Sketches for (Im)possible Designs

The functional prototypes presented elsewhere on this website were developed outside of the constraints that shape and limit the design of normative products and systems. The approach can also work across bigger scales of energy and infrastructure—whilst these would be impossible to implement at this time, concepts can still be demonstrated through illustration. The examples presented here describe situations where we redesign events to ‘catch’ the energy that would normally be transferred into non-useful forms.

Madeira Gravity Bridge. 2017

Water flowing from the island’s interior to the coast, along ancient hand-built canals, is diverted onto the imagined megastructure, filling vessels suspended from its deck. When released these large masses drive mechanisms, generating power for the communities clustered around the bases of the structure. Upon reaching the bottom, the water is discharged back into the waterways and the considerably lighter container is raised again, ready for another cycle of energy capture and release.

Tugged Boats. 2018

Tugboats have long been employed in harbours and ports to pull larger vessels into dock or out to sea. The simple tug when converted into a dragged or ‘tugged’ boat could usefully capture some of the energy large cruise ships or ferries use when slowing down to come into Funchal harbour. This proposal challenges the thinking that all vehicles require fitting with energy recovery devices, when the changes could instead be made locally, to suit the infrastructure they interact with.

Gengas. 2018

Now largely forgotten, wood gas was a major source of transportation fuel during the Second World War. Although unsustainable as a source of energy to power the present global vehicle fleet, it can be used effectively at a smaller, local scale and for multiple purposes. Being slower to start a vehicle, it challenges the necessity for universal and instantly available high speed transportation. Similarly, when used as a home’s primary electricity generator it questions the need for an uninterrupted electrical supply.

A New Scottish Enlightenment, Part II, 'Community Energy Act, 1992', Lochgelly Mineworks. 2014

The speculative design proposal, A New Scottish Enlightenment, examined contemporary relationships to energy generation, distribution, and consumption and was a precursor from which the Newton Machine concept developed. Part II of the project, 'Community Energy Act, 1992', explored the use of existing infrastructures and local knowledge to capture energy from unconventional sources and at scales larger than those possible by individuals. Within the speculation, the disused collieries of Lochgelly, Scotland were repurposed by the town’s former miners to extract thermal energy from the underground mineworks. (Illustration by Dimitri Constantinides.)