Social matter, social design

Curated by Jan Boelen and Michael Kaethler. Published by Valiz

Ellie Birkhead's essay can be found in the extract, Humble beginnings: earth, clay and minerals.

Here is a short extract: 

But despite small shifts in the size of the brick, it has never strayed far from its hand size modular form. Through thousands of years its geometric shape has allowed for an endless array of structures to be built, from rows of modest Victorian terrace homes, to great grand landmarks such as the iconic Buddhist temples of Myanmar. Perhaps the enduring success of the form of the brick is not it’s own identity, but in fact it’s lack of identity. The brick itself does not define architecture; it gives the designer agency to create an infinite possibility of structures than can be moulded to fit into countless cultural landscapes, whilst its hand-size shape ensures a humanness and readability to each construction.

Building the Local

Thesis by Ellie Birkhead

Local production leads to diversity. It seems contradictory to say that by sticking to our roots we expand the diversity of our world. But I will explain why: when we focus specifically on what is around us and when each manufacturer uses the materials in their very own space we create variety. Taking the UK as an example of a small country with somewhat limited resources it is known that around every 25 miles you travel across the country the geology of the earth changes, from chalk to clay to granite to slate. And even if you take only one material, such as clay, the colour and the properties vary between each deposit across the country, which forces new production methods to be born. So as shown in the work of Atelier NL, and explained in the writings of Alessandro Baricco, “every clod contains the whole field, if you know how to read it”, if we all try to deeply understand our own piece of earth, yet share with others but not allow our own to be diluted maybe we can create a world revived from the standardisation and dulling of goods across our planet.

This is an extract from Ellie Birkhead's MA Social Design thesis, in association with the project Building the Local.

To read the full text click here 

Little Inventors Mission Oceans

Words by Ellie Birkhead, Illustrations by Dominic Wilcox. Published by Harper Collins 

The fourth book in the Little Inventors series. A children's activity book full of ideas to help come up with new inventions to save our seas.

“Our ocean is an incredibly complex system which is under serious threat. Mission Oceans is a fun and engaging way to learn about our ocean whilst devising inventions to protect this vital ecosystem." 

- Marine Conservation Society

‘The oceans are places of wonder and beauty, full of incredible wildlife like giant whales, toothy sharks and clever dolphins, animals I’ve been fortunate enough to swim with and film. The oceans are also the life support system of our planet, helping to keep all life on earth healthy, including you! What amazing inventions can you think of to protect the wonders of our oceans?’

- Hugh Pearson, Award winning wildlife film maker and director of The Blue Planet.

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