Quarantine Design: The Polish Artists Taking Action
default, Quarantine Design:
The Polish Artists Taking Action, Pictured: Anna Petersburska of the Creative Industries Center of the Art Academy in Szczecin manufactures protective helmets using a 3D printer, photo, center, centrum_przemyslow_kreatywnych_asp_en.jpg
Wars, natural disasters, epidemics, but also everyday misfortunes affecting humanity inspire designers to take action. In difficult times, their talents are particularly useful.
The world continues to endure its struggle with a pandemic disease that is primarily transmitted through droplets containing the COVID-19 virus. Virtually every country on our planet, overwhelmed by the scale as well as speed of the spread of the disease, is encountering problems with supplying protective articles, gloves or masks, as well as with equipping hospitals with life-saving medical supplies. People have quickly mobilised to begin assembling aid organisations. Architects and designers have also pitched in.
3D-printed face masks
In many places, using widely available designs or creating their own, young designers are printing protective equipment – participating in the action are, amongst others, the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, and the Art Academy in Szczecin.
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This is how a student from the Faculty of Design at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, Zofia Kozłowska, explained her idea about designing and producing protective equipment, which would greatly benefit related medical services:
My dad is a doctor, so I know about his daily struggles in the hospital. He told me about a shortage of supplies. Reading more about it, I found articles about visors made using a 3D printer. As a student of the Faculty of Design, I came up with an idea about how we can help not only my dad, but also many other doctors and hospitals.
Zofia Kozłowska, trans. AD
The academy’s printers began to serve – like most of this type of equipment in Poland – the production of face shields.
Jakub Omalecki, an employee of the Art Academy as well as a paramedic, inspired designers to create an adapter model that combines a simple mask with a specialized filter. The print4medic.pl app was also created, thanks to which medical professionals can contact designers and report their needs, ideas and comments.
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High school students from Sopot and Gdańsk manufacture protective helmets for medical personnel throughout the country using 3D printers, photo: Krzysztof Mystkowski / Reporter / East News
Inspired by the actions of the Faculty of Design at the Academy of Fine Arts, students of the Faculty of Automotive and Construction Machinery Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology developed a project and began to produce special valves allowing diving masks to be transformed and used by healthcare professionals to protect themselves.
Engineers from the Kraków-based Urbicum company specialising in 3D printing took it one step further. They created and made available on the Internet the VentilAid project – a breathing apparatus that can be printed with a 3D printer. According to Urbicum:
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VentilAid differs from similar projects by avoiding specific pitfalls, especially the difficulty of accessing certain spare parts. We managed to create a fully functional device, for a total component cost of around €40.
The printed equipment is not a substitute for professional medical equipment, but in moments when the healthcare system is completely overwhelmed, it is extremely valuable, because it allows for quick help to reach more patients.
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Disposable protective mask designed by Dr Anna Myczkowska-Szczerska, Faculty of Industrial Forms of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, photo: www.facebook.com / Faculty of Industrial Forms of the Academy of Fine Arts
Year after year, 3D printers are gaining popularity and also becoming more widely available. Architects and designers have been eagerly using the opportunities they offer for years, printing prototypes or architectural models of their designs. Recently, models of housing estates and public utility buildings, vases, tables and machines have been created on 3D printers. Now, this piece of equipment has been busy with a different type of work – printing face shields for doctors.
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The first set of protective equipment manufactured in this way was delivered by the Silesian architectural studio Medusa Group to Specialist Hospital No. 4 in Bytom. The Warsaw office MJZ realises orders from the capital’s hospitals and clinics, and the children’s hospital in Zielona Góra, the oncology hospital in Wrocław, as well as facilities in Grójec and Kartuzy are getting face shields printed in the studio of Oskar Zięta, who has also made his project available online for anyone to use.
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Vacuum cleaner bag mask instructions developed by Dr Monika Wojtaszek-Dziadusz, Faculty of Industrial Forms of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, photo: www.facebook.com / Faculty of Industrial Forms of the Academy of Fine Arts
Increasing numbers of similar initiatives and projects are appearing, which means that more and more people have a chance to take advantage of the ingenuity of Polish designers – because designers’ skills are also useful when you need to create something ‘out of nothing’. It is rather obvious that not everyone has access to a 3D printer, yet everyone should be able to protect themselves against the virus.
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Dr Anna Myczkowska-Szczerska from the Faculty of Industrial Forms of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków has made available a design she developed for making a disposable face mask from paper. Dr Monika Wojtaszek-Dziaduszhas contributed with a project based on a face mask made from a vacuum cleaner bag, which doesn’t require any sewing. In addition, Tomek Rygalik has published a video-guide on his Facebook profile on how to construct a frame for a face shield from a clothes hanger and several paper clips.
Surgical mask origami. Maseczka chirurgiczna origami.
Architecture & medicine
It has been more than 100 years since humanity has had to deal with an epidemic of the proportions that we are seeing today. For now, architects and designers are taking ad hoc actions, designing items needed here and now. However, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 coronavirus will affect global architecture and design in the long run. The disease that has affected the entire world will certainly leave its mark on design – just as it has before.
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From the 1880s (when Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis) until the mid-20th century (when effective drugs were found, and later a vaccine), tuberculosis was killing more than 1.5 million people every year. This included everybody – children, adults, the rich and the poor. Before the first effective drugs for tuberculosis were developed, surprisingly, architecture played a role in treatment. Tuberculosis was eased by sun and fresh air – so sanatoriums were built in the mountains, where patients could recover.
In 1933, a sanatorium was opened in Paimio, Finland. The construction – the work of the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto – is considered a milestone in the development of not only spa architecture, but also modernist architecture in general. The Le Corbusier-esque horizontal stripes of windows and balconies, large glazing, and generally horizontally stretched, simple, straight body of the structure perfectly met the needs of weakened patients. They spent long hours on the sunny balconies basking in the sun. This, in turn, became the topic of works of literature or film.
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Alvar Aalto was not the only one who understood the connection between architecture and healing. A unique duo of Warsaw architects, authors of numerous public utility buildings – Jadwiga Dobrzyńska and Zbigniew Łoboda – have also contributed to spa architecture. As early as 1929, they began working on the design of a children’s sanatorium in Istebna. Seven hundred and fifty metres above sea level, on the slope of the Kubalonka Pass, the architects created a complex of pavilion buildings housing not only a sanatorium or medical and treatment rooms, but also a school – because treatment of lung diseases took time, and children spent whole months in the sanatorium.
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The creators of the sanatorium in Istebna created a picturesque composition of small buildings connected to each other, set on terraced slope, and in the background, an eight-storey tower – housing flats for the staff. Dividing the sanatorium into a number of smaller buildings was not only for aesthetic purposes, but also because this made it possible to curtail contact between those who were ill and those who were healthy, minimising the risk of infection. The rooms had windows opposite to each other, which made for easy ventilation (openwork, rather than stone balustrades were used for this), and long strips of roofed balconies allowed the patients to rest in the sun. The rooms were also provided daylight thanks to low windows and sloping suspended ceilings, which reflected the sun’s rays.
Many designs created for the sick were made with great attention to detail. Alvar Aalto designed a special sink for the sanatorium in Paimio, in which water flowed down its sides, to minimise the sound of splashing or dripping, which could disturb other patients. In Istebna, Łoboda and Dobrzyńska created a stair railing with double handrails. In addition to the traditional ones, the second set of handrails hung lower so that children could hold on to them. Instead of a cold white, the walls of the sanatorium were painted in bright, but slightly blue colours.
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With a similar understanding of inhabitants’ needs, a hospital and sanatorium complex was designed in the Ustroń-Zawodzie Medical and Rehabilitation District. This largest and still best-known investment of this type under the communist regime is the work of the prominent Silesian architects Aleksandra Franta and Henryk Buszko. The heart of the complex is a huge hospital building equipped with balconies and terraces extending along the entire length of the facade. Built on the slope of Równica Mountain, it was connected to a spa house and service pavilions, which were fitted with glass with a network of ramps and roofed corridors. Thanks to them, patients – regardless of the state of their health – could move between the individual parts of the sanatorium.
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A well-designed tool
Designing for people with special needs often requires a choice between aesthetics and functionality. There are projects, however, in which both these features were combined. In the 1960s, Danuta Duszniak developed a number of tableware and cutlery projects for hospitals and sanatoriums. The shape of the cutlery took into account the needs of people who had mobility difficulties, while the tableware consisted of universal, matching elements that were easy to store. The design of the plates, cups and jugs was simple yet aesthetic, but also easy to clean and most important, easy for patients to use.
Donata Rucińska, the designer of many models of medical scissors, had to take into account completely different needs. The first medical scissors were created at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, produced by the family company Renomed. Made of steel rod, they are shaped so as to facilitate their use (increasing the pressure on the surface that is cut, as well as precision in movement), and their extremely simple structure means sterility is not an issue. These safe and precise tools from the Dr. Cut Medical series designed by Donata, Maciej and Michał Ruciński have been collecting awards for years; they are also used by surgeons and dentists.
In 2018, an exhibition entitled The Other Side of Things: Polish Design after 1989 opened at the Kraków National Museum. Its curator, Czesława Frejlich, gathered dozens of objects created by Polish designers for very diverse groups of users. The exhibition clearly showed that contemporary design does not mean beautiful gadgets.
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The exhibition included the neurorehabilitation robot Luna EMG, a project by Jadwiga Husarska-Sobina, Paulina Kordos, Michał Mikulski and Paweł Soi. Although its shape resembles modern gym equipment, it is an extremely advanced device aiding neuromuscular rehabilitation, created as a result of a cooperation between biomechanics, physical therapists, programmers, and designers. According to their description of the robot:
It has several exchangeable extensions that can be used depending on the part of the body being treated. The attached electrodes collect information about muscle tension, which is translated into graphs. The saved data on the change of the range of motion allows the patient to track their own progress and the staff to plan the next steps in the rehabilitation process.
Younger patients will appreciate the robot’s other function: the ability to run computer games.
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Luna EMG Rehabilitation Robot, designed by Husarska Design Studio, producer: Egzotech
Thanks to the creativity of designers, objects like these are not only functional, but simply pleasant to use. Nevertheless, our dynamically changing reality can still surprise – making it difficult for us to get used to new designs. Before the world was overcome by the epidemic, architects and designers were busy designing spaces for rapidly ageing societies – because, especially in Europe, it became clear that the needs of seniors should determine the shape of the spaces in which we live. Will design also now encompass the creation of places and objects that will aid in maintaining greater distance between people?
Only a few months ago, the construction of a very unique house in the Nowe Żerniki housing estate in Wrocław was completed. The object, designed by the Major Architekci studio, is designed for three generations: flats with care services for the elderly and disabled, flats for rent (most often sought by young people and families with children), as well as a kindergarten. Experts rated this undertaking highly, delighting in the idea of integrating representatives of various social groups and generations.
The COVID-19 coronavirus has shown that spaces shared by seniors and children – what seemed like a great idea until recently – can, however, be deadly. It looks as though that after a quick response to immediate needs, we will face many more significant changes in the spaces that surround us.
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gosia i tomek rygalik
akademia sztuk pięknych
Originally written in Polish by Anna Cymer, Apr 2020, translated by Agnes Dudek, May 2020