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Design Science

Returning to Roots: A New Book Highlights How Indigenous Practices Can Create More Sustainable Technology

December 3, 2019

Grace Ebert

A young fisherman walks under a living root bridge at Mawlynnong village, India. In the relentless damp of Meghalaya’s jungles the Khasi people have used the trainable roots of rubber trees to grow Jingkieng Dieng Jri living root bridges over rivers for centuries. Copyright: © Amos Chapple

Self-described designer, activist, academic, and author Julia Watson is trying to quash the boundary between native practices and technology in a new book that explores the ways indigenous wisdom can combat the high-tech approach to design and fighting climate change. In Lo—TEK Design by Radical Indigenism, Watson shares knowledge that transcends generations and cultures in an attempt to debunk the myth that indigenous approaches are primitive and far removed from current conceptions of technology. Throughout its more than 400 pages, the book explores ideas from 20 countries, including Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, Kenya, Iran, Iraq, India, and Indonesia, about how to tackle more sustainable technology and design. It also contains a forward from anthropologist Wade Davis.

Watson founded Julia Watson Studio, an urban design studio, in addition to co-founding “A Future Studio,” described as a collective of conscious designers. She also teaches urban design at Harvard and Columbia University. Lo—TEK is scheduled to be released this month by Taschen. If you liked this, check out the recently published Primitive Technology: A Survivalist’s Guide to Building Tools, Shelters, and More in the Wild.

 

A view over the sacred Mahagiri rice terraces, a small portion of the one thousand year old agrarian system known as the subak, which is unique to the island of Bali, Indonesia. Copyright: © David Lazar

 

In the Southern Wetlands of Iraq, an entire Ma’dan house known as a mudhif, which is built entirely of qasab reed without using mortar or nails, can be taken down and re-erected in a day. Copyright: © Jassim Alasadi

 

Built by the Tofinu, the city of Ganvie meaning ‘we survived’ floats on Lake Nokoué surrounded by a radiating reef system of twelve thousand acadja fish pens. Copyright: © Iwan Baan

 

 

 

 



Photography

A Photo Series by Yoko Ishii Documents the Free-Ranging Urban Deer of Nara, Japan

April 18, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

From the series Beyond the Border by Yoko Ishii, all images courtesy of the photographer

In Nara, Japan, Sika deer are not restricted to forests or parks, but rather mingle in the urban center much like humans—congregating in green spaces, browsing open shops, and even lining up neatly to pass through turnstiles. Although viewed as a burden in a most of the country, in Nara the deer population is sacred and protected by law. Beyond the Border, an ongoing series by Kanagawa-based photographer Yoko Ishii, captures the deer in everyday moments across the city, from collectively passing down a major street, to pausing to feed their young below a stoplight.

Ishii was inspired to photograph the ways the animals interact with common city infrastructure after observing a pair of deer paused at an intersection in 2011, and especially loves photographing them while the city is at its most bare. “These picturesque moments when early in the morning the deer can be found standing in the middle of desolate intersections, not bound by man’s borders and laws, yet inhabiting a man-made city is fascinating and inspiring,” she explains in a statement about her series.

Beyond the Border explores how the animals exist outside of the basic rules and regulations strictly crafted for the city’s human population, instead living free amongst the many pavement markings and stoplights. Ishii published a book of her photography titled Dear Deer in 2015, and will be included in this year’s Auckland Festival of Photography in New Zealand from May 31 to June 16, 2019. You can see more of her recent work on her website and Facebook. (via Īgnant)

From the series Beyond the Boarder by Yoko Ishii, all images courtesy of the photographer

 

 



Illustration

Infinite Cities Take Shape in Imagined Architectural Drawings by JaeCheol Park

December 4, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

JaeCheol Park, who goes by the artist name PaperBlue, creates intricate drawings in the style of architectural drafts. But rather than imagining a buildable building, Park employs the classic illustrative aesthetic to form fantastical urban environments where structures appear and disappear, bleeding into one another in a haze of geometric patterns. His loose linework and intensive layering enliven the historical architectural styles he highlights in his drawings. The artist, who is based in Seongnam, South Korea, has a broad audience for his digital and concept art along with his more traditional drafting-inspired work. Park shares drawing tutorials on Youtube and finished work on Facebook. He has also published a book, which is available on Amazon. (via ARCHatlas)

 

 



Art Photography

Weeds and Flowers Recast as Shadowy Subjects in Daniel Shipp’s Dramatic Photographs

July 31, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

In Daniel Shipp's series Botanical Inquiry, the Sydney-based photographer explores how plants and flowers found at the edges of urban infrastructure fit into our modern world. Shipp collects seemingly unremarkable plants and photographs the subjects in built dioramas, an environment that allows him to manipulate the relationship between foreground and background with a controlled precision. Through this process he is able to create dramatic photographs in-camera, shooting digitally but using old visual effects techniques developed for early cinema.

By highlighting botanical specimens we have culturally labeled “weeds,” Shipp attempts to shift the viewer’s perspective on flora that they might walk past each day. He recasts these marginal plants as the subject of each of his photographic stories, showcasing their knack for survival even in the face of pollution and harmful human intervention.

“There are some beautiful ‘weeds’ that we might walk past all the time,” Shipp explains to Colossal. “I knew that if I could present these often unnoticed plants in the right context that there was potential for storytelling. Next time you go for a walk make an effort to look for plants in places you wouldn’t normally—shopping center carparks, service stations etc.”

Shipp further explained that one of the most beautiful colors he has photographed for the series was found on the underside of the foliage of a plant common to industrial parks across Sydney. The hidden purple was one of the most incredible metallic shades he had ever seen, and it had been sneakily surrounding him for the majority of his life.

Shipp was recently announced as the winner of Magnum and LensCulture's 2017 Fine Art Photo Award. You can see more of his photographs on his website and Instagram, and take a behind-the-scenes look at his Botanical Inquiry series in the short video below. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

 



Art

Miniature Displays of Contemporary Urban Buildings by Joshua Smith

March 17, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

Working at 1:20 scale, artist Joshua Smith builds in-depth works that capture the layered existences of urban environments in cities such as Hong Kong, Sydney, and Los Angeles. His miniature buildings showcase the details and detritus left by the diverse population of each city, bringing in elements of the city’s workers, inhabitants, and street artists. These marks can be seen through heavily graffitied exteriors, and thoughtful additions like a small table on the roof of one building with takeout food from the tiny Chinese restaurant below.

Smith has been working on this series for the last two years, after stints as both a stencil artist and gallerist. Using several reference photos from a building’s actual site, he utilizes MDF, cardboard, and plastic to create the base of the work, and chooses paint and chalk pastels for the exterior’s details. Smith’s newest four-story work took him three months to complete, often working 8-16 hours a day.

The Australian artist recently exhibited his miniature buildings with Muriel Guepin Gallery at VOLTA Art Fair in New York City from March 1-5. You can see more of his work on his Instagram and Facebook. (via My Modern Met)

 

 



Art

Hyperrealistic Paintings of Children and Animals Exploring Urban Remains by Kevin Peterson

June 8, 2016

Kate Sierzputowski

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Hyperrealist painter Kevin Peterson paints fairytale-like interactions of children and wolves, birds, and bears in scenes much different than the pastoral worlds of storybooks. Instead Peterson places the unlikely packs in distressed cities filled with decaying buildings and urban detritus. Despite the worn surroundings, the young girls in the paintings maintain a sense of innocence while they bravely explore the streets with their powerful compatriots.

“My work is about the varied journeys that we take through life,” explains Peterson in his artist statement. “It’s about growing up and living in a world that is broken. These paintings are about trauma, fear and loneliness and the strength that it takes to survive and thrive. They each contain the contrast of the untainted, young and innocent against a backdrop of a worn, ragged, and defiled world.”

The Houston-based artist studied at Austin College in Sherman, Texas where he received his BFA in 2001. Peterson is represented by Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City, California. You can see more of his work on their website and his Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness, Faith is Torment)

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Design

Interactive Flowers Bloom to Provide Shade and Light to Pedestrians in Urban Jerusalem

November 3, 2015

Kate Sierzputowski

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Image via Dor Kedmi

Installed to beautify the space of Vallero Square in Jerusalem, these four interactive flowers bloom and close in a fluid response to the pedestrians that pass underneath their red, over-sized petals. Designed by HQ Architects, the public sculptures are 30-feet tall and dwarf those who choose to walk beneath and around their gargantuan motion-activated blooms.

Depending on the season or time of day, the flowers provide light or shade—a welcomed resource to passengers exiting the nearby tram. When no one is around, the flowers gradually wilt by deflating and effectively ‘closing’ their petals to the city around them.

You can see more public projects by HQ Architects on their Facebook page here. (via contemporist)

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Image via Dor Kedmi

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Image via Dor Kedmi