Ten of China and Japan’s top architecture firms explored how the home could and should respond to the pressures of future living with a series of conceptual pavilions for House Vision, an exhibition within Beijing Design Week (September 26 to October 5). The installations exposed three consumer needs – flexibility, fun and connection to environmental resources – that will be pivotal to future architectural practice. Here, we give you the highlights.
Chinese studio Open Architecture queried how humans might settle on another planet with its Mars Case pavilion. The pod design features a cube-shaped metallic base housing the kitchen and bathroom, as well as a soft-skinned extension that inflates to create a living space. The pavilion constantly recycles air, water and energy to enable inhabitants to exist without access to natural resources. The design is also aimed at the growing community of nomadic consumers seeking sustainable housing alternatives – see our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Essence for more.
Chinese studio Penda took inspiration from traditional hutongs – and their role as communal meeting places – in its Urban Cabin design for Mini Living. A playground-like interior creates a sense of being in a public space, featuring a swing and moveable puzzle-shaped seats. A periscope protruding through the roof connects inhabitants to the outdoors, enabling them to look around the house and syphoning sunlight into the space.
Beijing-based architecture studio Blue used modular wall and storage sections to imagine how design can be used to activate China’s abandoned buildings. Its pavilion was filled with five-metre-high box structures that create semi-enclosed private living spaces. Users can position sofas, chairs and tables inside and outside of these structures, using the divides to delineate social and intimate settings.
Each project appreciates space as a vital commodity and explores how new ways of managing it can create buildings that nurture their inhabitants, even when in a restrictive environment.
Ethical employment has become a key part of the conversation around sustainability in hospitality, with our reports Sustainable Restaurants and Boundless Hospitality highlighting the topic. With this in mind, UK media company Code conducted its inaugural Happiness in Hospitality survey, the results of which were published last week.
The survey questions were designed to identify industry workers' drive, pressure points and hopes for the future, focusing on staff's wellbeing as well as details around benefits and remuneration.
Code's founder Adam Hyman believes that achieving a deeper understanding of what employees value and what they believe could be improved will allow brands to create positive workplaces – and therefore improve their recruitment, retention and business sustainability. "As an industry, we need to unite and collectively implement improvements to the workplace to attract new talent and retain those already working in it," explains Hyman. "People work in restaurants, bars and hotels for more than a pay cheque – they do it from a more deep-rooted passion."
A key topic within hospitality globally is the treatment of staff, with the survey revealing that nine out of 10 have experienced or witnessed abuse at work. However, 78% of those surveyed would recommend working in hospitality as a career. Job satisfaction is key for those in the industry, with 38% reportedly changing jobs for personal development. Only 7% cited an increase in pay as a reason, compared to 51% of the UK workforce generally. With 87% in the industry eager to be a mentor, and 72% of junior staff stating they'd like greater support, there is clearly opportunity for deeper connectivity across the industry.
Children’s toys are being reframed as life-training tools, embracing simplified tech as a catalyst for computer-based dexterity (see also Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted). UK tech company Kano takes this a step further with its Harry Potter-branded coding kit, which explores how toys can help develop children’s skills, while fostering a sustainable relationship between child and product.
The app features a series of games – from levitating feathers to taming fire – that children play using their wand as controller. These actions physicalise the game and offer users an immersive experience, recreating the magic of the popular film series – for more on gesture-based interaction design, see our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Burst.
Kano’s open-ended design allows this sense of magic to be extended outside of the game, with the motherboard able to interact with other electronic devices. “You can use the wand to turn the lights on in your house,” says Kano’s director Aaron Hinchion. “This is something you can do whatever you want with.”
Modular design is key to Kano’s mission, tackling the throwaway culture in electronics. Incorporating no glue or screws, the plastic components can be recycled, with users then able to use the motherboard in different projects – or even craft their own wand out of wood.
Allowing hardware and software to run independently helps products respond to changes in age and interest, as well as future-proofing toys so that they can be enjoyed beyond childhood.
In 2018, global temperatures look set to reach record highs for the fourth consecutive year (Carbon Brief, 2018). As reports emerge of buildings and infrastructural elements melting in the heat, designers need to specify more resilient materials that prolong product lifespans and protect people. We look at one potential solution.
Researchers at New York’s Columbia University have developed a coating that reflects over 96% of heat without using pigment or power. The innovation has far-reaching applications as it can be fabricated, dyed and applied like a paint to anything, including rooftops, buildings, vehicles and spacecrafts.
Once applied, the coating is not reliant on power, making it a passive daytime radiative cooling (PDRC) method. This could prove valuable for developing countries, where electricity sources can be unreliable and the effects of climate change are extreme. Alternative methods of keeping temperatures cool, such as air conditioning units and electrical fans, are extremely energy-intensive.
White paint is often applied to aeroplane fuselages and buildings in hot climates as it typically contains titanium dioxide, which gives surfaces the reflective properties needed to keep them cool. However, white paints usually have pigments that absorb UV light, limiting their performance.
In the same way that soap bubbles or snow reflect light, the new pigment-free coating has a bubbly structured surface with air voids to increase reflectivity and create an insulating layer.
Look out for upcoming reports on how to future-proof design for challenging environmental conditions.
New shower innovations offer spa-like experiences, responding to consumers’ demands for more from their at-home cleansing rituals. French start-up Skinjay’s new range blurs the boundaries between wellness and personal care by harnessing the power of aromatherapy with the aim of alleviating tension.
The luxury brand has upgraded the act of washing by introducing an interchangeable and colourful diffuser system for the shower. The easy-to-install device goes between the shower mixer and the hose, with the capsule then inserted into the device itself. A mixture of water and essential oils is then expressed from the showerhead, with the hot water and steam creating a mist-like effect.
Skinjay’s new spa-inspired capsule range, called Mission, focuses on scent and its influence on emotions. The four-piece collection uses different notes to alter the user’s state of mind in various ways. For example, the Bedtime capsule is aimed at those who are looking to unwind. It claims to reduce stress and anxiety levels as neroli, green mandarin and ylang ylang are released from the capsule.
This innovative product feeds into the growing trend of using aromatherapy to improve consumers’ mental states. It provides a new way for people to physically and mentally prepare for the day ahead. To read more about these rituals, see our report Serving the Self-Care Generation.
With each of Skinjay’s capsules creating a distinct olfactory experience, consumers are encouraged to experiment with the different scents available, choosing one that matches their mood. For more on this idea, take a look at our blog posts The Rise of Fragrance Wardrobes and Lush’s Spa-Inspired Range Makes Mood Magic.
Luxury ethical fashion label Maiyet is behind The Maiyet Collective, a new concept store opening in October inside a London members’ club dedicated to positive social impact. It will feature talks, activities and over 50 like-minded brands – just not its own.
Studies suggest almost 20% of millennial luxury spenders always take ethics into account (Statista, 2017). Responding to such trends, New York-based Maiyet is launching landmark part-time concept store The Maiyet Collective, housed in The Conduit – a new social ethics-focused members’ club in London’s prestigious Mayfair district.
Co-founded in 2011 by three entrepreneurs – including South African Paul van Zyl, a former human rights lawyer – Maiyet partners with artisans in developing economies such as Kenya, India, Peru and Mongolia.
The Conduit and its new store are intended to be a beacon for design, commerce and wider discourse on politics and entrepreneurship with a positive social purpose. The department store-like space aims to host over 150 events including talks, workshops, performances and exhibitions (see also Soft Sell: The New Retail).
The store will stock approximately 50 UK-based “positive impact” brands (although not Maiyet’s own label) – including denim brand M.i.H Jeans; accessories label Elvis & Kresse, which rescues and reforms raw materials; and Ishkar, a business that works with craftspeople in war zones.
The 5,000 sq ft space will function as a monthly pop-up, open from Thursday to Saturday. Thursday is exclusive to Conduit club members as a preview perk, while Friday and Saturday are open to the public but by appointment only – a strategy that ensures visitors are provided with a suitably attentive tour of the space and can learn about the manifesto. This echoes London-based concept store Blue Mountain School’s attempt to establish an intellectual approach to luxury by guiding visitors around the space – for more, see Retail City Guide, London: May 2018. See also Re-Engineering Exclusivity.
Sustainable thinking for the future is driving developments in enhanced and optimised materials and products. Vegetable waste is one stream being explored to provide stronger, more efficient and eco-friendlier alternatives. We profile two examples.
For other innovative projects using food industry byproducts, see Waste Pioneers and Revalued Resources in Visual Directions: The Future of Flavour. Reusing organic waste was a key theme at London Design Festival, see our Colour & Materials report.
Many millennials expect sustainable practices from brands – arguably even more so when purchasing goods for their kids. Targeting an eco-conscious generation of parents, a soon-to-be launched on-demand toy library leverages the power of sharing through an easy-to-use website.
Set to beta launch in November 2018, UK subscription-based toy library Whirli aims to make children’s playtime more sustainable. Based on a sharing model, Whirli wants to lessen the waste generated by a sector well known for its heavy use of plastic.
In the US, around $3.1bn is spent every year on toys specifically for infants and pre-schoolers. In the UK, the toy market is worth around £3.5bn ($4.6bn) annually.
As Lego looks to phase out plastic (see blog), could the toy sector be about to become sustainable? Whirli works like this: for a fixed monthly price, parents can curate a toybox from an online collection, with the box then delivered to their home. The current beta launch experiments with three different subscription tiers that will be altered according to customer feedback. A full launch is planned for February 2019.
Kids can keep the toys as long as they like, but when they get bored, parents can return the items to Whirli to exchange for another product in the catalogue. Returned toys will then be sanitised and made available for other children.
Usage that extends beyond nine months results in children getting to keep the toy for free. Although covering most toy brands, Whirli doesn’t offer toys from brands such as Lego because of the problem of missing pieces and the logistical implausibility of refunding entire sets. After an initial three-month introductory period, users can cancel or change their membership tiers anytime.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to help identify and intervene in areas where human-animal interaction is threatening the tiger population. With less than 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild, technology such as this may be crucial in preserving a species on the brink of extinction (WWF, 2018).
Researchers from the University of Kent have used computer modelling to determine where conflict between humans and endangered tigers is most likely to take place in Sumatra, Indonesia. Their research analysed 13 years' worth of data on human-tiger interaction, revealing areas where conflict is more likely - such as near villages and on certain connecting routes.
The researchers also mapped attitudes towards tigers among residents in the area, plotting where tolerance of tigers was particularly low. Combining the maps has identified high-risk areas where tiger killings, in retaliation against livestock being lost to big cats, are more likely. By using the algorithm, conservationists can identify where intervention is most vital, helping locals to secure livestock and remove tiger snares.
The algorithm was adapted from crime-fighting technology, where human-on-human attacks were likewise mapped to determine where law enforcement would be best placed to prevent outbreaks of crime. The algorithm also has the potential to be adapted to prevent the killing of other species facing human and natural threats.
As more advanced forms of machine learning and AI move into the mainstream, there's potential for brands to donate their proprietary technologies and resources to novel uses, benefitting the environment and humanitarian causes. See our Technology With a Conscience report for examples of these initiatives. For more on using technology to ensure a sustainable future, see our Sustainability Turns Smart Product Design report.
A machine-learning algorithm has been developed to estimate obesity levels in US cities without directly assessing the medical data of inhabitants. The researchers hope their findings can help future cities improve the health and wellbeing of their residents.
Researchers from the University of Washington studied satellite and Google Maps Street View imagery of city infrastructure and building placement, correlating it with obesity rates in individual cities. They also included 'points of interest' such as food and pet shops, which encourage activity within a district. For example, in areas with shops, people are more likely to walk around and socialise compared to less-frequented industrial districts.
Their initial research has found, unsurprisingly, that green urban areas with widely spaced buildings correlated with lower obesity rates, as these features facilitate physical activity. Despite wealthy areas typically including these elements, validation tests demonstrated that income was only one contributing factor to inhabitants' health; a city's infrastructure also affected its obesity rates.
The algorithm has only been applied to US cities so far, but could be rolled out further afield if adapted to account for differences in city planning and lifestyle across other cultures.
Obesity affects almost 40% of US adults (CDC, 2018). Dynamic approaches to health management in cities is a wise move, as less than 20% of the US population live in rural areas (Census Bureau, 2016). The University of Washington's research will be helpful in planning future urban infrastructure and offers a novel solution to concerns over healthcare.
Our recent blog on Norwegian town Lyseparken illustrates how cities of the future can be built with the wellbeing of inhabitants in mind. For more on the future of urban spaces, see our Smart Cities Spotlight Trend.
A typical 6kg washing machine cycle of synthetics releases hundreds of thousands of microfibres into the water stream, according to Slovenian start-up Planet Care. To tackle the problem, the company has developed a filtration solution that aims to provide cleaner water.
Microfibre fleece, polyester blends and acrylic yarn shed fibres into the water stream when washed, which can end up in our drinking water, oceans, lakes and rivers, impacting the health of our ecosystem. When ingested, microfibres can cause problems including infertility, poisoning and genetic disruption, the start-up explains.
Planet Care’s filter works by attracting stray fibres ranging from 0.2-1,000 microns in length into a cartridge, using the electrostatic charge that naturally builds up in synthetics. Once full, the cartridges can be sent back to the manufacturer for recycling.
The company is working with appliance manufacturers to build the solution into washing machines, while add-on filters allow keen consumers to retrofit the solution into their existing appliances. An industrial version is also in development, which can be incorporated into the plumbing of commercial cleaners, hotels, hospitals and other high-volume washing facilities.
And to read about products made from harvested plastic waste, see Evolving Plastics.
Water pollution affects rivers, lakes and oceans all over the world, posing a threat to human health as well as the environment. Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a sponge-like material that could help address the harmful effects of industrial dye pollution, by quickly removing colour from contaminated water.
The new porous and reusable material, which is made from cellulose and palladium metal, works with reducing agents to help remove colour almost instantly. The large pores allow water to flow through easily, while the metal particles act as a catalyst. Existing reducing agents for chemical dyes can turn coloured dyes clear, but are slow-working and often inefficient.
Dyes are widely used in industries such as textiles, cosmetics, paper and plastics. After manufacturing, a large amount of effluent can bypass wastewater treatments, contaminating water for aquatic plants and animals. Even a small amount of colour dye can block out sunlight, preventing photosynthesis and damaging the aquatic ecosystem.
The team’s method of turning a coloured dye clear would allow plants to grow normally again. "This method could work well when you have low concentrations of dye in water that you need to take care of really quickly,” said one of the team members. For another dye-degrading technique, see Scientific Dye Developments in Considered Colour.
Last year, a lab in the US developed a material called Oleo Sponge that soaks up oil from water. The team have since conducted a successful experiment in real-world conditions that mimicked an oil spill. Read more about the material in our blog.
As we begin to acknowledge how our material choices impact the environment, the quest for more ecological options continues. A Brazilian design duo are exploring cork as one of these alternatives, using the renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material for their latest furniture collection.
The Sobreiro Collection by Humberto & Fernando Campana is made almost entirely from cork, in a bid to promote its versatility to other designers. The range consists of an armchair and three cabinets, with each piece demonstrating a different tactile and visual quality.
The light-coloured chair is made using cork alone and has a curvilinear form, while the darker brown cabinets, which have a wooden structure, feature smooth, granulated or undulating surface textures.
Expanded agglomerated cork – created by steam-heating and compressing resinous cork granules – is used for two of the cabinets, while the third explores the material’s hybridity, combining cork agglomerate with natural clay. See Cork & Concrete Composite for a similar example.
“We’ve always been fascinated by cork, not only because it is an ecological material, but because of its lightness,” say the designers. “Cork’s texture, variety of applications and insulation properties enrich the possibilities of using this material in order to express new concepts and gestures.”
Cork is one of the most sustainable natural materials we can harvest. Coming from the outer bark of the cork oak tree, it’s obtained through a process in which the trees are not cut down. Instead, the bark is harvested by hand every nine years and after harvesting, the tree continues to grow new layers. Besides being light and sustainable, it’s also waterproof, fire resistant, flexible and durable, making it suitable for numerous products and applications.
As mystical practices become mainstream, beauty brands are capitalising on this opportunity by creating products with a spiritual narrative. New launches in this category cite lunar inspirations as key.
Modern consumers are seeking total wellbeing with moon-motivated rituals, and the latest company tapping into this mindset is US subscription service MoonBox. Each monthly box contains crystals, tarot cards and four ethically sourced products – including essential oils, body scrubs and soaps. Together, these curated blends aim to detoxify body and spirit in alignment with the 28-day lunar cycle.
Launched in 2018, MoonBox’s subscription model and step-by-step guide inject mindfulness into users’ daily routines and create a more accessible route for them to practice new customs. It feeds into demand from millennials and Gen Zers – 69% of pivotals (aged 13 to 34) believe in a non-physical realm (BeautyCon Media, 2017). We explore how this cohort navigates today’s turbulent times with magic in our report Modern Mysticism.
In addition, the brand’s online platform offers information on meditation techniques and rituals for different periods of the lunar cycle. It also sends Google calendar reminders to subscribers, so they can incorporate these new practices at the start of the new moon phase.
Beauty brands are starting to acknowledge the importance of cyclical patterns when developing personal care products, as skincare and bodycare transform into self-care. A good example is Parisian brand Shigeta’s Luna Bath Salts, which harness the power of aromatherapy at each phase of the moon.
We predict an uptick in ranges that support consumers’ emotional needs – regardless of the scientific accuracy of these claims. To read more about this burgeoning trend, see Selling Cyclical Beauty and Serving the Self-Care Generation.
Growth in the second-hand retail sector is faster than ever, from high-end to mass market. Here’s our update on a sector full of innovation.
Consumers are warming to second-hand as a more sustainable form of consumerism that enables them to score discounts and showcase savvy sourcing. The second-hand clothing market alone is growing 24 times faster than traditional retail (ThredUp, 2018). For more context on recommerce, see Pause & Pulsate (part of our Liquid Retail series), the fashion-focused A Sustainable Journey, and Budget Retail's Quality Drive.
Refining the Second-Hand Store: Brands are reimagining resale shops as lifestyle hubs in high-profile locales.
Strategies for Reclaiming Resales: Brands are starting to profit from the second-hand boom by pulling resales back in-house or partnering with recommerce platforms.