August in Edinburgh is Festival, Fringe & Edinburgh College of Art Masters Degree Show. We enjoyed one of the three……
Occasionally, very, very occasionally, we genuinely think it might be us. Genuinely think there might be nothing wrong with the number of events during Milan Design Week. Genuinely think there is nothing wrong with the number of stages at the Glastonbury Festival. Genuinely think there is nothing wrong with the number of ice cream flavours on offer.
But that it is us.
That in our advancing years we are losing the ability to quickly process large amounts of information, get frustrated at our inability to maintain an overview, and thus tend to reject all that we can’t comprehend, all that overtaxes us, as bad.
Or take Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Back in the day it was possible to have an overview of what was on where and when, possible to actively decide which shows you wanted to see, possible to actually pick up the programme.
We didn’t even try. Too much, too similar, too obvious, too much, too cross…..
Fortunately there was the Edinburgh College of Art Masters Degree Show to distract us.
Tracing its origins back to 1760 and the founding of the “Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh”, Edinburgh College of Art as such was established in 1907 and despite its rather unequivocal name has always had a very wide understanding of the term “art” and from the very beginning taught design and craft in addition to drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture. In 2011 a merger with Edinburgh University saw Edinburgh College of Art expand its programme to include landscape architecture and music and formally structure itself around five schools: Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Art, History of Art, Music and the School of Design.
In addition to offering Bachelor courses in a range of disciplines as varied as Performance Costume, Jewellery & Silversmithing, Graphic Design or Product Design Edinburgh College of Art School of Design also offers an extensive Masters programme, and somewhat logically it was these Masters courses which formed the focus of the Masters Degree Show 2016.
Within its Masters programme the Edinburgh College of Art School of Design offers courses in, amongst many other disciplines, Design Informatics, Illustration, Interior Design or Glass. Our attention was primarily on the presentation of the Product Design Masters; a small presentation, yet one which within its physical confines neatly demonstrated the endlessness of the subject.
As we noted in our post from the exhibition Modern Design at GRAM: 20th Century Furniture at the Grand Rapids Museum of Art, despite the number of chair designs we currently have, there is always room for more. Assuming that is the new chair “fundamentally improves the process, material or idea. And in the best cases, all three.”
Such as the Fitting Chair by Li-min Lee.
Starting by questioning the suitability and justifiability of traditional rigid chair design in our contemporary world Li-min Lee has devised a concept based around a flexible synthetic seat shell and conical base, both of which are supplied flat and subsequently folded to form your chair. And which, if need be, can be folded flat again.
Still at an incredibly early stage there are however a lot of aspects about the concept which genuinely excite us.
One the one hand there is the relatively limited amount of materials required; on the other the possibility of realising local, low-cost, low-tech production; while on the rare and mystical third hand there is the ease of transport, not only in terms of initial distribution/delivery, but also should you move or for whatever reason need to take your chair elsewhere.
As part of the project proposal Li-min Lee has devised the chair as being available in a range of versions differentiated according to the weight of the user – hence the name, it is a chair to fit your height/weight. While we understand the why and where, for us such is only relevant if you live by yourself, never have visitors and maintain a constant weight your whole life.
Which has got to be a very niche market.
Plus in our opinion it is altogether unnecessary, and a bit too “it’s a masters project, I need add a detailed proposal”, because we’re not talking about a work chair or similar on which you are likely to sitting for hours on end, but rather a side chair, dining chair, waiting room chair or similar. A classic multi-purpose chair which needs to be ergonomically sound. But no more.
As we noted above, for us new chair designs should, ideally, offer advances in terms of process, idea and material. While the Fitting Chair does in terms of the first two, in terms of material there is still a lot to be done. But as we also noted, the project is still at a very early stage, and it is to be hoped that Li-min Lee is given the opportunity to develop it further and see how far the idea can be taken, structurally and formally.
In recent years there has been ever increasing effort invested in exploring how to best harness the possibilities of solar power to bring electricity to those communities not linked to electricity grids. Generally the focus is the urban poor and rural communities in Africa; and invariably concerns lighting, which is important, but not the only potential use of electricity. Recognising this Ellen Webster developed My Hub which in addition to providing light is also fitted with USB sockets for charging USB devices and can house a number of mobile, rechargeable units which are simply slotted in, including portable lamps and portable battery packs. But which could easily be extended to an extensive family of add-ons.
The project was developed by Ellen with input from students at the Gearbox Makerspace in Nairobi, and thus has a particular Kenyan accent. Yet while greatly appreciating the way the project extends the possibilities for solar power utilisation in Africa, taking it beyond simply providing lighting and onto integrated solutions, if you will much like the SolarKiosk project just at domestic level, what really fascinates us is the universality of My Hub. And for all the fact that if offers a simple solution for what are commonly referred to a “crisis regions”, be that post natural disaster, in context of armed conflicts, or for whatever reason large numbers of people in one location have no access to electricity. Yet who need such quickly and with as little fuss and bureaucracy as possible. Roll out a few such hubs and everyone has access to power, light, cooling, etc….
Which can only be a good thing.