Decoding Design

MoMA ponders a spectrum of safety-focused designs

Posting in Design

You would think that manhole covers had pretty much exceeded the design stage. Not so. The utility Con Edison is using an updated version, the work o...

You would think that manhole covers had pretty much exceeded the design stage. Not so. The utility Con Edison is using an updated version, the work of American designers Gin L. Eng and Marco Meza, that traps less steam than legacy manhole covers while still protecting the electrical goods or pipes below. The upshot: it reduces the chances that trapped steam will force the manhole cover to surge up, causing all kinds of havoc.

The manhole covers are among many devices, aids and tools on display as part of the Museum of Modern Art "Born out of Necessity" exhibit. The objects all share common intentions: solving vexing problems and making life safer and easier.

The New York Times' Roberta Smith notes that the exhibit's title is well reflected in the range of pieces: "Most of the designs here fall somewhere between life-and-death necessity and modern-living convenience, but the more pressing the need, the more intriguing they tend to be."

Some items of note include:

  • The Solar Bottle, designed by Alberto Meda and Francisco Gomez Paz, uses a combination of transparent plastic and aluminum to attract UV-A rays from the sun and help kill microbes in water. Designed for use in communities that only have access to untreated water, it is also made for easy mobility.
  • The LifePort Kidney Transporter, which is designed to keep a kidney, bound for a transplant, viable during transit.
  • The 1952 M38A1 Army Jeep. It looks like a basic truck but it was built for protecting soldiers. It has both a blow profile and a high clearance, for driving over rough terrain. The windshield can be folded down, the wheels easily removed and the vehicles stack easily for transport.
  • An emergency vessel by designer Nikhil Garde, called the Sea Shelter. This fusion of an inflatable boat with a pop-up tent includes, notes Smith, "an ingenious built-in underwater step to facilitate clambering aboard."
  • Seemingly mundane items that many of us have and either use often, such as reusable ear plugs, or hope to never use, such as lightweight metal ladders for escaping a house fire through a window.

The exhibit runs until through January 28.

[Via: The New York Times]

Image: Flickr/JamesCohen

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure