This tiny living home made from wheatgrass, jute, and felt brings nature into our brutal cityscape

Getting close to nature through architecture comes in many forms. Some homes take to glass facades, dissolving the barrier between the outdoors and inside, then some homes feature blueprints that wrap around trees, incorporating their canopies and trunks into the lay of the house. Omri Cohen, a student designer at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, has a different idea. Cohen developed the Living Shell, an architectural shell built by growing jute, felt, and wheatgrass into a form of a textile that’s laid over a bamboo frame.

Turning to textile technology, Living Shell was born from Cohen’s quest to evolve layers of wheatgrass root systems into elastic, textile materials. Settling on the shell’s curvilinear structural shape, the wheatgrass textile wraps over its bamboo frame, forming layers of insulation and shade while it continues to grow. Cohen found durability in the inexpensive building material he developed from jute, felt, and wheatgrass. Layering the different roots together in a pattern that allows room for sustained growth periods, the textile’s thickness and durability increase over time as the roots continue to interlace and grow. While he has yet to build a life-size Living Shell, Cohen crafted 1:10 models to demonstrate the feasibility of introducing the Living Shell into rural and urban environments alike. Connecting the structure to an irrigation system, the textile overwrap would most likely receive nourishment from a programmed watering method.

While Living Shell functions like a house, it would more likely offer natural refuge hubs for small animals to gather nesting materials from and inhabit. Additionally, Cohen developed Living Shell so that urban dwellers and rural farmers have the opportunity to watch nature in action, for all of its natural growth, regenerative, and decay processes.

Designer: Omri Cohen

Layered around a bamboo frame, Cohen’s Living Shell is made from a textile developed from jute, felt, and wheatgrass.

Before building its life-size debut, Cohen created tiny 1:10 models of Living Shell.

Following tests to show how wheatgrass root systems grew through textile sheets, Cohen settled on some that could be woven together into a single textile sheet.

Cohen found a textile sheet that he could sew together and integrate the seeds of jute, felt, and wheatgrass.

Wheatgrass growing through the textile sheets.

The growth process of wheatgrass shows that the textile’s thickness would increase with continued irrigation.

The ‘Tough Turban’ uses a fabric 15x stronger than steel, to empower Sikh motorcyclists to ride safer

Given the turban’s cultural and religious nature, Sikh motorcyclists are exempt from wearing helmets. The Tough Turban hopes to be a helmet-alternative, allowing wearers to protect their heads from impact.

The Tough Turban is a one-of-a-kind fabric with an open-source turban design that can be worn in any style. Unlike most turbans that are just made by wrapping/pleating/folding a cotton cloth multiple times around one’s head, the Tough Turban’s fabric is much more specialized, offering superior impact-resistance while looking just like a turban. Designed as a no-compromise solution, the turban allows Sikh riders to safely and confidently drive motorcycles, knowing that they’re safe.

Designers: Zulu Alpha Kilo & Spark Innovations for Pfaff Harley-Davidson

Tough Turban - Protective Cultural Headgear for Sikh Canadian Motorcyclists by Pfaff Harley-Davidson

The fabric comes with 3 internal layers that help cushion impact – a Dyneema layer, a flexible 3D-printed chainlink, and a non-Newtonian foam. On a weight-for-weight basis, Dyneema is up to 15x stronger than steel and 40% stronger than high-strength aramid fibers. It’s used to make bullet-resistant vests, armor, helmets, and even in panels on tanks to protect against stronger ballistic threats like anti-tank projectiles. Underneath it sits the 3D-printed chainlink-inspired armor, harking back to the use of chainlink headgear historically by Sikh warriors in battle – owing to its strength and flexibility. The third is a non-Newtonian foam that’s fluid and flexible but immediately hardens on impact, helping act as a tough barrier to protect the skull.

Tough Turban - Protective Cultural Headgear for Sikh Canadian Motorcyclists by Pfaff Harley-Davidson

The Tough Turban comes as a folded piece of long fabric, allowing its wearer to don it in multiple styles. Turbans can change in shape and size depending on cultures, ancestry, festivals, or plain and simple age. Designed to accommodate any turban-style, the fabric gives the wearer the freedom to choose, and the Tough Turban website even has design blueprints for enthusiasts.

Created in collaboration with the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Ontario, the Tough Turban was designed by Zulu Alpha Kilo and Spark Innovations for Pfaff Harley-Davidson as a bid to bring the motorcycling world a step closer to inclusivity – something that has yet to be achieved across Canada. Helmet exemptions were first granted to turban-wearing riders in British Columbia and Manitoba in 1999. Close to 20 years later, in the fall of 2018, Ontario passed Bill 194, exempting Sikh motorcyclists from Ontario’s helmet laws. However, all other provinces in the country have failed to adopt similar legislation. Concerns about safety are most commonly cited in discussions about helmet exemptions, but 22 years of riding with turbans have yielded precisely zero fatalities among Canadian Sikh motorcyclists. The Tough Turban hopes to bridge that gap, working as a traditional cultural garb while fulfilling the need to protect oneself while riding a motorcycle.

Tough Turban - Protective Cultural Headgear for Sikh Canadian Motorcyclists by Pfaff Harley-Davidson

Tough Turban - Protective Cultural Headgear for Sikh Canadian Motorcyclists by Pfaff Harley-Davidson

Tough Turban - Protective Cultural Headgear for Sikh Canadian Motorcyclists by Pfaff Harley-Davidson

This unique joinery toy lets kid connect with nature and utilize their creativity to build engaging structures!

Connecting with nature as a young kid brings out some of the most imaginative and tactile experiences the world has to offer. Each one of us can think back on afternoons spent blazing through our grandmother’s forested backyard or early morning swims at our favorite beach. While being in nature by itself is an experience that brings out our most creative and peaceful potential, collective global design house Studio 5.5 takes afternoons spent in nature one step further with a new collection called The Things To Make.

Primarily composed of a series of odds and ends that connect different items found in nature together to create items like kites, magnifying glasses, tents, and any other item our imagination allows, The Things To Make is a collection of accessories that help guide creative building processes for little kids. Complete with end sockets, fabric, and string, kids find the rest of the building materials, like twigs, branches, and leaves, in their backyard or nearby forest.

The kite’s building kit comes with end sockets that can connect tree twigs and branches to form a cross that can then be covered with the included kite fabric. Similarly, the 3D shape building kit comes with a collection of end sockets that children can get creative with and connect twigs to form 3D geometric structures like cubes or pyramids. To literally bring kids even closer to nature, Studio 5.5 includes a deconstructed magnifying glass that kids can put together and use sticks for the handle. Studio 5.5 then completes the collection with a tent-building kit, which includes end sockets and a camouflage tarp to be overlaid on top of the tent’s frame, giving kids a nature-made hideout.

Designer: Studio 5.5

The kite building kit comes with a spool and end sockets to make kites from twigs and branches.

Kids can connect two branches together to create a T shape and ultimately a flying kite.

End sockets allow kids to connect twigs together to create shapes.

Kids can also create their own geometric structures using the provided end sockets.

Studio 5.5 also included a magnifying glass for kids to construct together.

To complete the collection, Studio 5.5 devised a tent building kit for kids to escape to when the playtime is done.

MIT scientist weaves smart fabric with electrical signal to monitor health and store digital memory!

MIT scientist Yoel Fink has worked on developing smart fabrics for longer than a decade. In 2010, Fink and some of his colleagues produced fibers that could detect audio. A first for smart fabric developments, the fiber could be woven into a fabric, which transformed it into a needle-thin, working microphone. Today, the team of scientists continues work on spinning fibers into the smart fabric but moves past analog capabilities towards a digital future, weaving fibers that carry continuous electrical signals into a piece of wearable smart fabric.

Published in a Nature Communications academic journal, Fink’s research suggests that the fibers carrying electrical signals could be woven into the wearable smart fabric for “applications in physiological monitoring, human-computer interfaces, and on-body machine-learning.” Incorporating those capabilities into smart fabric required first embedding hundreds of silicon digital chips into casting pre-forms before spinning that into a piece of wearable fabric.

Each string of flexible fiber reaches tens of meters in length, containing hundreds of intertwined, digital sensors that monitor temperature changes and store memory. Each digital fiber, for instance, can collect and store information on changing body temperatures, garnering real-time inference for the wearer’s activity throughout the day. In addition to tracking and collecting data on physiological measures, the smart fabric retains the information gathered and “harbors the neural pathways” necessary to understand that data and infer the future activity of the wearer.

Thin enough to slide through the eye of a needle, the smart fabric is woven with hundreds of laced digital chips that still remain undetectable to the wearer. Forming a continuous electrical connection, the textile fiber also weaves a neural network made up of 1,650 AI connections into the smart fabric, pushing the new development even further. Capable of collecting 270 minutes worth of changing body temperatures and storing a 767-kilobit full-color short film as well as a 0.48-megabyte music file, the smart fabric can retain all of this and store it for two months at a time without power.

Designer: Yoel Fink

Each string of fabric is intertwined with fibers that contain hundreds of digital chips to monitor body temperature and track memory devices.

When woven together, the fibers form a string of fabric thin enough to pass through the eye of a needle.

The fabric is thin enough that Gabriel Loke,  a Ph.D. student at MIT says, “When you put it into a shirt, you can’t feel it at all. You wouldn’t know it was there.”

This smart heat press takes on an ergonomic and intuitive design to help beginners feel more focused!

Everyone picked up a hobby during the pandemic. While some of us took up gardening and others learned how to create jewelry, a good chunk of us began designing our own clothes. Finding the right equipment, like gardening or metalworking tools, for new hobbies can be a tough ask since we’re only starting out. Noticing the rise in popularity over designing hand-pressed clothes, Suosi Design created Viso Press, a smart heat press for heat pressing patterns onto clothing that makes the beginner process feel a lot more seamless.

Minimal by design, Viso Press ditches the chunky, hefty structure of the heat press table and takes on a slimmer body formed into the shape of a conventional steam iron. Heat-pressing requires a lot of focus and precision, so the designers at Suosi Design embedded Viso Press with smart features that help make heat-pressing feel a lot less intimidating, allowing beginners to focus solely on pressing their patterns onto clothing items. Viso Press features a round screen in its center that works as the device’s main display screen. There, users can adjust the heat and time settings on Viso Press. Altogether, users can operate Viso Press with just one hand since all of the control options can be found on the round display screen, just above the handle. By consolidating all of the controls into one screen, beginners need only look there for the next step.

Large heat-pressing tables can feel intimidating. If I didn’t know better, looking at one for the first time, I might think it was some clunky blacksmithing tool. To make the process of heat pressing feel a little more welcoming and interactive, Viso Press lets users guide their own progress with a tool that feels ergonomic and looks a little more familiar.

Designer: Suosi Design

Viso Press takes on the shape of a traditional iron to enhance its usability and ergonomic design.

Ditching the heft of a heat press table for a sleek, minimal design, Viso Press feels a lot less intimidating.

Viso Press consolidates its entire control panel into one round screen that features control options like temperature and time settings.

Minimal by design, Viso Press can be stored anywhere.

Small enough to fit in casual places, Viso Press only has to be plugged in for use.

To activate Viso Press, users only have to dislodge it from its base and begin pressing patterns onto their clothing.

These reusable totes made from fruit skins is a green alternative to paper bags!

Totes are a prerequisite for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Depending on the materials used to make the tote, it generally takes more resources to make them than single-use paper or plastic bags, but totes can be used and reused plenty of times. Using totes instead of single-use shopping bags can help reduce your carbon footprint even further if they’re made of sustainable materials. To offer a sustainable alternative, designers Johanna Hehemeyer-Cürten and Lobke Beckfeld made Sonne155, a reusable tote and sustainable alternative to the paper bag.

Sonnet155 is entirely made from biodegradable materials to ensure that each bag can break down into water or soil. Hehemeyer-Cürten and Beckfeld constructed the tote bags from the composite of two raw materials: cellulosic production waste from the textile industry and pectin, which partially mimics the gelling effects of gelatin. Cellulosic production waste comes from cellulose, the structural cell wall found in plants, while pectin is a plant-based polysaccharide derived from the skin of fruits. When used together to build Sonnet155, the locally sourced materials form a sustainable, gelatin-like tissue that can be fully integrated back into their natural, biological life cycle following the tote bag’s use. The tough material almost appears elastic, but looks and feels like leather.

By creating Sonnet155, Hehemeyer-Cürten and Beckfeld hope to make a sustainable alternative to single-use paper bags that feels more “[like] a treat rather than a burden,” as the designers put it. By following a minimalist design scheme, Sonnet155 is enhanced by its own natural, translucent hide that dissolves over time with consistent use. Coming in a wide range of colors that echo the peak months of summer, Sonnet155 is an upgrade to the canvas tote or single-use paper bag.

Designers: Johanna Hehemeyer-Cürten and Lobke Beckfeld

The materials used to make Sonnet155 totes are derived from cellulose waste and pectin, or fruit skin.

Sonnet155 is constructed from locally sourced, biodegradable materials to ensure a natural, biological life cycle.

Pectin mimics the elasticity of gelatin for a tough and durable completed structure.

With a minimalist design, Sonnet155 is enhanced by its own unique gradient pattern derived from natural pigments.

The leather-like building material found in pectin gives Sonnetq55 a loose, yet structured frame.

Once Sonnet155 totes reach the end of their use, they dissolve in either soil and water and continue their biological life cycle.

Totes are great accessories for city living or even weekly grocery store trips.

These fabric acoustic panels absorbs sound and double as a room divider for a great open office space!

Open office spaces might have replaced cubicles, but we still need some privacy. Products like wooden partitions and pipe-and-drape screens can do a good job of visually separating space, but sound travels and the issue of privacy remains. To provide a means for sound isolation and visual privacy without compromising the inclusive aspect of open office spaces, Milan-based Claudio Bellini design studio created FP7, a collection of acoustic panels that double as room dividers and noise absorbers.

Designed specifically for the open office space, FP7 functions as an acoustic panel to absorb soundwaves without entirely blocking out background noise and as a room divider to visually delineate areas of privacy throughout any given office. The panels that make up the collection come in various colors, all giving off either a bright and exuberant or a subtler, toned-down display which can be chosen depending on the office’s design scheme. Designed to form a set, each panel comes in varying sizes, properly resembling a sort of visual soundwave when positioned together. The panels, which are made from embedded cushioning that’s overlaid with soft fabric, can be organized however the office sees fit.

Privacy is non-negotiable in office settings, and in public spaces, a space for more intimate conversations should always be accessible. Ideal for busy locations like the lobby, group workstations, or even the library, the FP7 acoustic panels can be grouped wherever extra privacy is needed. Qualifying for 2021’s Final Jury at iF Design Awards, FP7 embraces today’s office culture’s openness while creating a way for workers to access private areas for conversing or brainstorming.

Designer: Claudio Bellini

Available in an array of different colors and patterns, FP7 is designed to form a set.

Areas with heavy foot traffic, like lobbies and recreation areas, can form private spaces for conversing through the use of FP7.

The simple, refined fabric and options for additional color schemes enhance FP7’s design versatility.

Acoustic panels can surround smaller conversations or larger group meeting spaces to absorb sound and define private areas.

This modular room partition was built using Mexican weaving methods and CNC-milling techniques!

When time-honored building methods from the past get woven into the design world of today, magic happens. The modern-day commitment to precision and technology sets the stage for more traditional designs to take on new heights. Else-Rikke Bruun, a Copenhagen-based designer, felt inspired in part by the classic weaving techniques of Mexico and looked to the advanced building method of CNC milling to create her interlaced, flexible room partition, Veneer.

Bruun introduces Veneer as, “a fusion of textile and wood, where the wood veneer is transformed into enlarged fibers in a textile weave.” The screen wall amounts to a cross-linked, wavelike pattern made up of interwoven birch plywood planks that were CNC milled, enhancing their flexibility. CNC milling essentially uses a computer-automated machine to control the cutting and rotating of construction material such as wood to ensure precisely cut and even building pieces.

Bruun’s screen wall is entirely made from birch wood– the interwoven planks forge their way between standing, vertical beams of birch wood, in a similar fashion to that of traditional Mexican weaving methods, to provide the partition with its wave-like pattern. Applying the same weaving methods as that of Mexican weaving to her screen wall, Veneer does not require any additional tools or screws.

To give Veneer its classic marbled finish, Bruun coated each plank with black oil, highlighting the grain of the wood to give it a naturally warm and smooth finish. While the screen walls seem small in width, they can be used as modules to join together with additional woven screen walls to span the length of any given room. The woven form of Veneer also provides an acoustic effect, giving the screen wall a sensuous and robust presence in any room.

Designer: Else-Rikke Bruun

Veneer is a fusion of textile and birch wood.

Requiring no tools or screws, Veneer relies on traditional weaving methods for construction.

Each plank of birch wood is coated in black oil for a marble-like finish.

After the planks are milled from CNC milling machines, the divider’s wavelike pattern is achieved through weaving.

The birch planks weave in between upright birch beams.

Bruun coats each plank in black oil before putting Veneer together.

Veneer has a modular structure to increase its width and span the length of a room.

Constructed like LEGO, these modular shoes are made entirely from compostable materials!

You either already own a lot of shoes or you regularly buy a lot of new pairs of shoes. I fall in the latter category. I probably hold onto my shoes longer than recommended, maybe purchasing a new casual pair of shoes to wear every day, every year and a half. In the United States alone, around 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year and end up in landfills where they take up to 40 years to decompose. That means by the time I turn 64, my pair of Adidas sneakers will finally be broken down. Noticing the environmental impact that shoe waste has on the earth, Laura Muth created ‘Shoes with an Expiration Date,’ a prototype of modular sneakers made entirely from compostable material.

Generally, fast-fashion uses carbon-intensive, nonrenewable resources like petrochemical textiles to construct items like shoes, making the industry one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in circulation today. While Muth’s ‘Shoes with an Expiration Date’ prototype is not market-ready and still in the mock-up phase, the designer aims to create a pair of shoes whose expiration date is far shorter than that of the shoes made from nonrenewable resources like plastic currently on the market. Ditching toxic glue for an isolable, modular structure, the individual parts of ‘Shoes with an Expiration Date’ are tied together with a compostable shoestring.

‘Shoes with an Expiration Date’ are handmade by Laura Muth from locally sourced, compostable materials. The sole of the shoe is molded with comfort and support in mind from latex extract derived from dandelion root, straw, sawdust, and natural dyes. The string and side support that holds the shoe together are made from cellulose felt and woven hemp. As the shoes are currently constructed, the bottom sole is soft and supportive but does not seem as long-lasting and heavy-duty as the plastic ones currently available on the market. As ‘Shoes with an Expiration Date’ is still in the prototype phase, rest assured that fine-tuning in shape, structure, and support is on the way.

Designer: Laura Muth

The shoestrings are made from woven hemp, while the frame is made from cellulose felt, and the shoe’s sole from dandelion root extract.

Coming in three different parts, the prototype is isolable.

Constructed using a building blocks method, the sole’s imprint leaves a layer for the cellulose felt support to rest atop.

During initial mock-up phases, Muth aimed to reduce the shoe to its essential elements.

Muth used an old sneaker and plastering to form the shape of the prototype’s sole.

With future development, Muth hopes to bridge sustainability with aesthetics and support.

Inspired by the building method of LEGOS, Muth designed isolable, modular shoes constructed from compostable materials.

Using banana peels as a sustainable building material, you can now make everything from eyeglasses to watch straps!

Along with apples, bananas are the most popular fruits in the world. More than 100 billion bananas are eaten every year, with most of us consuming about 30 pounds worth of bananas every year– that’s bananas. But what happens to all the banana peels we toss out after eating the fruit? Generally, if thrown outdoors, it can take up to two years for banana peels to biodegrade. Sarah Harbarth, a designer based in Switzerland, saw the potential in turning banana peels into a sustainable source of construction material, calling it KUORI.

Harbarth was able to create four distinct products that are entirely compostable and made from banana peels. Harbarth’s first product shows a pair of eyeglasses that swap out a tortoise-shell frame for a banana speckled marble one. Then, in combining recycled PLA material with banana peels, Harbarth produced a 3D printing filament from which one can print anything they’d like. The third product Harbarth created through KUORI is the shoe sole made entirely from banana peels, solving the problem of micro-plastics rubbing off onto the ground as we walk in our street shoes. By replacing the micro-plastic that forms our shoe soles with banana peels, Harbarth created a sole that not only doesn’t disrupt the soil we walk on but feeds it as well. Lastly, in confronting the harmful practice of making leather goods, Harbarth designed a sustainable, vegan, and recyclable leather alternative, which she showcased in the form of a watch strap.

While the time it takes for decomposition to run its course depends on environmental factors, natural litter can have an adverse effect on critters that take to munching on fruit peels and therefore the environment as a whole. With all the bananas we enjoy every year, that same amount is then turned into waste. In order to lengthen the life cycle of bananas and combat the harmful and wasteful practices of making leather goods from animal skins, Harbarth was able to create goods like phone cases and watch straps entirely from banana peels. Upon recognizing the intricate ways in which we contribute to harming the environment through practices like leather making, 3D printing, and micro-plastic construction, Harbarth looked to using banana peels to produce goods instead.

Designer: Sarah Harbarth

By turning banana peels into an alternative building material, like leather, KUORI is sustainable, vegan, and saves resources.

“The result [of KUORI] is four products that are 100% compostable and made from the banana peel as an original food waste byproduct.”

In creating products out of banana peels like eyeglasses, KUORI feeds nature instead of taking from it.

“Due to the fiber composite of the Banana peel in the material, the resulting product has a higher stability compared to ordinary PLA.”

Most shoe soles are constructed using micro-plastics that rub off on the ground we walk.

“The resulting shoe sole is very elastic and returns to its original position. The material was poured into a mold and then hardened out.”

Confronting harmful practices like bleaching leather hides, KUORI offers a sustainable alternative.

“My concept represents a sustainable, resource-saving, organic and vegan, recyclable alternative to animal leather.”