Designs of the Year 2013 & The Sea Chair Project: Sublime Design, Simultaneously Technical and Ethical.

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Yesterday morning I attended the early breakfast press view (the first ‘breakfast’ view I’ve ever attended where there was no breakfast! hmph) of The Design Museum’s Designs Of The Year. Luckily, the show was so fantastic that I didn’t even notice my grumbling tum: 99 designs chosen by a panel of artists, architects, curators, designers, journalists and other experts, tidily packed into the first floor of The Design Museum.

This year the majority of pieces were either heavily technically or ethically focused, with a  strong emphasis on 3D printing and aid in third world countries. The winners will be announced in due course, the jury hoping to pick category winners by the end of this week, but top of my list are The Sea Chair, Little Sun and Kit Yamoyothree stunning examples of intelligent, and potentially life changing, design.

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My review of the entire show is on One Stop Arts, but I’d like to to also tell you all about The Sea Chair, which the very lovely Kieren Jones also took a minute to tell me about.

I had no idea about the effect that the dumping of plastic had on our world environment before 10am on Tuesday morning, but it turns out, it’s pretty huge. Simply put, there are gyres in our sea which act as whirlpools which collect debris; this has now resulted in three enormous plastic islands sitting just below the surface – all ‘out of sight and out of mind’ until now. These islands, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Indian Ocean Garbage Patch and North Atlantic Garbage Patch are breaking up and the light plastics they contain are beginning to wash up on British beaches.

The project begun when Kieren and a few friends heard a radio piece about an enormous bundle of debris which had arrived on a beach in the Southwest, and decided on a whim (in hindsight a pretty profitable whim) to drive down and have a look for themselves.

Arriving on the white sands of a postcard-perfect beach, the group thought it had been a wasted trip, but after a closer look begun to notice fine grains which floated where others did not: ground down plastic, the waves a ‘plastic soup.’

Chatting to the local fishermen who, like many tradesmen are suffering due to supermarket exploitation, the group came up with an idea: why not trawl for plastic instead?

The collaboration between Kieren Jones, Studio Swine and the seamen of Hastings has now resulted in a line of unique three-legged stools, all made entirely from discarded plastic, melted and formed at sea, upon the boat. The stools are crude and heavy and the process messy and smelly, but they have an identifiable charm as clunky symbols of a small plight to help save our seas, our jobs and our livelihood as a whole.

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The finishing touch to these stools acts as a nod to the fishermen who brought this project to life, and for me completes the story: tied by a ragged rope to each stool is a small tag noting the coordinates of where its plastic body was harvested, melted down and reinvented.

The Sea Chair Project is in its infancy, but I hope that it continues to be nurtured and to grow into something which really makes a substantial difference to our great British seaside.

Here’s an amazing film featuring stunning shots detailing The Sea Chair process – a must-see, and I hope you also enjoyed the full review of Designs of the Year.

Open Source Sea Chair by Studio Swine from Dezeen on Vimeo.

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