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#119 A creature of design
Design with animal spirits 🐾
Welcome! This week’s Design Lobster is exploring design with beastly qualities! From the remarkable kinetic sculptures of Theo Jansen to a clever chair for pooches. It’s sure to get your tail wagging 🐕
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Question: What if more design moved?
In the 90s, Dutch sculptor Theo Jensen became curious about coastal erosion in the Netherlands and speculated about wind-powered machines that could gather up sand and protect dunes. This inspired him to start making constructions on the beach near where he lived with lengths of cheap yellow plastic tube – normally used for hiding wiring in construction projects.
Each Strandbeest – as Theo called them (Dutch for Beach Animal) – has a central spine connected to a series of tubed feet. The design is able to convert the circular motion of the spine into a surprisingly life-like strides due to the connecting joints being cut to very specific lengths. On a windy day and a flat surface they can reach speeds of up to six miles per hour.
In the end, Theo’s interest in the construction of the animals themselves overtook the original interest in coastal erosion and as of yet no Strandbeest can move sand. But his own creations have spawned a huge international community of students and hobbyists who build their own “walkers” to ever more exotic designs.
Design takeaway: How might your design move?
Object: Bailey Chair
This rather adorable chair is designed to help dogs with a digestive condition called esophageal dilatation (or megaesophagus). Dogs with this condition suffer from a loose or weak esophagus and tend to regurgitate food before it reaches their stomach. Sadly, this regurgitation can often lead to malnutrition and some forms of pneumonia.
Owners can help treat the condition by encouraging their dogs to eat in an upright position and remain upright for fifteen minutes after – this allows gravity to help convey food to the stomach. Joe and Donna Koch – whose pooch Bailey had megaesophagus – were inspired to create a special seat for him to make the treatment easier. With a supportive back and a hinged tray to place food, the design took off when they shared it online and has been known as a Bailey chair ever since.
I love examples like this of DIY design and it’s heartwarming to see the community of Bailey chair makers that has sprung up on the internet.
Design takeaway: What piece of design could make your pet’s life better?
Quote: “You can't make a sculpture, in my opinion, without involving your body. You move and you feel and you breathe and you touch.”
– Barbara Hepworth, sculptor
This week’s design has either been made for animals or has a beastly body of its own. So I thought this quote about the body from 20th century British sculptor Barbara Hepworth would be a nice accompaniment. As in sculpture, so in design – we should all be breathing in and moving around our designs to properly get to know them.
Have a great week,
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