Designing Dublin: Learning to Learn

Week 25 – Visit from Damini Kumar

March 24th, 2011

This week we were joined by our final Love the City guest speaker, Damini Kumar. Damini Kumar is Director of Design and Creativity at NUI Maynooth and European Ambassador for Creativity. We invited her in to show the work she is championing in Maynooth, discuss the methodologies of design thinking and inspire the team to reach their potential in the future. Damini always dreamed of becoming an inventor and launched her career by inventing the world’s first non-drip tea pot, having studied Engineering and Product Design in London. This opened up many opportunities for Damini, to gain experience in many prestigious design companies. Along the way she moved to Dublin and has since dedicated her career to teaching and inspiring creativity in others.

Damini believes in everyone’s potential to be creative. To unleash this potential she advocates using various deign thinking tools, such as Edward De Bono’s approach of the six thinking hats. By having creative ideas and using design thinking you can create commercial products, which answer the needs of the end user. Damini also shared a number of insights she has experienced in the design process, such as designers should never expect their user to know what they want, the importance of having observation with empathy and understanding the context of the situation. She believes in the potential of design to solve any problem and has exercised that belief with a number of successful projects, such as the ‘Classroom of the Future’ competition, which 1,600 secondary school students entered their designs to re-imagine their educational experience.

Damini has used the design process throughout her life, from work related projects to life and has proven the potential of design to find new ways of approaching and solving problems. The advice she left resonating in our ears was: you can achieve anything if you believe in it! A wonderfully inspiring person to wrap up our speaker series, which has provided the team with new knowledge, new learning’s and a new way of looking at the world.

Prototype Extravaganza

March 22nd, 2011

Prototype Extravaganza Invite Image

Thank you volunteers!

March 18th, 2011

The Designing Dublin team wish to thank the 30 plus volunteers who have been helping us turn ideas into prototypes! Through your energy, enthusiasm and optimism you have ignited the projects. You are proof that the City is full of talented people. The future looks bright for Dublin! Thank you!

Week 24 – Book club with John

March 18th, 2011

This week in Book Club, John presented with much gusto, three books – ‘Recycle’ by Moira and Nicholas Hankinson; ‘In search of Myths and Heroes’ by Michael Wood; and ‘505 Great Leaders, Scientists, Inventors, Sports People, Stage Performers’ by Robert Frederick. Recycle is a handy inventory of furniture designs which can be created using recycled materials, such as bed spring candle holders and a bird feeder made from an old log. These quirky designs show the potential in unwanted or disposable products and are relevant to the work John and Una are doing at the moment on safety and navigation.

‘In search of Myths and Heroes’ is based on a BBC television series and follows historian Michael Woods as he journeys to remote places on earth in search of the truth behind four myths – Shangri-La, Jason and the Golden Fleece, the Queen of Sheba and King Arthur. Finally, ‘505 Great Leaders, Scientists, Inventors, Sports People, Stage Performers’ picks out people who have made their mark on history and gives the reader a small bio on each. John’s smorgasbord of books was refreshing and created a curiosity amongst the team to uncover further insights, well done John!

Week 24 – Prototyping highs and lows!

March 17th, 2011

A number of projects underwent an initial testing phase this week, with prototypes hitting streets and venues in the Market’s Area! The response to the testing of the prototypes brought to light the urgent need for these projects in the area, with the team members taking many learning’s away for both themselves and the group. Tara and her ‘Lack of ownership’ project tested bringing people of the area together to design pieces of public furniture around their favourite plant, which will then be fabricated and installed near the designer’s house for a week. Shane and Mary and their projects, ‘Lack of linkages’ and ‘Lack of appeal’ hosted a meeting of over 40 key stakeholders involved in creativity. They discussed how creativity can be grown in the area, found ideas for projects which will transform the Market’s area through creativity and linked these ideas with the people who would be interested in carrying them out.

The remaining projects are racing towards prototype! Nuala is busy photographing people, Lindsay is taking video recordings of people, Eimear is stalking down a vacant premise, Vincent is meeting health and safety requirements, Una and John are hammering out logistics and Ciaran is laying the foundation for his prototype. The projects are on the right track and will come to life in the next two weeks!

Week 24 – Visit from Neil McCabe

March 16th, 2011

Neil McCabe, a Dublin City Fire Fighter and champion of the world’s first carbon neutral fire station joined us on Wednesday. Over four years ago, Neil set about boosting the morale in Kilbarrack fire station by refurbishing the station. However, with a shortage of funding, he realised that the only way to refurbish the fire station would be if it paid for itself. This set him on a path of researching during the day while working the night shift to draw up a green plan and define seven themes for sustainability towards creating a carbon neutral fire station. The target Neil set for the project was to adopt technology and best practice, include local business and economy and involve the community. In the four years since then, the fire station has noted an 80% reduction in it’s carbon footprint. It’s the world’s first fire station to put out fires with rain water, treated shower and bathroom water. It’s the world’s first fire station to begin trading carbon stock with businesses. It’s the first in Ireland to use a biodiesel mix in the fire engines. It also houses 1,000 bats in bat houses, several beehives, a commemorative garden, vegetable allotments. These are just a small number of changes Neil has achieved in the fire station to date.

What is most remarkable is the effect that this project has had on the people involved in the project – the fire fighters, the local businesses and local community. It rejuvenated the morale amongst fire fighters, brought retired fire fighter’s back into the station who are now actively seeking projects to work on in other fire stations; local businesses have adopted to provide new carbon neutral technology and equipment and employment rates are up; a number of outreach projects to the community have provided education in biodiversity and awareness of the dangers of fires; the Kilbarrack area in general is enjoying the fruits of biodiversity – with bees pollinating plants, swarms of butterflies and greater range of birds and insects. This project has not only transformed the fire station, but has rejuvenated the Kilbarrack area and has the scale to effect fire stations and communities nationwide.

Neil’s work is the flagship project for the DCC Sustainability Report 2010. It shows how everything is in our own hands, we can improve conditions for others and ourselves, and each contribution adds to Dublin. The project is a template for how other fire stations can work.

Neil’s mantra for the project was – think it out, involve the unexpected and create change, wise words from an extraordinary man!

Week 24 – Interview with New York journalist

March 16th, 2011

Rich Bailey, a New York based freelance writer who worked on the revitalisation and sustainable development strategy for Chatanooga in Tennessee, joined us in studio today. He interviewed John, Nuala and Eimear, spent some time soaking in the studio atmosphere and took in a brisk walk of the Markets Area for an article he is writing on Designing Dublin! Rich contributes to a number of US magazines focusing on urban spaces, planning and community development. It is a wonderful opportunity for Designing Dublin to spread it’s approach and spark conversations about how best to grow rich, layered and happy Cities!

Week 23 – Book club with Lindsay

March 11th, 2011

On a giddy Friday, Lindsay took his turn on the book club with ‘Who’s your City?’ by Richard Florida. Florida previously wrote ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’, a book which proved highly influential around the importance of creativity in business. ‘Who’s your City?’ is a departure from this work, acting as a handbook for helping people to choose which City to live in. Florida’s theory is that places remains distinct and are growing more diverse and specialised. The “spiky world” theory explores the importance of place in the global economy and charts the reality of globalisation under key themes – population, economic activity, innovation and scientific discoveries. It also defines what people hold as important in Cities such as physical aspects, opportunities, leadership and openness. The book advises how to balance the economic traits of a City with the lifestyle opportunities it provides when choosing where to live. Florida proposes a practical 10-step guide for choosing the right City for your personality, which asks you to consider: What is most important to you right now? What do possible options offer you? Does it get you excited? These questions had the team excited, but we were quite disappointed to find there were no right answers! Lindsay recommends ‘Who’s your City’ to people thinking of moving or even for people who would like to remember why they chose to live in their City.

Week 23 – Visit from John Harrington

March 9th, 2011

John Harrington spoke to the team today about sustainability and introduced the Natural Step theory. With a background in advertising, John emigrated to San Francisco for 10 years, and upon returning to Dublin began questioning the problems products were creating, and how to get to the heart of the problem. Sustainability is a hot topic these days, with many understandings of what it is. The Natural Step proposes a framework to make sense of sustainability through a scientific methodology and John began a business where he helps pubic and private organisations implement sustainability in their workplace, using the Natural Step theory. The method works towards securing future human needs by finding what changes need to occur now, identifying actions to create this change and tools which can make it happen. The need for a sustainable approach is evident – the issues with climate change, limited resources and pollution are now effecting all areas of the world. The Natural Step highlights four steps towards a sustainable approach in nature by decreasing – substances extracted from the earth’s crust; substances produced by society; degradation of nature and people meeting their needs first, in an unsustainable fashion.

This approach aims to peel away the layers of complexity surrounding sustainability. John emphasized the need to get not just companies but people to buy into a sustainable way of living. We all have an impact and it’s just about choosing one way or another. This proved a controversial point, with the team questioning how we as individuals can live in a more sustainable way while balancing the more immediate demands of everyday life. A very enlightening talk, the Natural Step is a theory that we can all take away from the project and apply to our lives as we find best.

Real Eyes:

Week 23 – Prototyping gets underway!

March 8th, 2011

This week has seen each project begin to wade through the web of logistics and preparations needed to make the prototypes come alive! We met stakeholders, bought materials, designed posters, made models, invited people to processes, planned events, booked venues, discovered collaborators, tested the limits of health and safety and tested potential outcomes. The team are flying through these preparations to get the prototypes on the streets as soon as possible. Along the way, we have realised the importance of always questioning why we are doing what we are doing – is it answering the ‘Lack of…’ we began with? At this stage, this is crucial to ensure what we prototype addresses the issue and we stay on track. When working at such a speed, it’s easy to lose sight of where we began and why it is important. The team are remembering to step outside the project and look again, more closely, which keeps us all going in the right direction!

We also discovered along the way, the difficulties in getting a prototype off the ground in the City. Each project has encountered many barriers and blockages, from long-term leases to health and safety, to public liability to permissions. These are legitimate concerns, and we have been working within the system to address them. It highlights the differences in thinking between a test project and a more traditional long-term project. There is very little flexibility in the system to enable testing an idea. Imagine what the City could be if it were a hotbed of testing! This is what we are trying in the Market’s Area – if you’re intrigued, keep an eye on the blog for upcoming events as the prototypes hit the streets!