Gallery: The 100 Mile Design Challenge Asks Students To Think Local Wit...

Our coverage of New York Design Week has highlighted some of the most exciting new green products, furnishings, and materials from designers all over the world. And while these sustainable designs really honed in on implementing green measures such as energy efficient lighting and recycled post-consumer materials, no designers went as far in their search for holistic sustainability as a group of students from the University of Washington and Maryland Institute College of Art. Under the direction of professors Domenic Murren, Inna Alesina and Gavin Stewart, this young bunch showcased their fresh take on traditional craftsmanship with projects created for the '100 Mile Design Challenge', which asked students to design and manufacture locally, using only materials and processes found within a 100-mile radius of their hometowns. The results gave way to pieces that not only managed a reduction of embodied energy, but pieces that were also able to evoke the natural and cultural environments of the cities of Seattle and Baltimore.

The city of Baltimore has grown through its interaction with the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding marshlands, and raw materials that can be found in the region range from oyster shells, to invasive bamboo and vine species, and even driftwood and other industrial rubble. From this material palette, 100 Mile designs from the MICA contingent focus on creating products that capture the innovative spirit of this historically entrepreneurial trading port. The final product from these prodigious Environmental Design majors hint at the cultural and material variety of this Mid-Atlantic creative center.

Cindy Jian’s Oyster Soap is mixed from organic honey and oatmeal, with finely ground oyster shell particles mixed in to improve skin quality with its amino acids and calcium. Each soap is poured inside of a found oyster shell, and coated in wax and glycerin, giving it a unique shape and luster, and fitting neatly into a person’s hand. Jian continues to use found oyster shells in her Oyster Gardening Tools, which also utilize locally-sourced walnut wood in the form of ergonomically carved handles. As these tools are used, small pieces of the shells break off and into the ground, their high mineral content helping fertilize the soil.

Another student inspired by regional marine fauna is Renee Shen, who resolves many a seafood afficcionado’s dilemma with her Crab-To-Go seafood takeout container. This stylish, reusable wood and recycled canvas bag recalls the shape of a Blue Shell Crab, a local delicacy. Crab-To-Go has small pockets along the sides of its canvas lining where the user can insert bamboo charcoal to diffuse some of the fresh sea scent of its contents. Once the delicious meal is finished, composting of the shells is facilitated by the high mineral content of the charcoal.


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1 Comment

  1. hjeremiah May 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Above is the URL for some experiments in weaving wisteria, an invasive species local to Baltimore.

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