Susan Szenasy rocks the house!

On a rainy night in March, we opened up our offices to a group of students, professors, and design professionals for a screening of Brilliant Simplicity: 15 Designers Research Collaborate Innovate, a short film from Metropolis magazine that “traces the many ways innovation can happen.” It’s an inspiring 25 minutes, offering quick takes on projects designed by winners and runners-up in Metropolis’ Next Generation competition. For me, some of the highlights among the many ingenious works and products featured were: the Hydro Wall, a thermal building skin that collects rainwater during the day, allows it to be warmed by the sun, and the resultant heat to be re-radiated into the building at night; lunar-resonant streetlights, which respond to ambient moonlight just as indoor light sensors respond to available daylight; and the work of Single Speed Design, who built a surprisingly beautiful prototype house out of infrastructure refuse recycled from Boston’s “Big Dig” highway project.

After the screening, Metropolis Editor-in-Chief Susan S. Szenasy – an engaging, enthusiastic speaker and seemingly tireless presence – led a wide-ranging discussion that touched on everything from how LEED certification is helping to push the A&D community to ask more questions about materials sourcing, to an animated discussion about the film The Greening of Southie, to how we can learn from earlier innovations – an example of this being how the jacquard punch card was an early step in the development of computing hardware.

Szenasy also put in a plug for the Design Revolution Road Show, a travelling exhibition that’s currently bringing “product design that empowers” to schools across the US—by means of an Airstream trailer that’s loaded up with incredibly thoughtful, humanitarian design solutions, such as the Lifestraw, a point-of-use water purifier for use in developing countries; toys and learning tools for handicapped persons; cleaner-burning cook stoves; and Grow, “solar ivy” which harvests energy through wind as well as the sun.

The event at our offices was sponsored by Kimball Office, and many of us took home a capacious Kimball tote bag – which one could use for anything from shopping to schlepping home materials samples to, perhaps, carrying your bags of kitchen compost to the Union Square Greenmarket.