Industrial design duo’s materials research project is 2022 Lexus Design Award finalist
Charlotte Böhning, MID ’23 and Mary Lempres, BFA Fine Arts (Painting) ’18; MID ’23, were named finalists for the 2022 Lexus Design Award global competition. The prize invites young creative talents from all over the world to develop original and inventive solutions that highlight the creative interaction between design and technology.
This year’s brief asked participants to create a concept that anticipates a challenge of the future, meets that challenge with an innovative solution and captures the imagination with its exceptional design. The six finalists for the Lexus Design Award 2022, including Böhning and Lempres, were selected from 1,726 entries from 57 countries. They are currently developing physical prototypes, working with mentors and funding from Lexus. The finalists will then present their work to the judges, who will announce the Grand Prize winner of the competition at the end of April.
Pratt’s classmates applied their knowledge of developmental and behavioral economics, chemistry and fine arts to Chitomousse, the materials research project they submitted to the competition. Chitofoam aims to create an eco-friendly alternative to polystyrene foam (better known by its brand name, Styrofoam), which is not biodegradable or easy to recycle. Recent research has shown that mealworms are able to digested polystyrene without absorbing any of its toxic additives. In the Chitofoam project, discarded polystyrene is fed to mealworms, then natural chitosan fiber is extracted from their exoskeletons to make naturally biodegradable biopolymers.
Assistant-CCE Professor of Industrial Design Henry Yoo advises them during their competition. The two have also assembled a group of Pratt students to work with them, including Natalie Saint and Nic Speed (student makers), Dwight Wu (project renderer), Noah Conte (project photographer), and Vidhu Kota (videographer). project). “We are very grateful for Pratt’s support,” Lempres said, adding that the design school’s leadership has gone “above and beyond” as they work to fabricate the project on campus.
Böhning and Lempres have also recently been recognized for their collaborative work on a number of other projects focusing on sustainability and the use of environmentally friendly materials. In August, they received the second annual report Pratt Material Lab Award for Strøm, a project that explored the ways food waste could be used to make carbon and membrane filtration products.
They were also among six participants in a seven-month campaign regenerative mode incubator sponsored by Waste Management and the Slow Factory Foundation, for which they created a sustainable alternative to leather using biochar produced from plant materials.
In January, the team of Lempres, Böhning, Dwight Wu, MID ’23, and Jessica Smith, MID ’20, were finalists in the Biodesign Challenge’s Sprint Biodesign presented by Google. Their project, BI/O, uses carbon – stored as biochar – and living microorganisms to create a compostable outer case for the Google Nest Mini.
Lempres and Böhning have bonded over their shared interest in material innovation and using waste as a raw material to inspire regenerative solutions that support a circular business model. Lempres explains: “Our interest in waste is inspired by our two experiences WWOOFing in regenerative farms. We saw there that there is no waste in nature and that the concept of waste itself is a concept created by man. We are both deeply inspired by nature and spend our time in the natural world.
In keeping with Pratt’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, they consider cross-departmental support from faculty to be essential to their ability to innovate across departments and sectors. Faculty members and mentors from the schools of design and the liberal arts and sciences, including within the industrial design and math and science departments, acted as advisors and advocates for their work. “It was so valuable to be able to have conversations with design and science experts throughout our studies and survey process,” Lempres said. “The designer must be adaptable, collaborative and endlessly passionate about learning and connecting. The future designer must be able to exist in multiple sectors and to move smoothly from one environment to another, to be a chameleon and a facilitator.
They see many opportunities ahead as they continue to explore the potential of material innovation and sustainable design solutions. “Our goal as designers is to design with nature and do as little design as possible. Instead, we are inspired by the intersection of citizen design, social innovation and regeneration,” said Lempres. “We believe we are entering a new era of design where life-centered design will take precedence and all design will be reconsidered and evolve to promote all life forms and our shared and circular futures.”