The world’s health systems are feeling immense pressure to catch up with Covid-19’s reach and speed. With over 400,000 worldwide cases (and still growing), the contagion is spreading so rapidly that health professionals are worried because facilities are already overflowing. We have already seen many countries like Italy, Spain, and China treating people in corridors, makeshift tents, and on streets by simply laying a sheet because beds are not available. The global community, from designers and startups to big fashion and alcohol brands, has been helping out by using all their resources to support the health system. Italian start-up Isinnova has 3D printed valves for ventilators, New York start-up Air Co. is making carbon-negative hand sanitizers to donate, Kering (Gucci’s parent company) and beer maker BrewDog have offered money and production lines to make items needed for the pandemic. The most important need of the hour, apart from the hope of a vaccine, are hospital beds and especially ICUs. The supply is nowhere close to the demand – the USA has 2.8 beds per 1000 people, while a country like India with a population of 1.3 billion only has 0.5 beds per 1000 people. Because there is no international standard for how many beds a country must have in hospitals, there is a huge disparity and despite Italy having 3.2 beds per 1000 people, which is more than India and the USA, it is still grappling with the reality of only treating those with a higher survival rate due to the lack of resources. These heroes are doing everything they can but due to the absence of adequate infrastructure, their efforts to contain the spread can quickly become futile if the space used is unhygienic, so Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota have come up with a solution – Intensive Critical Unit (ICU) pods made from shipping containers!
These ICU pods are called CURA (Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments) which means “cure” in Latin (doesn’t that make you feel a little better?) and these will help take some load off the hospitals, especially in Italy. Ratti’s Studio, Carlo Ratti Associati, and MIT’s Senseable City Lab are creating mobile field hospitals with these CURA Intensive Care pods that serve as a biocontainment unit for two patients at a time. “The aim is that they can be quickly deployed in cities around the world, promptly responding to the shortage of ICU space in hospitals and the spread of the disease,” explained the CURA team as they build the first prototype unit at a hospital in Milan. These units can be set up as fast as tents with the benefit of having hospital-level hygiene which will help contain the infection and especially help those suffering from acute respiratory problems as they need intense care. This will also ensure that the health professionals remain safe while treating the infected who will have a better chance at recovery in the biocontainment units. “Whatever the evolution of this pandemic, it is expected that more ICUs will be needed internationally in the next few months,” says a spokesperson from the CURA team.
The pods can be assembled and disassembled very quickly, and because it is a shipping container, it can be moved from epicenter to epicenter by road, rail, and ship, around the world to address the need for more ICUs. The units are designed in repurposed 6.1-meter-long (approximately 8 feet x 8.5 feet) shipping containers with a ventilation system that generates negative pressure inside – this prevents the contaminated air from escaping thus reducing the risk of infecting health professionals who are more vulnerable because of a shortage of protective gear. This is a common technique used in hospitals and laboratories and the designers have created CURA to comply with Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms (AIIRs) standards. Each of the ICU pods will have all the medical equipment needed to support two coronavirus Covid-19 intensive-care patients at a time. The beautiful part about CURA is that it is modular – each pod could work as a stand-alone unit or multiple pods can be connected with an inflatable structure to create a bigger intensive care center. These were designed keeping in mind that they would be an expansion to existing hospitals by being set-up in their parking area but have the flexibility to be turned into a larger field hospital if needed. “CURA aims to improve the efficiency of existing solutions in the design of field hospitals, tailoring them to the current pandemic,” explained the team who are working hard to do their bit as non-health professionals in supporting those at the frontline of this outbreak.
While we can’t match the contribution of health professionals, the world needs every single person to play their part right now – designers, engineers, creative professionals, manufacturers, start-ups, brands are all called upon to offer any and every service they can to help ease the ache mankind is feeling. And if you don’t have anything to offer, you still have an equally powerful role to play in breaking the exponential transmission chain by simply staying indoors. Let’s flatten the curve, Avengers assemble…in your homes!
Designers: Carlo Ratti Associati with Italo Rota (Design and Innovation), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Design and Innovation), Humanitas Research Hospital (Medical Engineering), Policlinico di Milano (Medical Consultancy), Jacobs (Alberto Riva – Master Planning, design, construction and logistics support services), Studio FM Milano (Visual identity & graphic design), Squint/Opera (Digital media), Alex Neame of Team Rubicon UK (Logistics), Ivan Pavanello of Projema (MEP Engineering), Dr. Maurizio Lanfranco of Ospedale Cottolengo (Medical Consultancy).
Bjarke Ingels is a movie star of the architecture world, but he is also an artist and a trailblazing source of inspiration that goes beyond the structures he builds. A decade ago he started spreading the word on his philosophy of sustainable hedonism which bridges the gap between environmentalism and luxury – they can coexist and Ingels showcases that in his work. What sets him apart is that everything he creates has drawn inspirations from ideas, things, art and even games that are totally unrelated to what he is building but still shines through subtly. The latest example to prove this point is the Voxel sofa for a Danish brand, Common Seating, which is a harmony of elements from Minecraft (which Ingels loves!), Q*bert video games as well as the work of Modernist architect Mies van der Rohe.
The Voxel sofa is, in the simplest words, made to adapt to the environment and the user’s needs. Bjarke Ingel’s firm, BIG, looked into how they design their architectural projects like their Lego House, 79 & Park apartment block and the 2016 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion when creating the modular sofa system. The team made a grid of pixel-like blocks to form the seats and called it Voxel. The name and aesthetic of the sofa come from the word’s actual meaning which is a graphic and interface design term for ‘3D pixel’. Voxel will look and mean something unique to every individual user and space.
Voxel can be moved, repaired, flipped, added on to or reduced with ease based on its surroundings. It represents the future of modern furniture – pieces designed to serve the user with multiple functionalities with a form that fits in every room. The sofa system is built with four major parts – armrests, backrests, seats, and legs, and all of these can be interchanged and assembled in multiple ways. The pieces connect with simple metal cylinders that slide into holes and give it its modular essence. “The grid-like system creates a family of units that can be configured into multiple seating scenarios, from single-unit couch to large configurations,” says Jakob Lange, partner at BIG. With the rapid evolution of our culture and lifestyle, Voxel has the ability to mold itself organically to any ecosystem.
The sofa’s design reduces waste by encouraging owners to exchange or repair separate parts if needed, instead of throwing the entire piece out. Voxel is made on-demand and shipped directly from the workshop to ensure it only produces what is necessary and manages waste responsibly. Voxel promotes Bjarke Ingel’s idea of flexibility and sustainable living in its own didactic message of being able to modify and adapt to where we are in the moment with our core values intact. Lang goes on to say, “If it were a person, [it] would be able to move, flex and adapt to different configurations, making it agile in any environment – at home or at work – and responsive to any individual. The person can really grow and live with this sofa long-term.”
Ingels has always viewed architecture as the art and science of making things that fit the way we want to live our lives, it is a constant evolution of ideas. I’ll leave you with this thought inspired by Bjarke Ingels – sustainability is not a moral sacrifice but a design challenge and we have the tools to design ecosystems that optimize the flow of people, resources, economies even…so why not give back with the power to create?
Designer: BIG Group
Given that we haven’t seen an iMac Pro redesign since 2015, and that Apple’s just recently issued a couple of patents for a new iMac, it’s safe to say that we may be looking at a redesigned iMac Pro in the near future. The patent image (which can be found at the end of the article) showcases an interesting monolithic take on the all-in-one Macintosh, featuring a slick unibody glass that transitions from screen to keyboard in one grand, singular motion. The screen literally folds downwards as soon as it hits the desk to provide a precipice for a keyboard as well as two track-pads that reside within the glass. All in all, the entire thing looks rather Dali-esque.
This impressively thin form factor allows Apple to isolate the actual computer into a block at the back that helps prop the glass facade up. Complete with a smorgasbord of ports (and that cheesegrater CNC-machined grille that Jony designed exactly a year ago), the grille sits at a slight tilt too, allowing heat to travel outwards and upwards. The new take on the iMac Pro allows Apple to keep its all-in-one desktop computer looking incredibly slim without sacrificing on power and performance. Designed to be a beast of a machine, the iMac Pro features a 24-inch Retina display complete with a glowing Apple logo below it, a FaceID camera module (taken from the iPad Pro) above it, and a unique ambidextrous layout at the very bottom that allows both left and right-handed users to have their own trackpad. A number-pad seems to be missing (even in the patent drawing), but I’d probably guess a simple program would allow users to turn the spare trackpad into a touch-sensitive number pad.
It’s worth remembering that companies usually issue patents to protect intellectual property and to copyright their innovation, and these patents and their subsequent drawings aren’t particularly an indication of any to-be-launched product. However, these publicly available patents do offer an insightful window into the company’s design and innovation process, and the fact that Apple’s been issuing patents for all-glass unibody iPhones all the way back since 2016 proves that this sublime-looking iMac Pro, at least in theory, could be possible… besides, if Apple IS planning on launching something this out-of-the-box, it would be their first radical product redesign since Jony quit the company last year. I have to say that looking at how slick the conceptual iMac Pro’s facade is, Jony would definitely be proud! Until then, I suggest admiring this drop-dead gorgeous, all-glass concept with a grain of salt!
Designer/Visualizer: Sarang Sheth
You wouldn’t normally equate cardboard boxes and beds with the world’s most famous sporting event, but trust Tokyo to do things a little differently. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics has, ever since the beginning, advocated keeping a low carbon footprint for the global event by reusing as many resources as possible. They’ve forged their Olympic medals from rare-earth materials sourced from e-waste, and even made torches out of metal used in temporary housing units that were created as shelter for the victims of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Organizers of the 2020 Olympic event have announced yet another area of intervention for their eco-friendly approach. Beds.
The Olympics hosts as many as 18,000 athletes (as well as an additional 8,000 athletes for the Paralympics), and the beds for them will be provided by Japanese company (and Olympics partner) Airweave. The beds will be crafted from high-resistance cardboard, which isn’t just environmentally friendly, but is stronger than wood too. In fact, the beds can take on as much as 200 kgs of weight (which is far more than any athlete weighed in the 2016 Rio Olympics). The mattresses and pillows will be supplied by Airweave too, featuring a polyethylene construction that can be easily recycled after the month-long event that starts on the 9th of August and ends on the 6th of September with the Paralympics.
“This will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that all villages’ beds and bedding are made almost entirely from renewable materialism,’ say Tokyo 2020 Olympic officials. Tokyo 2020 hopes to minimize resource wastage for its global event and has set a target of recycling or reusing as much as 99% of all items and good procured!
Designer: Airweave for Tokyo 2020 Olympics