought.”
For more information on all this year’s shortlisted projects and winners, visit the Dezeen website
Lucie Rie is the closest thing craft has to a Coco Chanel. The ceramicist was revered for her straight-talking and formidable personal aesthetic, as well as her utterly original art. Always dressed in white or grey, typically a trouser suit, Rie was so tiny that she put weights on her feet to stop herself toppling into her top-loading kiln. Once, when she was being interviewed for BBC’s Omnibus in 1982, she had to ask her interviewer and friend, Sir David Attenborough, to pull her out by the legs when she lost her balance and fell in. Apparently, when a writer once asked her for an interview, she sent the reply: “I do not want to be in your book. I like to make pots – I do not like to talk about them.”
Born in Vienna in 1902, her early work reflected the modernist ideas fashionable in her hometown in the 1930s. She moved to the UK to escape the Nazis and, at first, her work sat in the tradition of the British Studio – she made beautiful buttons during the war, then tableware and vessels. However, her vivid colours and admiration for Roman pottery always set her slightly apart from the Japanese- and Chinese-influenced British mainstream.
Post-war she really found her own identity, using new shapes and innovative techniques. Though the establishment initially dismissed her work, by the time of her death, in 1995, Rie’s work was worth thousands and was featured in museum archives and significant private collections around the world.
A new exhibition collects together examples of her work from all six decades of her practice. Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery is currently on show at the Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art and travels to Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, and onto the Holburne Museum, Bath, in 2023. Elinor Morgan, artistic director at MIMA, says: “This exhibition foregrounds Lucie Rie as an innovator whose incredible making techniques laid the groundwork for many others. It is an opportunity to focus on a lifetime of her pots and we are excited to welcome those encountering Rie’s work for the first time.”
Vegans have to give up on many traditional pleasures to keep to their principles. Killer red lipstick was one of them. The red pigment used in intense scarlet lipstick – known as carmine – is made from crushed female cochineal beetles. There are 70,000 insects in one pound of carmine, which means there can be up to 1,000 insects in a single lipstick.
It’s proved vexingly difficult to recreate this bold, bright red. But now vegan makeup brand Hourglass has managed it. It’s taken three years and 175 colour experiments, but it has finally achieved a scarlet with no beetles harmed. The apt name is Red 0 and it comes in a refillable case adorned with a little insect.
“Carmine is everywhere, from food and alcohol to paint, medication, and lipstick,” says Carisa Janes, founder and CEO of Hourglass. “Creating a vegan alternative felt like an impossible feat at times, but we need to move away from treating living beings as expendable.”
The vegan formula is currently patent pending, but Hourglass plans to make the faux-carmine recipe open source eventually. A red letter day for beetles everywhere.