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May 13, 2021 By Perspective
Perspective: Innovation| High 5
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5 things you need to know about: a light-drenched resort tucked away in the Saudi Arabian desert, an alternative form of silk, new U.K. design standards, a sanitizing sun, and reusable cutlery backed by Pharrell
By Perspective May 13, 2021
Published in Perspective
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(Above: Sharaan Nature Reserve courtesy of Jean Nouvel)

1. Letting Nature Have Its Way

Inspired by Nabatean design, architect Jean Nouvel wants the new Sharaan Nature Reserve to be at one with its surroundings. Located in an area of Saudi Arabian desert just opening to tourists, the reserve will span over 1 million square feet and include 40 rooms, three villas, and 14 pavilions when it’s completed in 2024. The team at The Ateliers Jean Nouvel worked to create the resort around the area’s storied rock formations—without it being claustrophobic. One solution was to create a hollow sphere that serves a ceilingless grand patio flooded by natural light.

“We simply elevated the motifs we found: The rock is profound,” Jean Nouvel said in an interview with Architectural Digest.

2. Fermenting Fibers

Japanese biotech company Spiber and Japanese apparel brand Goldwin teamed up to “grow” an $800 sweater partially made of an alternative version of spider silk grown in a bioreactor. Dubbed "Brewed Protein" by Spiber, the fiber is made from microbes, sugars, and minerals put in large tanks to ferment. The microbes are then separated from the protein, dried, transformed into a fiber, milled, and dyed. Because of its limited quantity, the Brewed Protein is combined with 70% wool to create the sweater, which Goldwin says is “the starting point of the solution for global-scale environmental issues.”

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"Brewed Protein" and wool-blend Sweater by Japanese companies Spiber and Goldwin, courtesy of Goldwin
"Brewed Protein" and wool-blend Sweater by Japanese companies Spiber and Goldwin, courtesy of Goldwin
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Mt Pleasant Render, courtesy of Create Streets and Francis Terry Associates
Mt Pleasant Render, courtesy of Create Streets and Francis Terry Associates

3. U.K. Orders Up Beauty, Quality, Community

British housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced the creation of a new governmental advisory body meant “to embed beauty and quality at the heart of new developments.” Nicholas Boys Smith, founder of urban planning firm Create Streets, will lead the creation of a new body with the goal of improving design standards and codes, and empowering communities to demand developments built to local preferences, character, and identity.

“New places should be the conservation areas of the future: popular, beautiful, sustainable, and supportive of public health and wellbeing,” Smith said.

4. Sanitizing Spaces With Light

Dutch social design lab Studio Roosegaarde is working with designers and engineers on a possible solution to help keep public spaces clean and potentially COVID free. Dubbed “the first Urban Sun,” the project is inspired by the scientific research demonstrating that the light wavelength of 222nm can eliminate up to 99.9% of the coronavirus. Founder Daan Roosegaarde says it’s about using “science and design to improve the world around us. We are the architects of our new normal.”

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Urban Sun, courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde
Urban Sun, courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

5. Cutlery With a Conscious

Researchers have long warned of the environmental damage wrought by plastic waste, especially from single-use items. Looking to change that, a design collaboration is bringing used CDs into the circular economy—reinventing the early aughts music staple as a reusable cutlery set. And fittingly, the project has musician Pharrell Williams collaborating with between design firms Pentatonic and Snarkitechture.

Available in a range of colors, the set contains a knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks, and a straw that all fit compactly inside a pebble-shaped case that gives the product its name. And because CDs are made of polycarbonate, the set can stand up to being carted around.

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