Surface Summer School

Yves Behar on the Power of Design's Reactivity

The designer and founder of the San Francisco–based Fuseproject kicks off the Surface Summer School lecture series with a presentation to students about design's ability to react to problems in real-time.  

To kick off Surface Summer School, the designer and Fuseproject founder Yves Behar addressed students at UPenn’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design on Monday night as they began a month-long competition to design a mobile testing unit for COVID-19.

Takeaways: “One of the best qualities of design and designers besides being humanistic is our reactivity—our ability to look at problems, see what’s happening in the world, and contribute with our tools, creativity, and learned skills,” he told them over Zoom. Behar’s presentation showcased four of his projects with synergetic themes to the competition.  

PlantPrefab YB1
The prefab accessory dwelling units (ADU) are designed to quell the construction industry’s environmental impact as well as the affordable housing crisis in low density cities such as San Francisco and L.A. Each one is entirely customizable with the option of rooftop solar panels. The decrease in construction time and waste is vast. “Imagine telling your neighbors you’re building a building in the backyard and it’s only going to take 24 hours. The efficiency of prefabs is enormous,” he says.

New Story
The goal of the world’s first 3D printed community, in Mexico, is to provide a template to solving homelessness. (The residents have an average income of around $200 per month.) Each house can be constructed in 24 hours and offers a novel design language for the technology. “It’s a new type of texture because the layers of concrete, laid down in succession, can feel adobe at times.”

New Story, a 3D printed village Fuseproject has been designing in Mexico.

Ori Living
To address the pain points of micro apartments, Behar teamed up with the MIT Media Lab to design a robotic furniture system that transforms living spaces into modular units. 

“Probably today the most successful distribution of eyeglasses for children in the developed world,” he says of the colorful spectacles that Fuseproject has been designing in partnership with the Mexican government since 2010. Not only has the collaboration been a model of efficiency—the cost of each pair and an eye test is around $5—Behar and his team solved what might be an even more insurmountable challenge: convincing kids that glasses are cool. “The big idea was to split the glasses down the middle for easy assembly and unique looks. They could pick colors for the top and bottom part of the frame. They come in many different colors and shapes. The kids who received the glasses started to look at each other and would ‘say look at me! I am unique!’ It was so important to them to stand out.”

See the full schedule for the lecture series.

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