Annual role model competition showcases student prowess in healthy materials


Organized by the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design, the competition produced submissions from more than 35 countries, answering the call for an improved material world.

Joseph P. Sgambati III

Grand prize, model competition: Flood points by Eric Hu, Anthony Vesprini, Nalin Chahal, Parsons School of Design Courtesy of Healthy Materials Lab

Design ingenuity conspires with environmental advocacy in work hailed by this year’s Parsons School of Design Model contest rewards. The Healthy Materials Lab – a research collective within the institution – challenges the global student body to push material boundaries while considering environmental and social implications.

Motivated by a grand prize of $1,000 and the opportunity to advance material dialogue, this spring’s competition garnered entries from more than 35 universities in 11 countries. The volume of submissions earned two winners and four honorable mentions.

The two grand prizes went to Flood points by Eric Hu, Anthony Vesprini and Nalin Chahal of Parsons and Rethinking contact lens packaging by Ursula Michelle of the Pratt Institute. Although very different in scope, both reconcile human rituals to live with the afterlife of the product.

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Grand Prize: Rethinking Contact Lens Packaging by Ursula Michelle, Pratt Institute Courtesy of Healthy Materials Lab

Flood points designed an architectural solution for Northern Queens in New York to embrace rising sea levels. This urban intervention postulates the construction of buildings capable of one day blending safely into the natural coastline with aquatic wildlife. At a granular scale, Rethinking contact lens packaging challenges the minutiae of consumption through the habit of disposing of single-use contact lenses. The redesigned box used to deliver a new pair is split in half and reused to properly recycle aluminum covers and used lenses while the remaining packaging is composted.

The honorable mentions are just as gymnasts in the recovery of biomatter and natural waste. Both BIOdrain: A Purifying Biochair Paving Solution derived from municipal solid waste, by Marla Brown of the University of Minnesota, and The ground cover composed of displaced London clay, by Daniel Pope of the Bartlett School of Architecture University College London, seeks to divert the waste stream from their respective materials and find new purpose in future construction.

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Honorable Mention: BIOdrain: a purifying biochar paving solution derived from municipal solid waste by Marla Brown University of Minnesota Courtesy of Healthy Materials Lab

Some, however, take a more poetic approach with their material narrative. (Stool)Stool, by Mary Lempres and Charlotte Bohning of the Pratt Institute, uses mind and biomass to close the loop on animal waste with functional furniture. On the other hand, Mourning march/Funeral bricksan alchemical blend of cremation ashes and adobe, by Samantha Cadigan of Colorado College, confronts the macabre by using the body as memorial building material.

Unlike conventional design and production methods, the winning designers of this competition demonstrate a level of empathy that seems ingrained in the DNA of their concept.

You may also enjoy “Role Model Award Winners Lead the Way in Healthy Materials”

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