Religion: The Box Set

The Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have a lot in common. So much in common it’s hard to study one without studying the others. Often theologians and academics interested in religion will study all three religions and their respective texts at the same time to understand their commonalities and difference.

To illustrate these commonalities I will be working on a design for a box set of the Torah, The Bible, and the Quran. The set will use iconography common to all three texts as well as elements distinct within each faith to link and distinguish.

Specifically the imagery associated with heaven and Eden, the apple and vines of green will serve as a point of commonality that will reach between all of the books. the distinguishing marks will be a bit more challenging since i’d like to avoid the simple icons currently used to denote the faiths as the Star of David, the Cross and the Crescent Moon.

Images to come soon!

Salaat Bento Box, Part 2

So I’ve been working on developing the Salaat Bento Box idea a bit further, and the idea has evolved a bit.  I met with a former ITP alumni, Noah Waxman as well as with some classmates to get input regarding materials with embedded magnets and fabricating these objects and that conversation got me thinking about simplifying my original idea to concentrate more specifically on the Prayer Mat itself.

The Salaat Bento Box is an attempt at improving the lives of billions of Muslims through design, specifically taking a very Eastern design object, the Bento Box or the Tiffin and using that model to create a modular Prayer Kit that will make it easier for Muslims on the move to pray.

A colorful set of Tiffin tin lunch boxes.A designed wooden Tiffen lunch box from Design Republic by Neri & Hu

Like a lunch box, the kit will be modular, easy to clean and compact while comprehensive.

I wanted to build a prayer mat made specifically for the kit that would fold up easily according to a predetermined pattern and fit perfectly into the confined space. Magnets seemed like the natural starting point, since their subtle interaction can be hidden and embedded into the fabric, but at the same time would allow for a structured folding process.

But simply discussing the concept got me thinking about the mat more closely. A prayer mat is designed to both help point a Muslim as well as offer a comfortable and clean surface to bow upon. The plushness of the material cannot be overlooked, nor can the culture already associated  with the mats. The mats are typically ornate, embossed with beautiful designs that evoke images of mosques and Mecca. When Muslim’s pray in groups (as they often do) they lay out their mats side by side.

Prayer mats layed out side by side at a Mosque for prayer
Muslim’s often use multiple prayer mats side by side to pray together. Pius Lee / Shutterstock.com

The realization I came upon when trying to plan out the layout of the magnets was that the magnets can in fact be used to help link the mats as well, rather than simply help to fold up a mat.

Another point of inspiration was that the mat does not need to plush throughout, only where the knees and ankles touch the ground. That can help reduce the thickness of the material and allow for a smaller fold area. Utilizing fabrication techniques like those seen in Issey Miyake’s bag I can create a structure that inherently folds one way while at the same time offering a plush surface as well as a thin material.

Salaat Bento Box

Over 1 billion Muslims pray 5 times a day. They stop what they’re doing at the sound of the adhaan, a lyrical call to prayer and file into the streets and into the Mosques and point themselves towards Mecca and whisper the words of the Quran. Like any ritual, there are elements that have attached themselves to the process, though not required they’ve gained cultural significance.

All of these items function independently of each other and often a devout Muslim will pick and choose these items as they come across them from their travels. These items often have a sentimental value as well as their religious value.

20121114-181951.jpg

To pray all a Muslim needs to do is to purify themselves, typically by washing their face and arms with water, but if water is not available sand would do. Then they should orient themselves by pointing themselves towards Mecca, and finally they need to perform the prayer if they are able, while reciting the verses. If they are not physically able to stand they can sit. If they are not physically able to sit they may lie down. The entire process is quite forgiving.

What you will notice is that many Muslims use a prayer rug, this is not necessary but it offers the Muslim a clean surface to bow upon. Shi’ite Muslims use a piece of clay known as a mohr to rest their forehead upon when they bow. Some Muslims like to add additional prayers using a tasbeeh, which looks a lot like a rosary. Some Muslims carry with them compasses and booklets with the directions you should pray in order to line up best with Mecca wherever you might be in the world. Muslim women might choose to cover themselves using a chador.

20121114-183020.jpg
I propose to combine all or some of these artifacts into a single object, a Salaat bento box if you will. Compartmentalized and modular, a design minded devotee could purchase the modules they feel is important to them and carry it around in their bags like a lunchbox or camera.

20121114-182951.jpg

Ideas taking shape

I’ve been wracking my brain as to what I should build for a final project and I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing I’m happy about just yet.

The first is a multipurpose device which was originally concepted as a intra building mesh network to allow tenants to give feedback and receive information to and from building management. I believe this idea can also be easily repurposed into a clinic patient seating and performance monitor with simple modifications in the software. Tangential to this idea is a (psuedo) second idea (inspired by Sandy) is a waterfront mesh network for flood warnings, using sensors buried in the ground, coupled with a weather based cloud engine and alert devices in house that will warn of impending flooding.

The second idea is a prayer kit for Muslims, which includes a prayer rug, a Qibla finder and a tidy container for all of it that can also indicate time for prayers.

The third idea is an experiment that I’m not certain I’ll be able to create successfully, but I’m interested in exploring it… I want to find a way of creating a silent radiator steam vent. Our