Open Re-Design

Start date: 14 March, 2015 End date: 23 May, 2015 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A27635 Institutions: Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark Grant recipient: Christoffer Roed Thorup Total grant: 14,000 DKK



The purpose of this thesis is to address Myanmar's environmental issues directly correlating to soft plastic waste. As very few actors are confronting this challenge, this thesis is through five months of design research proposing to stage soft plastic waste as an abundant material redesign opportunity for innovative concept designs.

The generation of waste in Myanmar is predicted to increase by 400-600% before 2025, and with plastic as a significant contributor (Ngoc og Schnitzer 2009), the country is faced with a glaring sustainability challenge; it must address the widespread dumping of waste in waterways, roadsides and landfills across the country (ibid.). Myanmar must find new ways to both collect the waste and handle it in the end-of-life stage. In an attempt to analytically uncover the actor-network of waste, this thesis takes the reader through burning fields of soft plastic; it documents haphazard waste dumping, discusses the chronically inefficient waste collection system currently in place, and finally it highlights a lack of actors who would strategically induce change in this field.
This thesis introduces a participatory design space called Open Re-Design, which turns this waste burden into opportunities. Through the Open Re-Design sessions various co-design tools are used in the attempt to unfold design dialogue with various actors within the building material sector. This process has created a final concept design that utilizes soft plastic waste in the design of ‘tiled sheets’ used to strengthen the thatch roof of the traditional Myanmar rural bamboo house. The concept design is currently being tested in two locations in Mawlamyine.
Based on the activities during the ‘Open Re-Design’ sessions, this thesis proposes insights into when and how a participatory design process is designer-driven, people-driven and mutually driven. As the process was both designer- and mutually driven, it is found that the processes were never entirely people-driven. The thesis also show the importance of the two crucial designer-driven phases; both times it was the catalyst in developing mockups, prototypes and sacrificial concepts as ‘translating intermediaries’ that evoked design dialogue. The thesis concludes that there is a need to alternate a burdenful design challenge by introducing translating intermediaries that evoke design dialogue in developing countries.