Reflecting both our addiction to this ubiquitous product and the wicked problem it has become, this is the new Masters Studio Unit run by Industrial Design Research Lab (IDRL) at the School of Design of the University of Western Australia. No surprise that the course, coordinated by Lara Camilla Pinho, was quickly filled to capacity.
The unit builds on the work of the IDRL in designing architectural products from recycled plastic, and in this case, they have added layers of cost efficiency, sustainability and cultural sensitivity to the course, by adopting our Sumbawa project as a real-world case study.
With our partners in WeSAVE actively negotiating for land for their waste plastic management facility, the next big task is to get a structure up to house equipment and create a workspace. Once they are efficiently sorting and chipping, we can move on to the development of an innovation hub to value add the collected plastic.
Enter UWA, who after a chance meeting with MK, have responded at extraordinarily short notice to develop this Masters unit. In the Studio, students are tasked with both developing a useful architectural product from used plastic, and also designing our core community-based facility.
Rather than showing them what we thought the facility might look like, we gave the students a rapid-fire slide show of images of Sumbawa to give some context, and supplied some raw engineering data. They got aerial images, and copies of Process Flow drawings and floor area calculations that our volunteer engineer Neville Horner put together for WeSAVE on a visit to Sumbawa last year. The challenge for MK and WeSAVE was to minimise our influence on the design element, but maximise the students cultural, geographic, and economic understanding of the setting that their work will fit into.
While their brief only extends to the design of the core processing facility, the students are aware of the aspirations that WeSAVE have for the site, and its interface with the community. We have discussed the addition of canteen, creche and mosque areas for workers and possibly the local population as well. These elements are included in the students site treatment, but not developed.
After negotiating the usual visa and travel planning hurdles, and with only a day to spare, we got two members of WeSAVE down to Perth to participate in the Design Jury, where students present their developing ideas and models. Arriving at midnight, for their first visit to Australia, and then getting whisked off to participate in a university program the next day might seem a bit unfair, but Adi Puronomo and Minda Yustikasari took it all in their stride. They were in Perth for two weeks, which allowed a return visit the following week for an informal chat with some of the students.
The design students will now finalise their work for submission by mid-year. We are optimistic that we will be able to draw on multiple designs and product ideas for the next stage, and that some of the students may choose to continue to be involved with the project.
Millennium Kids is very much enjoying the exciting and positive new partnership with the UWA School of Design, and plan to be knocking on their door with a few more nascent projects very soon.
By Wayne O’Sullivan, MK Resource NOT Rubbish Coordinator