Salaat Bento Box: Part 3

So I’ve started prototyping the prayer mat, and I’ll be working on prototyping the actual kit later today with the help of some fantastic CNC geniuses here at ITP.

Further research and conversation with fellow Muslim designers has led to the discovery of Prayer Travel Mats:

There are several problems with these that I hope my design’s will rectify. One is that the extremely lightweight material means that it blows away easily and is actually very unpleasant outdoors without weights like stones to hold it down. The other problem is that the thinness of the material makes it unpleasant to use for the prostrating prayer.

To rectify these problems I propose using magnets to both offer weight and interactivity to the prayer mats, allowing the mats to link to each other for group prayers and to allow for quick and easy folding. I’ve begun prototyping this using paper and small magnets. I’ll also use felt pads to offer cushion for the knees, ankles and forehead, also adding to the weight to keep it from blowing away. But I’ll position these in such a way to take advantage of the thinness of the nylon while allowing the proper support for a prostrating supplicant.

So there are two ways of sub-diving a standard sized prayer mat (2.5′ x 4′), one is a 3×3 grid and the other is a 6×6 grid. I tend to believe that you can fold the mat as tight as 3×3, but with the felt it’ll become too difficult so I’ll be sticking with a 6×6 grid:

I’ll begin prototyping the actual case for the kit on Friday with a CNC cut foam version of the bento box I imagined and a neoprene case as well.

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 /

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.


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.

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.


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

Damn Lamp Redux

The “Damn Lamp” was a lamp my friend Sarah Lowe made for her MFA thesis at San Jose State. The Lamp was a visualization of mortality of the plague in 1665 London. She would call it the “damn lamp” because of both its embodied data and the stress involved in producing and exhibiting it.

I now have my own damn lamp, though it doesn’t embody any particularly damning data. As you might have gleamed from my previous posts on the matter, I’ve had several ideas that I’ve chased in my quest to build this lamp, all ending in failure for one reason or another.

After almost giving up I came back today and pulled on some of the lamps I’ve found most inspiring. It turns out the most inspiring lamps (to me) are the ones that play with ready made materials and put them together in different ways.

I first thought of building a faucet light, switched on by turning a spigot. This was inspired by one of the many trips I made to the Home Depot to try and get materials for the failed lamps I have half built. While wandering the piping isle looking for bases I found a spigot with a red handle that just stood out to me.

I started putting together my faucet lamp, but out of frustration with embedding a switch inside the tight shaft, I gave up and re-examined the materials I had available and the constraints that were forcing my design decisions. With the time remaining I decided I had to work with materials that were going to be easy to work with. Instead of soldering LED’s which hadn’t arrived yet, I had to reconsider the LED based design. Lighting Plus on Broadway was a source of immense inspiration. I found the bulb couplers and I couldn’t stop playing with them. I purchased a few and then reimagined my faucet lamp instead as a wall lamp.

Lamps Update

So I went back to Material Connexion on Friday with my friend Nora who has had considerable experience with fiber optics. I explained to her what I’d like to do and how I’d like to do it, and we looked at the variety of materials available to us at the library in Manhattan.

There was the beautiful Lumiblade OLED panels that would work, but wouldn’t be as flexible as I’d like them to be.

Along those same lines was the Sensacell panels, that you see in a lot of interactive installations. They also sacrifice flexibility but instead you gain a considerable amount of interactivity.

But ultimately, the materials I’d like to work with turns out to be the Lumitex fiber optic sheets. Material Connexion didn’t have any in their library but they did  have the Italian brand Luminex fiber optic fabric. Unfortunately, the Luminex is very dim and as a result a no go for what I’d like to accomplish. Nora mentioned she has some Lumitex at her studio and I plan on visiting later this week to play with it, but at this point I’m considering an alternative construction.

Enter Origami.


Fiber optics / Lights

I’m often surprised how little people have used fiber optics to create lamps and lighting solutions. I have seen some examples, they’re just rare, which makes me wonder if there’s an inherent problem or if designers just don’t like the materials. Regardless, I’m thinking about playing with this material from a Material Connexion to design a flexible desk lamp that lights up. 


We’ll see what happens!

Playing with Printers

I’ve been doing a lot of printing these past few weeks, which is wonderful. I build a lot of code and to finally have something physical to hold and display is validating. For Ideas Taking Shape we’ve been building a lot as well, including spending some time at the MoMA this past week to research and build an object in the style of an artist or designer from the 20th century.

The design exhibit at the MoMA is wonderful but it’s also very limited, the Cooper Hewitt is by far the better museum when it comes to designed objects, nonetheless there were a number of very interesting pieces. Instead of choosing an industrially designed object I became fascinated by the work exhibited next door at the architecture section, in particular the model of the Sevilla Parasol.


Parasol in Seville

The organic shapes and airy beauty of it is just captivating to me and I wanted to try to create something like that. So I took to my 3D software of choice (SketchUp) which I had used successfully before in architectural drawings but when it came to creating organic shapes, I was hopeless with.

I was adamant however that I print my object this week so I printed it out and created my first 3D printed object using the MakerBot. This insistence might partly be due to the fact that I visited the new MakerBot store near NYU two weeks ago to see their new Replicator 2 and then heard about FormLabs and their new product. Exciting times for 3D printing.

What I ended up printing turned out to be a lot less exciting, due to a lack of technical skill with 3D software. I got a few tips from classmates though, which hopefully will lead to a better version of this before the term ends. I’m looking into Rhino for Mac and the Plethora Project, which seems to be an amazing resource for anyone interested in learning about generative art and 3D modeling.

Objects imbued with emotion

We’re starting a new term at ITP and I’m enrolled in what looks to be an excellent course on product design called Ideas Taking Shape. Our first assignment is to create an object our of plain wood that would embody an emotion. I decided to work with the emotional state that stress creates, though I’m not certain if I can call “stress” an emotion. Nonetheless, I first imagine creating a sculpture not unlike the “Atlas” sculpture outside of Rockefeller Center, a man who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.

I drew out some sketches of a thousand needle like objects flying haphazardly onto a single object. Instead of splinter a piece of wood into a thousand bits I tried to find objects that already had the form I desired. This lead me through a search of materials at hand and materials I could purchase and I settled upon Toothpicks. Through the process I also happened upon some old Jenga blocks that we were going to throw out and I realized how perfect the blocks were for this creation.

The result is two sculptures that try to embody what stress might feel like, the never ending attack of deadlines, projects, commitments and obligations that are juggled precariously by the individual.