Post A: Design in Context

Design is a product of a designer(s) and their location, time and context. It is the context of a design that shapes its every detail. While on a recent trip to Milan and Venice Italy, we had the opportunity to visit a glass blowing factory on the Venetian island of Murano. Murano now synonymous world wide with ‘Murano glass’ is the result of hundreds of years knowledge and contextually factors shaping this world famous product.

Fig 1: Murano Glass Blowing Factory Visit
Fig 1: Murano Glass Blowing Factory Visit

The location of Venice in the Mediterranean sea has placed it in a prime position for import and export of the raw and final products to and from Europe, in addition to the sharing of knowledge between surround areas. Knowledge of glass making was a closely guarded secret, however a treaty between the head of Venice and Syria allowed knowledge and skill movement  in 1277 (Rasmussen, S.C 2012. p.42). Further to this, in 1204 the forth crusade into Constantinople drove most of the citys glass blower to Venice. Major consolidation of geographically varied knowledge aided the growth and fine tuning of Venetian glass production.

Not only did the location of Venice aid the movement in knowledge, it was also pivotal to the arrival and departure of raw and finish goods into the city. From Syria and Egypt, Soda ash arrive by ship (Rasmussen, S.C 2012. p.45) in addition to ash import from Syria. Further to this, local Silica from Lido and powdered flint rock from inland rivers beds could be easily sourced. (Rasmussen, S.C 2012. p.45). The ash from Syria was quite advantageous, as it was shipped as ballast when raw cotton was also imported (Rasmussen, S.C 2012. p43).

With a secure material supply, the Venetian glass industry continued to grow on the main island of Venice until several furnace eliminated entire city blocks (Rasmussen, S.C 2012. p. 44). In 1291, all glass production was moved from Venice to the Island of Murano. Murano now famous for Murano glass, was a cluster of highly skilled masters on one small island. Once established on the Island in 1376, the government passed a motion to keep all glass master on the Island (essentially prisoners on the island) but where elevated to middle class, with which came special benefits.

Murano glass has developed from a rich history of contextual circumstances, shaping and forming its contemporary identity.


Barovier Mentasti, R. 2003, Glass throughout time :history and technology of glassmaking from the ancient world to the present, Skira, Milan.

Rasmussen, S.C. & SpringerLink 2012, How glass changed the world, Springer, Berlin; New York.

Whitehouse, D. 2012, Glass :a short history, Smithsonian Books, Washington, DC.

Post C: Life in Jakarta

*Please note the interviewees name has been changed for their privacy.

Lisa an Australian born citizen, lived and worked in Indonesia in 1994-1995 on a “one 3 month stint, followed by 2 weeks there, 2 weeks back in Australia for about 6-8 months” (E, L. 2015), based predominantly in Jakarta on the island of Java. While in Indonesia Lisa noticed many contrasting social and cultural values to Australia,

While living in Jakarta Lisa noticed a massive class difference as luxury high rise or mansions where juxtaposed to shanty towns, see fig 1. This was no uncommon occurrence, with shanty towns, high rise and mansions scattered throughout the city. Within the home, it was common to find the middle class having ‘staff’ working for them; completing everyday activities such as cleaning and cooking. Further to the city’s class structure, superiority in the work place was heavily respected; Lisa citing an example of a talkative team that went silent when the boss was near by. Everyone knew their place, respecting their superiors, more than what you would expect in Australia. Like class, jobs in the work place fostered specific rather than multifaceted roles, increasing productivity, as bribery could be directed to the correct person. Class structure infiltrated all aspects of day to day life in Jakarta.

Fig 1: Shanty town juxtaposed with high-rise in Jakarta (Katherine 2013)

Education was highly sort after, offering life opportunity. A first hand example was Lisa’s challenge to practice Bahasa Indonesian, often a new found ‘friend’ (or cling on) wanted to converse in English to build their skills. With more skills and education came superiority and class. Unlike the pursuit of education, time structure was not valued as it is in Australia. Lisa recalling ‘rubber time’, where one hour could be, was it two or even three hours? All workshops in the workplace were conducted in one room with the toilet next door, to prevent the groups evading and stretching the time to their liking.

Perhaps an influence to rubber time where the lengthy travel times in Jakarta, described as “contorted” (E, L. 2015), taking half an hour to drive somewhere that could reached by foot in 5-10 minutes. However, even with a slow travel times, walking was viewed “only for poor people” (E, L. 2015) and that a car should be taken when ever possible. To combat the heavy traffic, a 3 in 1 (3 people in 1 car) was introduced in inner city areas, however this forged the ‘Jockey’. As the name implies this person take a ride. As a passenger for hire they wait outside the inner city limit waiting to jump into your car allowing you to cross the city with no tax in return for a small payment. The Jockeys like the greater people of Indonesia have created opportunity from their dynamic setting, adopting and changing is a way of life.

Fig 2: A typical Jakarta Jockey (Koslay, M. 2015)


E, L. 2015, Interview with E, L about Living in Indonesia, .

Katherine 2013, America is not a “banana republic”: A response to, Katherine and Bruno’s Adventures, viewed May 11 2015, <;.

Koslay, M. 2015, Jockey life in Jakarta, Australian National University, viewed May 12 2015, <;.

Post D: Traditional Sumatran Housing

Across the thousands of Islands of Indonesia, there are vast styles of traditional housing that embody their local culture and beliefs. As modernity creeps into rural Indonesia these dwelling have been adopted to the changing lifestyle of their inhabitants. Sumatra a northern island of Indonesia’s is home to the Batak Toba people, situated on an; in land volcanic island on Lake Toba. There are six separate Batak ethnic groups, of which two are Islamic and four christian, although they all still embrace their ancient traditions and beliefs. At a local level, the Toba people live in small traditional villages called a ‘Huta’. All the people that live a Huta, are from the same family clan. A Huta generally consist of Houses, Granaries, a large community meeting area and an outer wall, see fig 1.

Fig_1_Traditional Village layout
Fig 1: Traditional Village layout (Hanan 2012, p.801)

The Traditional Batak Tuba house has three level, each intended for different uses (Fig 2). Traditionally, these housed approximately 4-6 families that were all related by marriage. Inside the house is one large communal room in which each family has its own area. At night these areas are partitioned for sleeping by Batik cloths. When entering a traditional house you will notice a lower than average door that you will have to duck under, this also ensures one must bow out of respect.

Fig 2: Layers to the traditional Batak Toba house.
Fig 2: Layers to the traditional Batak Toba house.

However, in recent years these houses have undergone varying levels of modernisation due to ‘repatriates’ returning from city areas, possessing new concepts on “privacy and physical comfort…” (Hanan 2012, p.809) inside the house. This has resulted in often only one family inhabiting a dwelling, in adittion to new dedicated living and bathing spaces, generally resulting in an extension at the rear of the original dwelling. These new dwelling, generally use ‘new’ material types such as masonry and corrugated iron, with a western aesthetic.

Fig 3: Modernisation of the Batak house in Huta Siallagan, Plan View (Hanan 2012, p.810)
Fig 4: Modernisation of the Batak house in Huta Siallagan, Elevation View (Hanan 2012, p.810)

As the houses transform, so does the culture, “…inhabitants feel fashionable and well off having a room for entertaining…” (Hanan 2012, p.810). This is in stark contrast to traditional culture of a Huta, were communal events took place in the middle of the ‘village’. Meanwhile, a monetary value system has forged new values, the contrary of tradition; using favours, privileges and kinships instead of money. As seen, a changing lifestyle has the consequently led to a cultural change of the Batak Toba people. How do you feel about a remote tribes moves to modernise?


DesignersAtelier 2014, Traditional House of BATAK TOBA – Samosir Island, North Sumatra, INDONESIA, viewed April 29 2015, <>.

Hanan, H. 2012, ‘Modernization and Cultural Transformation: The Expansion of Traditional Batak Toba House in Huta Siallagan’, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. Vol.50, pp. 800-811.

Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia The Batak Toba Village and Traditional Houses, Indonesia, viewed April 29 2015, <>.

Post B: Tackling Waste 

Fig_1_Design Academy Eindhoven ‘Eat Shit’ exhibition entrance gate, Milan 2015
Fig 1: Design Academy Eindhoven ‘Eat Shit’ exhibition entrance gate, Milan 2015

‘Eat shit’ is an exhibition from the Design Academy of Eindhoven’s new ‘Food Non Food Department’ in this years Milan Design week, tackling as Thomas Widdershoven the creative director of Design Academy Eindhoven describes an “…explosive, but … entirely appropriate..” (Design Academy Eindhoven 2015) topic. Just beyond the entrance into the exhibition space is an alfresco dinning area that embraces the exhibitions theme ‘Eat shit’. In contrast to furniture fairs fast-food, here you could buy your own pile of handmade ‘shit’, as seen in fig. 2

Fig 2: Lunch Shit, ‘Eat Shit’ exhibition, Milan 2015
Fig 2: Lunch Shit, ‘Eat Shit’ exhibition, Milan 2015

Far from tasting like the exhibitions name, the dish challenges the visitors perception of food, and the form it takes. Taking influence from the ‘Slow Food’ movement which originated in Italy in the year 2000, (Petrini, C. & ebrary, I. 2003).Eat shit’ asks designer to tackle an ever relevant question; of how to feed a world in an every increasing world population. An exhibit piece that questions the very source of our food supply is ‘Bugs Bunny’ by Caroline Schulze. Schulze explores the use of insects as a superior food supply per weight, in comparison to agricultural meat.

As food now digests through your body, you now visit the second component of the exhibition space; ‘Shit’ and ‘waste’. Recent graduate of the design academy, partaking in the ‘Eat Shit’ exhibition was Pim Van Baarsen, who explored the ‘waste’ that we produce. Van Baarsen, as a social designer and a cofounder of ‘Super local’, tackles social and cultural ideas in “90% of the world population that doesn’t have the financial capacity for traditional design” (Baarsen, P.V. 2015).

Van Baarsen’s project ‘Holy Crap’ is focused in the city of Kathmandu, Nepal, were currently “only a fraction of recyclables is recycled” (Super Local 2015).

Fig 3: Nepalese land fill (Super Local 2015)
Fig 3: Nepalese land fill (Super Local 2015)

The Holy Crap system “… encourages households to separate their waste… and for every well separated bag; the household earns credits… diverting 60% of waste from landfills.” (Super Local 2015).  To use the system, a household has to separate their waste into three colour and picture coded bags; one for organics, one for plastics and one for the rest (Fig.4). The basis of the bags is the ease of separation into their respective recyclables stream. The system endeavours to clean up the environment and capture valuable waste materials, while rewarding it users.

Fig 4: ‘Holy Crap’ waste system, ‘Eat Shit’ exhibition, Milan 2015
Fig 4: ‘Holy Crap’ waste system, ‘Eat Shit’ exhibition, Milan 2015

I would be interested to see the results from the trails of this waste system. Will the incentives entice locals rooted in the past to forge into a cleaner future?


Baarsen, P.V. 2015, Pim Van Baarsen, Pim van baarsen, Netherlands, viewed April 28 2015, <>.

Design Academy Eindhoven 2015, Eat Shit (exhibition brochure), Eindhoven, Netherlands, viewed April 18 2015, .

Petrini, C. & ebrary, I. 2003, Slow food, Columbia University Press, New York.

Super Local 2015, Super Local, Holy Crap, viewed April 28 2015, <>.