Hi DT students,

Many of you will have heard me eulogise about one of my favourite architects – Zaha Hadid. She has produced some of the most incredible designs and architecture in the world over the last twenty years. She recently had her first design in the UK built in Hyde Park which I saw last weekend and it was amazing even though such a small building.

She has recently won the Design Museum – Design of the Year for 2014 for her cultural centre in Azerbijan. What is undoubtedly an amazing design and amazing building – however there has been a backlash as to the ethics and human rights behind the beginnings of this building :-

“A colossal cultural centre in Azerbaijan by the architect Zaha Hadid has been declared the Design of the Year by London’s Design Museum, despite concerns about the site’s human rights record.”

“While almost 250 homes were cleared to make way for Hadid’s building, (questions have also been raised about the rights of those who built it. In 2010, while the project was under construction, the global construction workers’ union, BWI, exposed one of the largest cases of human trafficking in Europe, of migrant labourers from Bosnia and Serbia forced to work in Baku in appalling conditions, subjected to physical and psychological violence, with their passports confiscated.”

It has made me think – about what makes a great design a classic design. Is it one that thinks of design, aesthetics over everything else or are the best designs those that have at their heart an ethical background, a need to help out and improve the lives of people from all backgrounds? A question to ponder especially when you are studying the Higher Level Topic 8 next year as DP 1 students.

So to contrast the bravado but sketchy human rights record of the Zaha Hadid  design here is another Kickstarter design – that is small but deeply ethical :-

“.. a prototype musical instrument – a percussion shaker – that converts the energy from playing it into electricity. It’s called SPARK. SPARK enables people to generate electricity so that they can plug in a light or charge up a mobile phone, simply through having a music jam. In places like Kenya, where 75% of the population live without access to electricity, having the ability to read at night or charge up a mobile phone gives people the chance of a better education and also access to services like the revolutionary mobile phone banking system, M-PESA.”

Which would you pick – the Zaha Hadid Cultural Centre or the Spark Musical Instrument/ Sustainable Light Source?

Or even the Swayer Mini Filter – www.youtube.com/embed/hHYJ69e68bg

“We consume 50 billion bottles of water every year. 30 billion of those bottles are bought and consumed in the US which is insanely wasteful. It takes about three times the volume of water to manufacture one bottle of water, than it does to fill it. And there’s a huge amount of oil used in it’s production and transportation too. Although made with recyclable plastics, plastic bottles don’t biodegrade, they photo degrade.  They break down into smaller fragments but that takes a really long time and it contaminates our soil and pollutes our waterways. Then there is the impact on the animals that digest those plastics. Some of which we then go on to eat.”

Which would you pick – the Zaha Hadid Cultural Centre or the Swayer Mini Filter?

And finally talking about innovative ethical lights – check out the simple amonia based light : –

“A Liter of Light grew out of an idea by Alfredo Moser from Brazil, enhanced by MIT students and aimed at addressing a problem facing millions in the Philippines: the absolute absence of natural light in their often-informal dwellings.”

Which would you pick – the Zaha Hadid Cultural Centre or the Liter of Light?

A difficult question – I suppose best answered by can’t you have both?