Industrial Design

A Beach Umbrella that Uses the Sun’s Energy to Cool You Off

I have a fairly large patio behind my house that is in direct sunlight from about 11:00 in the morning until about 6:00 in the evening. It gets a little toasty during the summer months, and while I have a patio umbrella, the umbrella doesn’t do much more than provide shade. Wouldn’t it be great if when the umbrella was extended, it could do more? Something like provide energy that could be used for a variety of things. Apparently Sammontana, Italy’s leading gelato, and frozen treats brand thought the same thing, so they teamed up with the international design and innovation firm CRA-Carla Ratti Associati to design a beach umbrella that uses solar energy to do just that.

The umbrella features an unfolding photovoltaic array that generates electric power which is then used to do things like charging your device, or run a refrigeration system. Designed in collaboration with the proponent of “transformable design” Chuck Hoberman and inspired by aerospace technologies the umbrella strives to transform how we think about products and multifunctional design. The first prototypes of the beach umbrella will be showcased in the city center of Milan, Italy, from June 12th at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park.

The beach umbrella opens like a work of origami or in a similar fashion to the solar systems on NASA spacecraft. At 2.5 meters high (8.2 feet) and a diameter of 3.2 meters (10.5 feet), the foldable photovoltaic panels on top of the umbrella absorb sunlight from the whole hemisphere and convert it into electricity, powering coolers and nebulizers underneath. In particular, for Sammontana, a mini-refrigerator allows them to keep gelato and drinks cool even during the warmest hours of the day. Electric power from either one or multiple umbrellas can be pooled together to power a large ice-cream refrigerator. The modular system is conceived to be scalable, bringing clean energy to larger public areas.

“Can we use the power of the abundant summer sunshine to make our holiday experience more sustainable?” says Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The design concept of this project starts from using the sun to produce electricity to cool the space under the umbrella – and then scale it up to provide power to any beach resort. We are delighted that Sammontana invited us to develop this project, as both our organizations share a strong commitment to environmental values and human wellbeing.”

Since 2016, Sammontana has initiated a process to reduce the environmental impact of its production activities, inspired by the principles put forward in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The program features an assessment and compensation of the CO2eq of the Sammontana products as well as a choice of the most advanced packaging solutions. 

A prototype of the beach umbrella will be exhibited from June 12th to August 8th, 2021 at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park, which is an initiative of the Riccardo Catella Foundation. The installation, located in the fashionable Porta Nuova district of Italy’s design capital, creates a lounge area that can be accessed by the public free of charge, as with all the initiatives of the BAM cultural program. The project is showcased both in the stand-alone mode and in an aggregated form – featuring eleven beach umbrellas powering a refrigerator.

The Milanese test will serve as the first step to evaluate how the innovation process might accelerate and potentially be brought to Italy’s 4,970 miles coastline, promoting a more sustainable approach to summer leisure.

Cinta from Lumicast Set My Heart Aflame

I get a lot of email promotions from various companies over the course of the week. Most of them get ignored but every once in a while something rolls into my inbox that gets my attention and makes me stop and take notice for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s the actual design of the email itself, sometimes it’s the product, sometimes it’s a combination of both. So today when I was looking through the folder I’ve set up to collect solicitations from vendors that haven’t been flagged as spam I came across an email for the Cinta firepit from Lumicast, a California-based company that is making architectural cast concrete fire pits.

Most fire pits are rustic block cast stone rings or steel bowls for holding logs. The other common option is table style burners powered by propane. Cinta, on the other hand, is an elegant canyon of cast concrete with a unique form articulated by the axial parametric ribbons, that cradle the flames within a vessel of digitally sculpted terrain.

This hand made item is available in limited production at a cost of $15,000.00, so all of my well healed friends with the means I implore you to consider picking one of these up for your outdoor leisure and entertaining activities. Just look at it. If I had the cash, and the space, this would definitely end up warming me on cool nights as I lounge on my patio.

As I spent some time on the Lumicast site I was impressed not only with the quality of their designs but in the manufacturing process that uses 25% recycled materials to make our products more sustainable and is more environmentally friendly while producing a product designed to last a lifetime.

Fixture or Sculpture? You Decide.

When you think about it, the design of the common bathroom sink hasn’t changed that much in the last couple hundred years or so. It’s basically a large basin with a water source and a drain. More often than not the look is a variable from a common shape, rectangle, oval, square, etc. While there are variations in styling it’s not the kind of thing that most people would show off to their guests and talk about the beautiful lines, and aesthetic appeal of it.

This, however, is something that you probably would show off to your guests, or at least get a reaction from them after using your bathroom. That’s exactly what the AVID sink achieves, with its sculptural form that seems to float. The shape encourages touch and the exploration of form. Inspired by the deformation of a soft surface when we apply pressure to it with a finger, the organic indent forms the basin for the water to be held.

There are two versions of AVID. One that has a thin edge, and another that has an apron extending about 6 to 8 inches below the shelf. Each is equally attractive and functional. The thinner of the two can also be mounted on a cabinet, but in my opinion, that would detract from the shape itself. There is something about the way the thin edge version sits in its space that makes it so appealing.

One thing I am curious about is how you would hide the P-Trap under the drain on the thin edge version? It would be impossible to conceal it unless you ran the drain back into the wall and concealed it within the framing of the structure. Something that seems to be more daunting than leaving it exposed beneath the sink. The better solution would be to use a piece of high-end plumbing that has a lower profile and looks as good as AVID does.

AVID was designed by Nacho Fontelles Arnau & Carlos Granell for Indutec there is no word on pricing or availability. At least I couldn’t find any on the Indutec website.

Thanks to Layer, the Beosound Balance, Looks as Good as it Sounds

I’ve always loved Bang and Olufsen products. I know many people will argue that they aren’t the best sounding audio gear for the price you pay, but you have to admit they make beautiful stuff. Bang and Olufsen’s design aesthetic, choice of materials, attention to detail, and yes, the audio quality in my opinion. Sorry folks my ears don’t hear well enough to play the granular specs game.

Design agency Layer has designed the new “Beosound Balance” for Bang & Olufsen and the look is so nice. The distinctive, sculptural silhouette expresses the speaker’s performance, with a large base unit supporting a textile-covered cylindrical speaker. Controlled with a touch- and voice-activated interface (using Google Assitant) on top. This is sort of Bang and Olufsen’s entry into the smart speaker market.

The result is a room-filling, three dimensional sound from a speaker that takes its inspiration from the design language of domestic objects rather than high-tech electronics products. This is the first project by Layer for Bang & Olufsen and was 18 months in research and development.

The form of Beosound Balance is driven by the speaker’s audio performance, with a simple, cylindrical base unit on which a more expressive form sits. Together, these two elemental forms combine to create a sculptural object – like a plinth supporting a sculpture or vase. It’s this look that sets it apart from the cylinder/block format of most smart speakers in the market today.

The timber base unit contains a large, omnidirectional bass speaker driver, which is positioned with a vertical orientation and topped with a metal mesh screen featuring perforations in a Fibonacci sequence. The bass is reflected off the rounded metal base beneath the top form, maximizing its acoustic potential and providing a room-filling, low-end rich sound. 

The softly sculpted upper unit contains the precise mid-range drivers and tweeters, which complete the warm, well- balanced audio performance. These drivers – which provide directional audio – are positioned under a seamlessly knitted textile cover. 

To reinforce Bang and Olufsen’s positioning of “Beosound Balance” as an object to be looked at as much as listened to, the speaker is crafted from a rich palette of materials that are more readily associated with homewares and soft furnishings than high-tech or audiophile products.

The base unit is made from FSC-approved solid timber, blocked and turned as in furniture production. This material choice not only oozes craftsmanship but also offers quality and superior sound resonance. The upper unit is wrapped textile, with a nod to interior upholstery; while the metal reflector and the interface panel are made from pressed aluminum and inspired by finely crafted tableware. The textile wrapped power cable is long enough that the speaker can be easily positioned around a room as needed, meaning the speaker is not constrained based on power needs. (I love the fact that they used a textile-covered cord. It always seems to be the one thing that gets overlooked.)

Beosound Balance won’t come cheap. It rolls in at $2250.00 dollars. Way more expensive than other smart speakers on the market. It is Bang and Olufsen though, and I’m thinking if you are considering B&O products you can probably afford this price point. You’ll be able to pick this up starting in March of 2020 on their website, third-party retailers and in Bang & Olufsen stores.