THE ART OF CONSTRUCTION

...do it yourself under construction

by Dara Lang
A retrospective featuring the come back of Space Invaders and old school 80’s game toys, where we look at the various ways in which it has influenced, fashion, food and design.

Three simple words, Do It Yourself, or otherwise known as Download Print and Build are amongst the many environmental changes that we are introducing into our lifestyles. We’re talking about aesthetic, recyclable and ecological products that are emerging into the market, along with eco-friendly fashion, by which all revolve around the concept of origami and groups of objects that are assembled together. From origami TV remote controls, to building a house out of recycled paper, designers today are creating playful and innovative items that users create themselves.

This concept became evident to me whilst reading over the shoulder of the man sitting next to me on the underground the other day. I picked up on the main article entitled “Just don’t call my model plane rubbish…”
A story of a Chinese man who spent 15 years building his own airplane made entirely from items salvaged from rubbish bins. Rubbish bins? I realized how evident it was that this trend is becoming increasingly popular. Are we simply getting so bored of products handed over to us on a silver platter? Would it not be more exciting to make it yourself – designing and creating your very own product? I began to think about the concept of making your own products and explored “DIY's” that seem to have emerged in the market, allowing the user not only to enjoy the final, finished product, but also to take part in the making of.

Putting aside the IKEA flat pack furniture and other standard products that have been on the market for many years, the first DIY product I came across was by a toy company called Speakerdog, make your own toy! Designed by Ben The Illustrator along with graphic designers and graffiti artists, Ben created this concept of building your own toy online. The toy is free of charge (apart from the print colour, and the recycled paper) all you need to do is select the type of toy, the pattern and the colour. Once this is done and you have designed your own toy, you simply print two sheets of A4 paper and fold it into place and voila! You have a toy whose cost is less than the paper in some toy packaging!

The most recent sighting that I came across is the Build Your Own Home by artist Sumer Erek. Erek, who built a house out of 60,000 newspapers and was part of an art installation presented in East London. The idea was to associate the waste and ecological cost associated with the throw away media. The outcome was surprisingly attractive, Erek created solid paper by layering individual newspaper pages which he was given by members of the public who had written messages on to it. By applying a small amount of glue, Erek used a “special machine” consisting of three rollers that rotated by a turning handle. He then customized the house by adding black wooden frames along with curtains.

My favourite discovery goes to the Unu Footwear Company that I found in Beyond The Valley on Newburgh Street in Soho. Made from single sheet of recycled leather, the shoes come in various colours flat-packed for self assembly. There is no need for any additional materials such as glue, or any difficult sewing, they fold into themselves creating a tube like form. Note that all the packaging is both recycled and recyclable!

EIN/TRITT, designed by Catherine Meuter, is another concept which revolves around the similar idea. The company demonstrates how modern technology in shoe manufacturing has shifted to a more aesthetic view. The shoe is based around the geometric folds of Origami which enables the user to self-assemble the product.

These simple ideas and alternatives to manufacturing and recycling are alternatives methods to complement the trend in today’s society towards green and ethical ways of production, whilst benefiting the end user by giving them access to unique items that are truly theirs.

These examples of products are establishing the beginning of an eco-living that designers are adopting in response to the global environmental changes, that are today some of the key global issues to tackling the world’s fragile state, demonstrating other ways of recycling materials.

This trend is straightforward and extends the consumer’s appreciation of the quality in the product. By not only adding value to the product, it enables the consumer to take part in the manufacturing which not only helps cut down production and shipping costs for the company, but it allows consumers to create, design and adjust their product according to their own style. However, most importantly the trend explores the huge change of technology such as the origami TV remote controls and musical origami instruments. It also explores other alternatives to stand-alone pieces by engaging the consumer in the act of assembling and in some ways helps enhances their sense of ownership into an “I made this myself!”

MOMA’s Museum in New York’s exhibition of “Design and the elastic mind”, however, pushed these boundaries further and emphasized on the concept of origami. The exhibition showed the work of various designers such as Jooyoun Paek and Hayeon Yoo who have manipulated this concept even further through the use of technology. As a result of this, they produced wonderful organic forms, such as an origami TV remote control which provides a playful alternative to the traditional brick like product.

Similar to this, Jooyoun Paek based his idea on the old origami puzzle by producing a musical interface based on folding wired paper into patterns and rhythms that are converted into music. Consequently, each fold is assigned to a different human musical sound. Although these projects are still under development, these designs demonstrate how the use of origami and technology have taken on a more sophisticated and modern form, which again reinforces the concept of building your own environment in an attempt to extends consumer’s appreciation in the product.

Looking back at all these existing products, this idea of assembling and construction reminds me of children’s activities; could we simply be regressing to our young days of origami and Lego? We have seen a come back of toys, gadgets and old school board games such as the 80’s game Space Invaders and Pong which have returned with a more modern and sophisticated touch up. In addition to this, we also see the rise in fictional superhero characters that appear from the catwalk to street art with artist such as Andrew McAttee, who recently exhibited his work in the Foster Gallery in London. Andrew McAtee draws on the idea of blending and mixing graffiti art, comic books, graphics and pop art in to his work. Origami and user created products seem to have evolved from this, and seem to have responded to this popular trend. Although the products do not hold the same characteristics such as the superhero characters and pop art elements, the childlike themes seem to be the common factor here. As adults connect with their inner childhood, this trend which has branched out into various sectors within fashion, street art and design is promising and with The Costume Institute at New York launching an exhibition on the Superheroes and Jooyoun Paek and Hayeon Yoo prototype TV remote controls and Origami instruments, it seems that this trend is evolving and the adults are coming out to play!