Discover more from Design Lobster
#109 Make do and mend
Repairing shoes, cathedrals and more 🛠
Design Lobster #109 is patching things up and making them shine again. Come and admire designer repairs and a remarkably beautiful 14th century fix 🪡
This week I wanted to share some personal news. Last Wednesday I donated bone marrow after coming up as a match for a critically ill patient on the Anthony Nolan stem cell register. I signed up to the register because my nephew’s life was saved by a similar procedure in 2019.
I’m lucky enough to have this platform where I can reach lots of people so I wanted to encourage you to sign up to a stem cell register if you can – you never know whose life you might be able to save!
Question: Can a repair be better than the original?
I recently learned about The Restory, a repair business here in London that specialises in breathing new life into designer objects that are showing wear and tear. What I find especially interesting is the creative licence they take with some repairs. The nature of the damage might lead them for example to dye a pair of shoes an entirely new shade or even turn a Chanel bag tie-dye. Repair and maintenance can sound like routine and uncreative activities, but these repairs show it’s possible to be bold and original as you find ways to re-invent things.
Of course The Restory is only able to devote so much time and effort into the restoration of these objects because they are expensive enough to make it economical. We live in a world where mass-production and globalisation has made many things miraculously cheap, but the downside is a severe economic disincentive against repairing anything as opposed to simply buying a new version. Perhaps one positive of sky-rocketing energy prices and shrinking supply-chains might be some opportunities to re-evaluate this system.
Design takeaway: How much would it cost to repair your design?
Object: Scissor arches at Wells Cathedral
Most visitors to Wells cathedral in Somerset, England assume that the unusual “scissor” arches at the crossing of the nave and transept were built in the 20th century. In fact, they were built between roughly 1348 and 1340 to designs by master stonemason William Joy. After an earthwork had destroyed the cathedral lantern in 1248, work began on a new tower in the early part of the 14th century. However the weight of this began to to seriously deform the structure, which was at risk of collapsing all over again.
The scissor arches were Joy’s solution to prevent this from happening. Two pointed arches – one inverted – create a figure-of-eight form that transmits the load of the tower to the ground. Crucially, the crossing remains open so that the choir on the other side can still be heard by the congregation. It’s a remarkably elegant solution to a serious problem and it goes to show how fixes can actually enhance designs.
Design takeaway: How could fixing your design make it even more beautiful?
Quote: “We rarely think about it this way, but most of design is redesign: applying what we know now to design choices made before us.”
– Scott Berkun
This quote from reader Scott Berkun comes from his book How Design Makes the World. It reminds us how we are embedded in a chain of design choices that stretch a long way back. Great designers are very intentional about which design choices they are happy to inherit, and which need to be revisited due to changed circumstances.
What will you redesign this week?
Enjoyed this week’s Design Lobster? Let me know by clicking the heart button ❤️