Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cool stuff at the 1989 World Design Expo, Nagoya, Japan

In 1989, while in univeristy, I went to Japan on an AIESEC traineeship. It was an awesome experience!

While I was there, I attended the World Design Expo in Nagoya.

The theme of the conference was Fire. Anything goes. So there was lots of different aspects featured.

There was a whole section of graphic arts, with many posters on fire safefy.

Another section had fire safety products. One product in particular that I thought was rather smart was a fire safety device for buildings. It looked like the long tape you would use to measure distances in track and field. If there was a fire in a building, and the fire escape was blocked, you would anchor one end around something fixed in the office. The other end would go under your armpits. Jump through the window. It would slowly lower you to the ground at a constant speed. On September 11th I remembered it. Perhaps it wouldn't be long enough for so many stories. But it was long enough to go to a floor below the fire.

The second grand prize went to this solar energy cooker.

The idea behind the cooker was that in developing countries, green trees were being cut down for firewood, because all the dead wood had already been burned up. Fewer green trees meant more carbon dioxide, and less oxygen being produced. This is causing an ecological imbalance. The idea was to eliminate burning altogether.

Solar cookers had been around for a long time, but the parabolas were big and unweildly. And they could not store any energy; they only worked in real time. And when the sun went away, there wasn't much energy to work with.

The designer made a portable device for nomadic people. Instead of a parabola, a series of concentric mirrors on a flat plane were used. These were made in four sections that could be broken down for travel by nomadic people.

It had an automatic tracking device to follow the sun through the day.

The sun's heat energy was concentrated onto a receiver at the top, which was collected into a container on the ground, which could be used for cooking. How exactly the heat collection worked, I'm not sure. If it had been worked out, perhaps this was the intellectual property that was not disclosed.

Another concept in the design; it was designed to be manufactured using relatively low tech means. A machine shop in any of the developing nations could manufacture it, and create revenue in the local economy.

I thought this was a brilliantly simple and effective product.

The third prize was a portable fireplace.

The idea behind the portable fireplace was that mankind had been connected closely to fire for millenia. We would gather around the campfire at night, and watch it. But, since the advent of homes with central heating, this kinship with fire had been lost.

The designer made a fireplace that burned a gas flame between two sheets of glass. This could be used in a modern apartment, and the inhabitants could feel and watch the peaceful, calming effect of fire once again.

This was also a portable device that could be placed in the center of the room. To use this, you would not have to modify the building at all, such as putting fireplaces into walls. Although, I imagine you would need to have enough ventilation for the fumes. And, I also imagine that this might cause some kind of fire hazard especially if it was placed on carpet.

I was not allowed to take a picture of the grand prize winner . From memory, it was a scale model for a large scale project to collect hydrogen at sea. The idea behind it being that the burning of fossil fuels was causing a lot of pollution in the world. It consisted of a huge raft with many solar panels. The solar panels would generate electricity, which would then be used to do extract hydrogen from the sea water using electrolysis.

I remember being so impressed with all the designs. After seeing this expo, and returning to university, I actually looked into changing faculties. I went looking in the university libraries for more information on what I might study, in order to do similar kinds of things. I finally discovered that the closest faculty would be "Industrial Design". However, I would finish my business degree soon, and decided against starting all over.


  1. Such a great information. This is what im looking for. Thanks for posting.

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  2. Thank you very much for the post. There is not enoguh information about Expo Nagoy a1989. It would be great if you could load a brouchure of the expo, some mor pics, or whatever...
    Thank you agauin