Extreme circumstances have often been the impetus for innovative design intervention. After the fall of the USSR, Cuba lost nearly 80% of its imports due to the trade embargo, leading to a sudden trend in hacked consumer electronics and home appliances. During the Great Depression, patterns were printed on bags of flour and feed, allowing people to repurpose the fabric for dresses or dolls. In 2017, Venezuelans protesting governmental corruption combatted tear gas attacks with respirators made of plastic water bottles. These examples all paint a picture of our ability to imagine new solutions to old problems, even when we don’t have the right tool for the job.
This studio will give students the opportunity to create devices, interventions, and machines that help mitigate the fallout from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. Students will conduct primary research through interviews as well as secondary research to better understand the immediate needs and limitations of life in Puerto Rico post-Maria. Following this initial research phase we will begin an improvisational design journey.
In order to simulate the strain on resources many communities experience following a disaster event, we will be imposing a system of artificial scarcity. Materials will be limited to objects found in a visit to a junkyard, upcycled electronics, scraps, and periodic “air drops” of vital supplies. Access to tools and machinery will be commodified and translated into a credit system, making them more valuable than ever. These constraints will test students' resourcefulness, imagination, and willingness to break the rules.