Category Archives: nature

Of plants and plastic

Cité de la mode et du design, Paris

A couple of weeks ago, tired from a full week of completing projects both at work and at home, I decided to do a little indoor gardening. The tropical plants, lucky bamboos of birthdays past and and whatever is  left of an orchid plant after the bloom is gone were the subjects of the Friday night impromptu botany experiment.

Fifteen years ago, my grandmother gave me a plant that has not been repotted since. Imagine a 4 foot tall plant in a 6-inch plastic planter. It was an odd thing to behold.

“Why don’t I cut stalks from this plant and put them in water? I know roots will shoot. Let’s just see,” I thought to myself. the success story involves the first plant, roots and all, being potted the day before yesterday.

I never fancied myself a greenthumb but here I was, little plant in my hands, dirty with soil. I started thinking: “What’s an interesting plant to grow?”

I started thinking about my lithops when I was living in Montréal. Lithops are also known as living pebbles because they are the perfect example of biomimicry. Their camouflaged appearance has helped these succulent plants (ex. cacti) escape predation and getting eaten by the thirstiest of animals for the water stored in their leaves. They are ‘designed’ by nature to withstand the dry summers in Southern Africa, their native habitat.

I know I am geeking out, dear readers, but they are such strange plants and lithops just made me read more about them and other succulent plants. The best design inspirations definitely come from nature. Have you read Darwin’s “Origin of Species”? Go ahead. You’ll see how Alexander McQueen‘s Spring 2010 collection makes sense.


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Filed under Architecture, City Life, fashion, History, ideas, Industrial Design, nature, travel

Unromantically singing in the rain

Simon Warne with his Brollii

Smart design takes into account has an object’s ultimate purpose in mind. The rain that has taken residence over Toronto today has me thinking of how many umbrellas I have bought and how many have faced either of the two fates umbrellas usually have: breakage or loss. There are too many to recall.

The umbrella is such a great design concept in itself. I can imagine our cave-dwelling ancestors using a giant leaf for the same purpose, raising suspicions of witchcraft from the elders. Anyways…

Simon Warne, a Brunel University industrial design student in West London had an idea for an umbrella design that is ‘unbreakable’ and safe to open when other people are around.

The Brollii is an upside down umbrella that opens from the top. Imagine an umbrella that will not hit your neighbour’s face or worse, their eyes. Apart from the obvious advantage of not inflicting injury on others, the Brollii might also find a niche market in over-cautious people who fear legal suits in overly litigious communities.

So here I am, taking refuge in a café because riding a bike home in the rain is less attractive than writing about design and having a green tea. Maybe one day, someone will design an umbrella holder for bicycles, preferrably an unbreakable one. Capes do have a limit.


Filed under ideas, Industrial Design, nature

Don’t dance on a volcano

The event of the last week in Iceland has affected millions of travellers’ flights into and out of Europe.

Volcanoes have helped give birth to islands and ideas. The materials that one spews enable rebirth and regrowth.  All of the Earth’s rich nutrients conducive to growth like minerals and nitrogen.

The Easter island statues called the moai are actually made of volcanic ash. The Easter Island ‘heads’ are actually attached to miniscule bodies that were buried in the ground, with the largest statue weighing 86 tonnes. Imagine the the people who carried all of those statues across the island to arrange them very carefully in rows!

Volcanoes have inspired many different ideas and images. The act of bursting out in anger warrants one to be called a volcano. Good ideas that come out of one’s mind can also be thought of as volcanic.

Having seen the destruction of Mt. Pinatubo in the early 1990s, it seems that volcanoes are the Earth’s most explicit demonstration of anger. No other time in history has there been such a massive disruption in transportation. However, let’s think of the carbon emissions that were reduced because of the significant decrease of airplanes flying. In the meanwhile, I will enjoy an excellent idea that was inspired by volcanoes: the chocolate lava cake.

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Filed under art, food, ideas, nature