Week 4 - Dwell On Design by Caroline Ingalls

Airbnb Head of Strategy Chip Conley and Ace Hotel President and CEO Brad Wilson discuss the boutique hotel movement along with others at Dwell On Design 2014 in New York City.  

This past week I had the great opportunity to attend the first ever Dwell On Design conference in New York City after the magazine's recent move to the east coast from San Francisco.  It was a packed three days of presentations from world renowned designers, architects, researchers and CEO's from companies and organizations large and small such as Architecture for Humanity, Daniel Libeskind (World Trade Center architect), Airbnb, Ace Hotel, Perkins + Will, Gensler, Ikea and the list goes on.  It was quite a valuable experience for me as a budding designer to listen to all of these well-accomplished and knowledgable people speak about what they do and where they see the future of design taking us.  

I collected a lot of really great quotes and ideas from these people, and I would like to share some of them here because they are too good.  Michela O'Connor Abrams, CEO of Dwell Media, spoke about The New Face of Affluence, making some key points that "a good design professional is collaborative, a good listener, has creative ideas and adds value.  Have a business model that allows meaningful relationships, conversation and communication.  It's not about the Jones's anymore, it's about your sense."  This statement was put so simply, and it is important for all of us, no matter what your profession is, to remember these key takeaways for success.  

Another great talk was given on Building for Resiliency by Robin Guenther, Principal of Perkins + Will and Senior Advisor to Health Care Without Harm, Eric Cesal, Executive Director of Architecture for Humanity, and John Cetra of CetraRuddy Architecture.  Some key points that came about from them as they spoke about the necessity to design and build for resilient communities that can handle future natural disasters were "we want a world where designers can propose solutions and actually be taken seriously.  One of the best things that we can do as designers is to help people see the future.  We need to be more humble about the future, if we knew that it was coming it wouldn't be a disaster."  These accomplished designers put design in to the necessary perspective that it can help us adapt to the changes our planet is going through and push us towards a future of sustainable and resilient communities.  

These takeaways have tremendously helped me with my final project and I will keep them in mind throughout the process.  I can clearly see now that the space will not just be a destination within the city and something beautiful to look at.  It will actively fuse cultures, life and art in to one place and partake in the larger system of the city and the community.  Design is an act of communication and storytelling all-in-all, and that is exactly what will be exemplified in this system as a culture of cargo.  As quoted from Architecture for Humanity, "we are people who believe in the power of design to make communities better," and that is something we must all keep in mind when we are designing.  

Here is a link to a pretty cool shipping container project that is set to open in Spring 2015 in the Meatpacking district of New York City called SuperPier.  I came across it as I was walking on the High Line, and it appears that it is going to be bring a pretty significant center of shipping containers, full of "culture, cargo, and chaos" according to their tag line.  

Week 3 - Boxport by Caroline Ingalls

   Boxpark Shoreditch  near London, which is a revolutionary pop-up container mall, bringing commerce and community together as well. 

Boxpark Shoreditch near London, which is a revolutionary pop-up container mall, bringing commerce and community together as well. 

I have come up with a name for the space, and I have decided to go with "Boxport".  It portrays the simple idea of the box and it's port, serving as a means of providing to the community, connecting cultures and becoming a gateway for local and global commerce.  It will tie the port to the community, strengthening relationships and communication between the two so that they can benefit and build off of each other.  

Boxport will then find its way into a larger system, supporting and nurturing the local community of Savannah, as well as beyond Savannah.  This concept could potentially by relayed in other major port cities.  Our ports are our closest connections to foreign cultures and lands, much more so than airports due to the prominence and essentialness of trade in today's world.  Why shouldn't ports have the opportunity to interact with people of their communities, educating everyone on why ports do what they do and how influential they are in our lives?  I guarantee that only positives could come from relationships like that.  

Check out these great projects that are getting people talking in London and New Zealand: www.boxpark.co.uk and www.restart.org.nz 

Week 2 - Defining "The Box" by Caroline Ingalls

   Evergreen  cargo ship at the  Port of Savannah  bound for China. 

Evergreen cargo ship at the Port of Savannah bound for China. 

This past week I had a great opportunity to visit the Georgia Ports Authority at the Port of Savannah.  To be able to design a destination that will feature the amazing life of a shipping container and it's relationship with our communities, I must first and foremost understand how the industry's system works.  I feel as if the incredible journey of a container is often overlooked in many of today's projects that utilize them for structures.  I am sure it is taken in to account in many cases, but to my presumption, a lot of users, designers, developers and architects just see it as an old steel box that can be turned in to something "sexy" and "green".  As I stated in my last post, creating sexy boxes is not my intention by any means.  

I was absolutely fascinated on the visit to the port, getting an up-close-and-personal tour of the entire operation at the third busiest and fourth largest port in the United States.  The Evergreen ship above is too large for the Panama canal, so to get to its destination of China from Savannah, it has to cross the Atlantic, head in to the Mediterranean and through the Suez canal in Egypt, pass Somalia and down into the Indian ocean to make it to China.  Witnessing the operation with my own eyes gave me a valuable understanding of what "Made in China" or "Made in Bangladesh" means and so forth.  

In discussing with the employees at Georgia Ports Authority that kindly took the time to show my professor and I around and give us a presentation, it was clear that they were incredibly passionate about global shipping and the amazing box that changed the world.  I was also thoroughly impressed with the sustainability efforts that the company is going through to sustainably increase the efficiency of their ports while never interfering with the natural ecosystems that are thankfully still around here in the Lowcountry.  

I am now starting a book called "The Box" by Marc Levinson on 'how the shipping container made the world smaller and the world economy bigger'.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the influential box that allows us to live the lives we do today.  

I will be selecting the site for the space within the next few days; one that will really connect the three concepts of global shipping + commerce + community.  I think a spot along the edge of the Savannah River may just be perfect as it is the center of commerce and community in the city, and to be spending time amongst repurposed shipping containers while the big ships slowly move by, well I am not sure that picture and experience could be topped!  I am also thinking about a name; definitely one that embraces "the box", so do not hesitate to throw any ideas out to me!   

Week 1 - Finding Inspiration by Caroline Ingalls

   Urban Coffee Farm  by  Hassell  for the 2013  Melbourne Food & Wine Festival .  A project to show the community about the journey of coffee with an innovative reuse of shipping containers and pallets.  

Urban Coffee Farm by Hassell for the 2013 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.  A project to show the community about the journey of coffee with an innovative reuse of shipping containers and pallets.  

I feel very fortunate that I have developed a phenomenal passion for my two areas of study in design, that being interior design and especially sustainability.  Beautiful sustainable projects are popping up everywhere in the built environment, though unfortunately seeming like a hot 'green' trend to the public.   

The first thing I would like to stress before anything is that sustainability is not a trend by any means - it is a necessity.  As quoted by Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer at Ikea, "sustainability has gone from a nice-to-do to a must-do."  Designers are quickly recognizing the importance of shifting towards a sustainable way of thinking and therefore creating, as we are consuming resources at a much faster rate than we are producing them at. 

In my recent travels, I have been fortunate enough to come across some pretty exciting and successful projects that exemplify sustainability in the built environment.  I traveled to Australia this past June, and was thoroughly impressed with the efforts happening down there in terms of showing the public how effective and downright cool sustainability is.  

I do not want to refer to this as a trend, but the repurposing of shipping containers for habitable structures has become quite popular.  I have come across a few of these sites from Brisbane, Australia to San Francisco, California, and I have developed a deep interest and curiosity not just about the possibilities of building with containers, but with the complete life cycle of a container.  These steel boxes travel the world more than most people do in a lifetime to be honest, weathered from the salt spray of the ocean and carrying the most everyday goods from automobiles to food to rubber ducks.  Each container has a different story, and that is what I find most fascinating.  

I would like find a way to tell the community about the fascinating journeys of these containers as they carry 90% of the world's goods.  Some end their lives after unfortunately toppling overboard, sinking to the depths of the deepest oceans, and others get placed in a container yard with no future purpose, rusting away because it is too expensive to send them home.  The constant loss to the ocean and reproduction of containers is very harmful to our environment, as well as our world's dependence on global shipping.  

I will strive to combine my interior design and sustainability skills to create a temporary public space in Savannah, Georgia, conveniently the third busiest port in the United States behind Los Angeles/Long Beach and New York City.  This space will hopefully introduce Savannah to the idea of adaptively reusing containers, making use of the thousands we have left to rust away, and giving them a new purpose to serve.  It will educate the community on the life cycle of cargo through experience as well as the incorporation of retail to encourage the importance and impact of supporting local economies.  Sustainable building techniques will also be incorporated to show the public just how easy, cost-effective and not to forget fun it is, including regenerative methods such as generating renewable energy, reusing grey water and supporting the local habitat with greenery.