One Design Fix

21 09 2009


2010 METROPOLIS Next Generation Design Competition


Good design determines how well products, spaces, and systems work from the beginning. We think that great design ideas can make things work even better. One Design Fix for the Future challenges you to prove us right—whether you are an architect, interior designer, product designer, landscape designer, graphic designer, communication designer. We’re looking for ONE design fix you can make now in your designed environment—the products you use, your home, your workplace, your city, or any commercial application—that, in scale or as inspiration, can improve our future.

To enter, provide one small (but brilliant and elegant) fix—leading to an incremental (or dramatic) change in sustainability. Your fix needn’t have anything to do with “environmentalist engineering” to make a difference. Concentrate on what you know best, are aching to improve in a way that deploys your training and imagination.

DEADLINE: January 29, 2010

For more information visit:


Apendae Hajali Lawama

20 09 2009


This pretty khanga hangs over my bed…

A khanga is a colorful garment worn by women and occasionally by men throughout Eastern Africa.  The piece of printed cotton consists of a border, an overall print and a Swahili message or riddle known as a “jina”.  Each jina is unique to the design of the khanga…

African Languages tells me that my pretty khanga’s jina means “Love is a need to be blamed”.  Say what?!  Someone please explain this to me…

Every time I glance up at the cloth that hangs over my bed, I’m reminded of the balls that the kids at the CDC used to play with.  Plastic bags and khanga rags are all they needed to make a soccer ball… how creative… and heartwarming.

plastic bag football

There is an abundance of khangas throughout Kenya, which behooves me to use it in some form or the other in the design/construction of my school… I’m still brainstorming… but if you can think of an innovative use, by all means, share your ideas.

Custom Carpet and Water Purifiers

24 06 2009

The Masland Carpet representative came into our office this afternoon to drop off a custom sample I had requested for a Mexican restaurant remodel that I’m working on.  Our conversation drifted from types of carpet construction to bosses to “milking cows” – Dana’s type of cow – and I started rambling about my trip to Kenya, AGAIN!  I think I’m starting to annoy myself, really!  Anyway, we talked about Safari’s, which somehow lead to game hunting and trekking, and he suggested that I buy this nifty, and undeniably phallic looking device. 

It’s a portable water purifier that destroys waterborne microbes using an ultraviolet tube light.  Not quite as impressive as the LifeStraw, but good enough for hotel tap water I guess.


SteriPEN® is the only portable water purifier that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to destroy waterborne microbes.Whether your source is a woodland brook or an overseas hotel tap, SteriPEN purifies clear water by destroying viruses, bacteria and protozoa—including Giardia and Cryptosporidium—in seconds. Carry a SteriPEN to disinfect water wherever you travel, hike, camp or trek. It’s the fastest route to pure, safe drinking water anywhere.


11 05 2009

FACT: 6,000 people – mainly children – die each day from consuming unsafe drinking water.


VesterGaard Frandsen, a disease control organization, has developed a solution to reduce the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by half.  

LifeStraw is a point-of-use water filter that offers easy access to safe drinking water away from home.  The filter kills 99.999% of waterborne viruses and removes particles down to 15 microns.  It doesn’t require any electrical power or spare parts for the entire life time of the straw.

The LifeStraw was put to the test in Zimbabwe in which it was used to drink from a muddy puddle on the side of the road…

So… If you want to help bring clean water to millions worldwide, then donate a LifeStraw HERE!

“Every Family Deserves to Live in a Home Designed by an [Interior Designer]”

18 10 2008

BSB Design, an award winning architectural and planning firm, has a patent pending on a revolutionary housing project known as Abōd.  Most of their innovative work has been accomplished within the United States, but they are now targeting impoverished nations like South Africa.

Their goal is to develop a number of options for low-cost housing structures that can be assembled quickly and easily on pretty much any surface, whether the existing foundation supports it or not.  Here are a few floor plan options:

Abod Floor Plan Options

The unit itself is a standardized structure that can be joint together to create a larger structure. The homes, which are made of corrugated metal and plexiglas panels, are readily manufactured and acquired locally, if available.  Here is what the Abōd looks like:

Single Unit

Single Unit Abōd

L-Shaped Abōd

L-Shaped Abōd

Pretty innovative, but not very sustainable, especially since the materials are pre-fabricated outside of South Africa (shipping causes pollution that could have been avoided if local materials were used instead).  I do have to give props to the ease of assembly though.  The Abōd can be constructed by four people, using only a screw driver and an awl (that’s ok, I didn’t know what awl meant either and had to look it up – it’s a tool that allows you pierce holes into surfaces such as leather).

The Abōd costs $1500 a piece and can be purchased by a low-income family through micro-financing, another revolutionary idea that I’ll post about another time.

Here’s what it looks like on the interior:

Not bad!  But what happens in the winter time though?  Corrugated metal is not the best heat insulator. 

This inspired me to look into developing a standardized floor plan for a K-12 school than can be adjusted based on its location.

That’s all I’ve got for today!  It’s friday night and I need a drink.


15 10 2008

Some might say it’s a little too early to start working on my thesis – I say, to hell with you (just kidding)! Project Kenya 2011 is going to be an exciting and motivating adventure and I want everyone (including Oprah Winfrey) to be a part of it.  Let me tell you how this brilliant idea came about.

My interest in pursuing a higher education was strictly to acquire a terminal degree that would allow me to teach Interior Design at a university level.  When I was asked what topic was of interest to me, I knew that I wanted it to involve design education, but I had absolutely no idea how to approach it in a visual manner, given that my field is entirely visual.  In an attempt to instigate a thought process, I made a list of everything and anything that came to mind when I thought of design.  There were three underlying themes that seemed to reoccur throughout my list: space planning, education and philanthropy.  The challenge was to unify the three distinct realms into a single unified idea.

It was very important for me to develop a piece of work that would interweave the design community with the outside world.  I didn’t want to lock myself up in the studio and spend sleepless nights trying to meet a deadline but rather, put my heart and soul into something that would make a change in the world.  Project Kenya 2011 will provide me with that opportunity to make a change.

Using my Interior Design education and practical experience, I plan to develop a comprehensive proposal to build a cost-effective and efficient learning environment in an impoverished part of The Republic of Kenya.  My proposal will include site analysis, complete construction documents, material and finish selection, as well as the overall management of the development of a K-12 school.  I plan to utilize local resources in an effort to revitalize the economic and social infrastructure of the community.

This blog will provide you with a detailed account of my thesis process.  This academic year will consist of a lot of preliminary research.  I’ll be initiating a lot of discussions and searching for pro bono talent to assist me in the documentation of my project (graphic designers, film majors, photographers, etc.).  Things will become more tangible after my first trip to Kenya, planned for the summer of 2009.  I will be joining K4K, a charitable Kuwaiti organization, on their annual trip to Kenya in the support and development of education at a primary and secondary level. 

In order to manifest my vision, I will need every one of you to participate in the development of Project Kenya 2011.  Any thoughts, ideas, advice and contributions to the project would be greatly appreciated.