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From ceramic swimming pools for snakes to handbags made of seatbelts – a colourful selection of projects by students of sustainable design

Last month the first group of students of sustainable design at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EAA) presented their projects. The course, created by EAA in collaboration with SEI Tallinn as part of the international student innovation project Innolabs, combined sustainable design and entrepreneurship, concentrating mainly on the practical side of design education.

Helen Saarniit / Published on 20 June 2016

“The aim of the sustainable design course was to give students the possibiliby to experience how to bring environmental and social aspects into their product development process, in addition to the aesthetic component, as well as analyzing the life cycle fo a product,” Harri Moora, programme director at SEI Tallinn and one of the course lecturers commented.

The projects developed during the course took inspiration from the philosophy of the ethical fashion designer and guest lecturer Reet Aus and her trash to trend and upcycling design concept where high quality and innovative products are created from residue materials. The three innovative eco-design projects by students were the rebranding of clothes brand HULA which was redesigned to become a pan-EAA eco-design brand, products designed for small animals in the Tallinn zoo as well as an overview of the environmental footprint of Tallinn City Theatre.

The idea of transforming the EAA clothes brand HULA to become an over-arching EAA brand was fuelled by the wish to promote a sustainable approach and collaboration between all departments of the Academy of Arts. The products created by the principle of upcycling included handicraft notebooks created from students’ old sketches and paintings, dice-shaped penholders made of clay and porcelain leftovers, cutting boards made of oak wood residue and accessories created of scraps of leather, lamp shades, rolled steel and used safety belts.

The second team of students presented smart and innovative products for small animals at the Tallinn zoo. The product development process in this project included surveys among the zoo’s employees and visitors as well as research about the animals’ habitat and necessary conditions. The origins of the basic materials were also mapped adding to the sustainability of the project. One of the products developed was a module nest for rodents made of edible and chewable wood, making also sure animals would not be bored in their cage. As the chewed wood details are easily replaceable, another sustainable layer was added to the project.

Another presented design item was an ecological swimming pool for snakes made of clay and porcelain scraps – a product Tallinn zoo was in desperate need of instead of plastic consumer products. For this given product, the students have already reached an agreement to continue producing them for the zoo in larger quantities.

The third team of students worked on the environmental analysis of Tallinn City Theatre building carried out for the first time. The process included the mapping of problems, the setting of goals and the marking of the “ten environmental commandments” for the theatre. In addition, the students also helped to reorganize the public rooms of the theatre and to design a new theatre hall, with the set design of the play Master and Margarita.

The sustainable design pilot course lasted a year and was open to EAA master’s degree students from all disciplines. The course was financed by the Erasmus+ project Innolabs in the framework of which innovative eco-design projects were created by students at EAA as well as in Latvian and Cypriot universities. The course culminated with the creation of the EAA Sustainable Design Lab where the sustainable design course will continue to be taught next academic year.

Design and development by Soapbox.