“The design of matter should matter to designers.” Peter Yeadon
Design has the capacity to dramatically improve the lives of people, but it needs to continue to evolve if it is to remain relevant and meet the challenges of our young century. We know the problems. We experience them locally, globally. So what will propel us toward the new solutions that we currently lack?
At Yeadon Space Agency, we believe that in our age, the 21st Century, innovation will be driven by the emergence of advanced materials with novel properties. Hence we work on projects that exploit emergent materials, such as bioengineered materials, nanomaterials, and smart materials that change shape, change color, or emit light, with the aim of making original, inventive contributions to architecture and design.
As our projects demonstrate, our materials expertise has enabled us to extend the conventional confines of architectural practice, to work at various scales and across a range of disciplines that rapidly embrace new materials: apparel design, product design, interaction design, etc. The work is diverse, but all of our projects use innovative materials and processes to address a particular issue.
The Disaster Go Bag, for citizens fleeing imminent threats, uses photoluminescent fibers and thin film photovoltaics to provide zero-power lighting and to recharge devices, and we are working on a water filtration cap that uses a nanomembrane to turn an ordinary water bottle into a source of clean water. GeriHips®, the first product to emerge from our partnership with Prevent Products and Viemeister Industries, features a proprietary smart foam that transitions from soft to rigid in order to rapidly absorb impact shock and protect elderly hips. All of these projects are at the human scale of products and apparel.
At the scale of rooms and interactive environments, innovative materials and processes have also been our enablers. Marks appeared and disappeared in the pigment of two large walls at Barneys New York, creating a drawing that constantly changed, due to thermochromic leuco dyes and resistive wires integrated into the surface. In addition to its stunning visual effect, BLOOM is a knitted origami surface that changes shape to modulate sound qualities in rooms. It is made of technical knits, with each stitch custom designed and produced on a digital knitting machine.
At the scale of architecture and landscape architecture, we have proposed using innovative materials and processes to produce phenomenal effects that are sublime, and difficult to achieve through other means. The drumlin groves of Wind Forest will oscillate to power a few hundred homes in Glasgow, and our RISE memorial to the victims of the 2010 Canterbury earthquakes proposes using maglev technology to levitate a large, ruptured monolith above the Ōtākaro River. A bright fissure of glowing quantum dots widens within the monolith to become more vivid as night falls, and is powered by CIGS photovoltaics that coat the black surface.
Similarly, The Flattest Place on Earth would use CIGS and quantum dots to illuminate a thirty-mile long segment that would cut straight through the curvature of the Earth at Black Rock Desert. To reduce the quantum dots power demand in this remote location, zero-power photoluminescent coatings would absorb sunlight during the day and emit visible light at night. We have experience with such materials, as can be witnessed in the Luminescent Bioplastics project, wherein we developed biodegradable polymers that are made of peptides and proteins, and emit light. Interestingly, this work is created at the nanoscale, which is the smallest scale that we operate at, but has macroscale implications for projects.
So, our work really belongs to a substantial tradition of materials-based innovation in architecture and design, which began well before those who first experimented with the new cast iron, or the new reinforced concrete, or the new structural glass over the past three centuries. Like those before us, we believe that innovation is driven by new materials.
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