Things We’ve Seen at A Better World By Design

A Better World by Design has taken campus by storm this weekend. We decided to experience it for ourselves!


Thoughts on our morning panel…

We started our morning at a panel entitled “Youth Democracy and Design,” moderated by Jen Hetzel Silbert, the founder and curator of Learning 401, an educational non-profit in Rhode Island.

The panel featured Yesica Guerra, director of Crónicas de Héroes/Hero Reports, Sam Gilman ‘15 co-founder of Common Sense Action, and Sam Chaltain, a national educator and organizational change consultant. While the panelists took a few moments each to talk about the work that they had done in their respective fields to design solutions that provide a better platform for youth voice, participants spent the majority of the session asking questions, suggesting potential areas for intervention, and collaborating with one another to brainstorm.

One of the most interesting take-aways was the idea of understanding the delicate balance between individual freedom and group structure within the school system and how this balance can be deeply impacted by the tension that democracy and capitalism create in our public schools.

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So about those bubbles…

The multi-colored bubbles popping up around campus are the brainchildren of a RISD art collaborative named Pneuhaus, which began as a thesis project for 2014 RISD graduates Matthew Muller and August Lehrecke. Over the summer, they added Hunter Blackwell (RISD ‘14, glass) and Levi Bedall (Ohio State University, Architecture, ‘14).

Their mission, according to their website, is “focused around designing objects and spaces that require an active participation from their audience,” and their latest installation is no exception.

Their largest bubble, currently looming in front of the Granoff Center, was described by Muller as “an immersive color installation that allowed people to experience super saturated colors on their own.” However, the bubble, cleverly nicknamed RGBubble by its creators (I didn’t get it but you will in a second), isn’t just an aesthetic feat–it’s an interactive color experiment.

The RGBubble, as hinted by its name, is comprised of red, green, and blue spherical tents, whose intersection is reminiscent of an actual bubble smorgasbord. The transparent tent-like material allows the supersaturated tri-colored light to converge and form white light, projecting onto the white cloth center.

Here’s a quick visual to help you conceptualize. Put your face right up against your computer screen (not yet, we’ll tell you when). Can you see that each white pixel on your screen is actually composed of one red, one green, and one blue LED light? Okay, now you can look. Here is a macroscopic visual of the RGB light color wheel:


Pneuhaus aimed to represent this effect on a larger scale. And despite the magnitude of their endeavor, they started designing the bubble only six weeks ago, and all the fabrication took place within the past week.

Carry me home…

While bumbling around the RGBubble, we ran into Margaret Parish, a fellow pigeon-enthusiast. Parish is a 2014 RISD graduate who takes care of a flock of homing pigeons. The recent grad, along with other members of the RISD Pigeon Club, set up a coop in an unused space near List Art Center, becoming part of a storied history of human/pigeon symbiosis (humans first domesticated pigeons over 5,000 years ago!).

She spoke to us about her unique relationships with the birds, giving them just enough (food, shelter) to feel comfortable, while learning much from them in return, especially regarding other bird populations in Providence and about the city itself.

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The club is also especially humane. Pigeons mate for life, so the birds have a deep connection to their home (as is the nature of homing pigeons), giving Parish no reason to keep them in cages.

Their droppings also make great fertilizer, which inspired the Pigeon Club to cultivate a garden in the aforementioned unused space. We had a ball petting these friendly creatures and sending them on their way home:

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