Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Framed on the presentations 4.10 Designed Objects and 4.17 Life Cycle and Environmental Justice

As proposed by Elaine Scarry in her essay: The Body in Pain, the artifacts that we create are embodied compassion of the human experience, bodily and mentally, socially, emotionally, psychologically needs. As a designer, I believe that there personal references to what I create, that I hold responsibility to the life and impact of the artifacts, that the step is to see these objects as non-specific to me, but universal in the manifestations of a human desire. But there is also the fact that these connective compassion is definitely stronger when I am working on creating the object as a one-to-one scale. As an architect, I am removed from the actual construction of the object, my hand is not on the hammer and yet, I am directing the overall location of the nails. That simultaneously, there are two scales at work, intimate versus general. And I think this shift in scales relates to the actual making of artifacts, that the major material used in the final piece is not the only one at play. There are other materials involved in the production of certain objects.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Being able to re-use materials, give them a new meaning, a new life is important. If there is a way to re-use or re-appropriate a material it will be better off used than using more energy to melt it, mold it, shred it, and/ or transform the material into a new material or product.

This image of an architectural project from architectural duo, D'Acosta and Turrent, re-claims materials found in the local area within Mexico. This project is a winery/ olive oil school. Since resources are limited in Mexico it is essential to re-use/ re-claim materials that are available. These architects have re-appropriated wooden crates, boxed spring mattresses, wine barrels, etc. to create this institution.

While building an adobe house in the slums of Mexico, as concrete, brick and rebar houses were going up nearby I was surprised to hear that the local materials (adobe) were not valued and un-appreciated. It is concrete that is valued. The people living in the slums want concrete homes, so they think, until they experience the properties of this material. Some will build a concrete house and after encountering the lack of circulation, heat given off they will go back to their grass/ found material huts. This so called lucrative material of concrete is not the way to go in this particular area. There is a reason it is not available.

In areas where resources are limited, using materials and goods that are available is essential. These available goods may not be desired but, are resources. In developing countries like Mexico, innovation and creativity come into play to take advantage of specific resources. As a designer, we should be looking at these approaches to harnessing valuable resources. There is much to be learned by studying the re-use/ re-appropriation of materials.

By understand the basic method of harnessing resources present, we as designers can narrow down and focus on alternative materials and solutions. We are able to be creative when the knowledge of materials is available.

I find Chris Lefteri’s approach to bringing/ sharing knowledge and awareness on materials to designers a valuable asset in the process of design. We as designers need to place importance and parameters on the materials we are using. Seeing and understanding the available materials, at our grasps, is essential in our decision making process.

A new spatial divider, this box springged mattress, is a captivating image especially understanding that it has been re-appropriated. This is one of those beautiful instances where the material/ product qualities are unique and when applied out of its intended context the beauty in its unfamiliar use creates a new transformed spatial quality. Maybe the beauty is in the re-appropriation? We should be looking at available resources when designing, as unique and beautiful materials/ products are at our fingertips.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ethical Jewelry

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent Toxic Release Inventory from 2006, says that metal mining is the worst polluting industry in the United States of all waste disposals. I argue then how can we make “green jewelry” not just an idea but also a practice. Luckily enough, once extracted precious gems and metals are never discarded and do not fall under disposable consumerism or planned obsolescence. As dirty the jewelry industry may be, its value endures within our social standards.


As a maker, I have found myself questioning and trying to understand the controversy behind my practice not only as an independent artist but also within the RISD facilities.

To really understand how green my practice is I have to first recognize how transparent the company I get my sources from is. Do they mine their copper or has it been recycled? This will allow me to take an environmentally conscious choice of material sourcing. I also question the ethical labor production of my materials. Was it a Fair Trade? Who has mined them, for how much? What environmental circumstance have the workers been exposed to? What is the manufacture’s energy consumption and environmental impact to their practice?  What about packaging, transportation, waste disposal?


The ethical use of labor has started since the Industrial Revolution but only recently has their been concerns for ethical jewelry production. Ethical material sources have introduced a distinction between two types of extractions: primary and secondary refining. The primary extraction is the mechanical and chemical extraction of metals directly from natural resources. Now because of the Hardrock Mining Reform in 2007, the extraction of metals must abide to environmental regulations.


Secondary refining, sources metal from previously refined products. Pawnshops and jewelers might send jewelry to be subsequently processed. This process does not apply for metal consumption only but also for other materials that might be used in the jewelry industry such as electronics, plastics, and fibers.  This lowers the demand, extraction and processing of new materials.


However the problem lies on where one can buy this ethical produced metal? Unfortunately, there are not many eco-conscious manufactures where jewelers can buy refined metal or industries that will buy your waste if you are not working with an industry. The whole idea of jewelers using refined metal becomes unapproachable because of the indifference and disconnect these companies have. 


As another jeweler, Gabriel Craig mentions, “We must all begin the arduous task of rethinking jewelry, at least in terms of sustainability beyond our own lifetime”. This makes me realize we need to be intelligent in the way we use materials and not just create waste for waste but waste for food. One must question and understand every step a product undergoes. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

a belated blog post


Air is the greatest insulator.  The Eskimos have known this for centuries. They’ve built with ice and continue to do so. It would be silly if they began building concrete igloos. Perhaps it’d be silly – or not. Perhaps they do start constructing masonry homes to communicate a certain economic or political ideal that exists within their society to those outside of it. And for those community members who decide not to make a material transformation risk how others perceive them. Would the idea of home and place alter based on this material transformation?  If ice cubes were to replace CMU’s, would it be legit to address the new construct as an igloo or would it take on a new form of identity? If ice cubes could replicate the appearance of CMU’s, would it even matter?

So, where does the Problem of Material Ethics end? Or rather, where does it begin? For me it doesn’t only begin with just ingredients, or a product.  Although a bit ambiguous, the scope of my response goes beyond my personal work into a broader sense of me as architect in the professional practice of architecture and design. My perspective on the Problem from one angle is the science behind an object and the other, its social implications that adhere to a specific economic model to reach a particular art form. All of these points working together, I believe, will point us blurrily to some questionable answer in an environmental realm.

So why concrete blocks and igloo construction? The question frames how the meaning of materials and its methods of construction can inform our understanding of culture and society.  How aesthetic is measured is somewhere between the science, manufacturing and building of blocks. It is a sketch on branding and the power it holds to influence perception and physically push a society to alter its particular culture.  

This occurrence of alterations in typological forms as experienced in our built environment is what I find so fascinating about architecture. A material transformation per say, is a visual form of communication. It is a response to meet some particular ideal in this scenario. The alterations made are visual ques to express a coming together of people. In reflection to the readings, I side with Justice as Virtue. I believe we have to revert to the original intentions of virtue as stated by Plato and amend its modernization of morality by finding justice of goods and property in relation to the environment.  Nowhere in any of the social justice texts, excluding the grassroots movement on Principles of Environmental Justice, does it question our human role in relation to the natural world.

I would be distraught if learned Eskimos were building with concrete if their climatic conditions were unaltered. Concrete would be an immense display of ignorance on their part, not to mention a waste of material with little regard to their immediate environment and its available resources. In addition to the way architecture has fashioned itself within a particular culture over a period time, is the importance of how we individually and collectively communicate our own identities and association with others in relation to a larger force, the environment.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eco-batsu mark

This is the mark that I introduced last Friday, meaning eco bad products.
Kokuyo, a stationary company in Japan, are taking this action for the awareness of environmental issues. I think this is similar to carbon footprint which is labeling their total emission of carbon dioxide on the finished products.

This Eco-Batsu (bad) mark was appeared on the Kokuyo catalog 2008 January issue. They labeled these marks on their products which lacked enough awareness of environmental issues. Their aims are to reduce these eco-bad labeled artifacts within three years and produce 100% eco-friendly producers instead.
I think it is a great action that showing their negative aspects in public and try to improve their products to become eco-friendly company.

The judgements whether their products are eco-bad or not is relying on their side. They divided the life cycle of their products in four categories, making time, carrying time, using time, and throwing away time. They label eco-batsu mark when the products do not passed each categories.
Some people said they do not want to see the bad mark on their products. Some people also skeptical about their standard rule of eco-batsu products. Kokuyo company will work hard on these consumer's voice and try to improve as much as they can.

Here is their web site.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rethinking My Process: A New Composite Material

During my graduate time at RISD, I have found myself making my own material without realizing I was creating a composite material by fusing metal into fabric. I have been fascinated by this idea quite a bit, as I understood the method of electroforming.

Electroplating is the process of creating a metal coating over an object by controlling the electro-deposit of metal passing through an electric solution. A metal layer is built up on a metal surface, or on any surface that has been given an electro-conductive coating by the application of a paint that contains metal particles.

RISD’s Jewelery and Metals department has a small room with several liquid copper baths for students to experiment and make jewelry with. However, what can place inside a bath is strictly monitored. Only synthetic materials can be plated such as some plastics, glass, and wax. The use of organic substrates, will contaminated and unbalances the chemistry of the bath resulting of abnormal surface plating.  

Through rigorous experimentation and learning I started by wrapping nylon around wire forms and let the copper grow through he fabric. As I discovered I could use this method to fuse the fabric with the metal in a natural way as opposed to gluing the two together.  This process allowed me to further investigate how I could further fuse metal with fabric without having to use wire. Instead I added conductive paint to the fabric, which I subsequently plated.

A new material was formed enhancing the properties of the fabric that otherwise on its own could not have. I was able to give structure to the fabric by bending and shaping it around the metal construction. Because I was using fabric, this allowed to make large but light jewelry still being three-dimensional. This new composite material made me question how the integration of metal and fabric could change or impact the way we see jewelry and apparel. Further Interest grew on how I could use this to create jewelry. Or was it jewelry that I was trying to do?

            Inspired by the technical aspect of this process and knowing more about composite materials, I have questioned the life cycle of this medium.  Can I reuse the raw materials that I had once used? How bad is my process for the environment? How is RISD being responsible about this technology?  It made me happy to find out that I could refine the copper even though many industries do not process alloyed metals. As for the fabric goes, It is a poly organza material tha

Friday, April 3, 2009

Footprint of Materials