Design Inspirations: Enzo Mari

When people ask me who is the best designer, I think of a 70 year old farmer who plants seeds of chestnut trees in his field. He works hard but he knows that he will not be there 15 years later, when the trees give out fruits, and shade and wood. Yet he does it anyway.” Enzo Mari to DaMn Magazine 2010

If someone tried to build something, they would learn something” Enzo Mari

The remarkable ideas of Italian designer Enzo Mari continue to inspire us on a regular basis which is one reason why he’s the designer opening our occasional Design Inspirations series of posts. In this post we see Mari exploring one of his key ideas - the concept of cheap sustainable do-it-yourself design. Despite first publishing his ideas on the subject in his pivotal “Proposal for Self Design” book in 1974 this dimension of his work has often been misunderstood. Mari intended his “Proposal for Self Design” as an educational tool. It was not intended to be merely a plan for people to build his chair. I believe Mari was saying “you too can do this” to the general man (or woman) in the street. His chair design was laid out and presented as a ‘case history’ example for us to learn from and go forth and make our own interpretation. Fortunately his ideas seem to be coming back into focus - the proposal was revisited in 2010 (pictures above / videos below) thanks to Finnish company Artek who have also made the chair kit itself available for sale. Now we hope his new 2011 autobiographical book of essays “25 Ways to Hammer a Nail” will be translated into English soon. This is one designer we can all learn something from.

Video: Enzo Mari talks about Autoprogettazione

Video: Enzo Mari demonstrates how to assemble the chair

Video: Enzo Mari AA School of Architecture lecture
[1506.06370] Sun-tracking optical element realized using thermally activated transparency-switching material

[ Authors ]
Harry Apostoleris, Marco Stefancich, Samuele Lilliu, Matteo Chiesa
[ Abstract ]
We present a proof of concept demonstration of a novel optical element: a light-responsive aperture that can track a moving light beam. The element is created using a thermally-activated transparency-switching material composed of paraffin wax and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Illumination of the material with a focused beam causes the formation of a localized transparency at the focal spot location, due to local heating caused by absorption of a portion of the incident light. An application is proposed in a new design for a self-tracking solar collector.