June 14th, 2013
04:56 PM ET

The Right Stuff

Editor's Note: Tune in to CNN Saturday, June 15th, at 2:30 pm ET to see "The Next List's" 30-minute profile of Graham Hill. 

What is most important to you? House? Car? Clothes? Formal china? Probably not. These things might make your life more convenient. To some extent, they might enable you to do the things that Are actually important. But our stuff, when we think about it, isn’t that important.

What is important to most of us? Our friends, families, having meaningful work, amazing experiences. As I have heard it said, “The most important things in life aren’t things.”

Yet somehow, when many of us look at our lives, we see a disproportionate amount of time and energy directed toward stuff. We work extra hard so we can make the car payments. We max out our credit cards to keep up with fashion. We move into big homes so we have a place for the hutch that stores the formal china.

In the late nineties, I had the great fortune of selling my startup. What did I do with my newfound cash? Same thing any good American would: I got lots of stuff like a new car, furniture, gadgets and of course a big house.

This ability to consume was new to me. When I was growing up, everyone in my middle-class, six- child family had everything they needed but not much more. When you’re raised with just enough, you imagine having more than enough will make you that much happier.

But there I was living the American dream–driving a quick car, living in a big house, with the ability to buy more–and I was no happier. What was I missing?

I was missing the fact that no amount of stuff would ever make me happy. I actually found the more things I had, the more complicated life became. There were more things to buy and maintain, more things to keep track of, more things to lose.

A number of events in my life–most notably a serious romantic relationship–made me realize that people, amazing experiences and meaningful work are the real important parts of my life. The other stuff is just stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I love objects and architecture. I studied product design in college and have built homes as a carpenter before I got into startups. But my later life experiences made me reevaluate how and why our stuff and homes were designed. I started to wonder why we often ended up living to support our stuff and homes rather than the other way around?

It was with this question in mind that I started LifeEdited. I wanted to help start a movement where our products, homes and the way we live are aligned with what’s important to us.

On a practical level, this meant doing more with less. The average American takes up three times more living space than sixty years ago. Yet we still don’t have enough room for our stuff, evidenced by a $22 billion dollar personal storage industry. Worse still, we have become a nation of debtors paying for our big homes and stuff. Clearly, our lives could use a good edit.

LifeEdited is starting with homes. We help conceive homes around what is important in people’s lives. We are specialty consultants to architects, currently working in cities such as New York City and Las Vegas. Often, the result is a space that is much smaller than the typical American home. My own 420-square-foot Manhattan apartment sleeps up to four, seats twelve for dinner, has a home office and much more. The smaller footprint is cheaper to buy, easier to clean, greener and, even though there’s a generous 426 cubic feet of storage, doesn’t permit me to collect a lot of unnecessary stuff.

Because I have fewer things, the stuff I do have is quality stuff I love and appreciate.

LifeEdited is about freedom, not restriction. We think the less-but-better approach leads to more money in the bank, more time for friends and recreation and less to think about. It’s about including everything that’s important and “editing” out the rest.

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A 3-D pen that lets you draw objects in the air
February 21st, 2013
11:43 AM ET

A 3-D pen that lets you draw objects in the air

By Brandon Griggs, CNN

We're all doodlers by nature. Give most people a pen, paper and some down time, and they'll fill the margins with the fruits of their imagination.

But imagine if you could wave a pen in the air and create a three-dimensional rendering: A toy, a sculpture, a crude architectural model.

Soon you will. A Boston-based startup, WobbleWorks, has created what they are calling the world's first 3-D printing pen. It's called the 3Doodler, and it's been a sensation on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site, since it debuted there Tuesday morning. The makers of the 3Doodler set a modest fundraising goal of $30,000; within 48 hours, backers had pledged more than $1.1 million.

"We knew it was a great product. But we didn't expect the response to be this fast," said Daniel Cowen, a spokesman for the gadget, which is still a prototype. "The velocity of the response caught us by surprise. It's phenomenal." FULL POST

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December 7th, 2012
02:39 PM ET

Printing 3D Buildings: Five tenets of a new kind of architecture

Editor’s Note: Neri Oxman is a designer, architect, artist and founder of the Mediated Matter group at MIT’s Media Lab. See Oxman's full 30-minute profile this Sunday 2 P.M. E.T. only on CNN.

By Neri Oxman, Special to CNN

In the future we will print 3D bone tissue, grow living breathing chairs and construct buildings by hatching swarms of tiny robots. The future is closer than we think; in fact, versions of it are already present in our midst.

At the core of these visions lies the desire to potentiate our bodies and the things around us with an intelligence that will deepen the relationship between the objects we use and which we inhabit, and our environment: a Material Ecology.

A new model of the world has emerged over the past few decades: the World-as- Organism. This new model inspires a desire to instill intelligence into objects, buildings and cities. It is a model that stands in contrast to the paradigm of the Industrial Revolution, or the World-as-Machine.

While I believe that the new model will eventually become the new paradigm, it coexists for the time being with the old model: our minds are already at home with this new view of the world, but we still employ the building practices and design traditions that we inherited from the industrial era.

For instance, today’s buildings are made up of modular parts and components that are mass-produced and interchangeable. A furniture piece can easily be replaced by a ready-to-assemble kit of parts while a damaged tooth-root or bone can be replaced by the design of a titanium implant.

FULL POST

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December 4th, 2012
09:36 AM ET

The woman who wants to 'print' buildings

Editor’s Note: Watch Neri Oxman’s full profile this Sunday on CNN’s “The Next List”

Who: Neri Oxman, designer, architect, artist and founder of Mediated Matter group at MIT’s Media Lab.

Why you might know her: Oxman was named one of the most creative people in design by Fast Company magazine. She is pushing the limits of what it means to erect a building and believes one day soon we'll be able to "print" our buildings using 3-D printers.

Her artistic medium: At MIT’s Media Lab, Oxman experiments with different printable materials – everything from concrete to silk. She’s also repurposed a robotic arm into a 3-D printer. “How can we reinterpret 3-D printing in a way that suggests a new design language?” she wonders. Oxman plays with different gradients in her materials, with a goal of printing, for example, concrete that can go from porous to dense. “That concrete can be many things,” she says. “That concrete can become a transparent window.”

Her design inspiration: Oxman thinks about architecture and design in completely new ways. Her muse for all of it is nature. Take the spider, which generates a different silk for different purposes: building a web, creating trailing routes, capturing their prey, wrapping their eggs. Oxman believes that in a way, spiders are like a multi-material 3-D printer. “One cannot separate the spider web’s form from the way in which it originated,” she says. “Nature doesn’t divide between the architect, the engineer and the construction worker. These are processes we’re interested in and want to explore.”

Why she matters: The traditions of building construction in many ways are very old-fashioned,” says Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. “The way that Neri has used the 3-D printer proposes … the possibility of a different way of making things. Can we also think about buildings that will be made through a process of 3-D printing – that will make our houses, that will make our cities?”

Oxman as artist: Many of Neri’s “experiments” with 3-D printing and materials are so beautiful they wind up in permanent collections in museums around the world. “I don’t see her work as art – I see her work as architecture and design,” says Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator for Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “You can see her work as art if you look at the object itself, but in truth, it comes from very serious studies and from serious examination of data and figures. What is distilled at the end is an object, that if divorced from all the background, can be considered art. But in truth it’s an experimental study.”

Her roots: Oxman grew up in Haifa, a city in the north of Israel, until she left for the Israeli Army at age 18. Both of her parents are also architects. “I grew up in a modernist house, in a modernist culture. There was a love for modernism everywhere – the furniture, the books, the food, even the cutlery,” she says. “So I learned very early to appreciate the value of design and the value of architecture.”

Something you might not know about her: She's a medical-school dropout.  “It was one day, I remember it clearly – it was a hot day in Jerusalem, and I left class and called my father and announced to my parents I was going to leave medical school,” Oxman says. “I don’t think I would have made for a good doctor. It was not meant to be, and it took me a long time to realize that.”

Her life philosophy: “There is a very beautiful expression in the Hebrew language that’s borrowed from spoken Torah… ‘All is predicted and permission is given at any point to change anything,’” she says. “I think I live by this idiom in the sense that there is always a goal there is always something to look forward to in life and my creative search and that goal is there … and when I look at it I know it can change at any point and I give myself permission to completely reconsider it every time I look at it. And that’s a very empowering and invigorating way to live life for me ... that maintains an openness toward anything that I choose to pursue.”

 

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September 25th, 2012
10:49 AM ET

Turning trash into building material

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - Susanne Heisse is founder of Pura Vida, a movement for alternative trash management in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Her innovation: the eco-brick.

In its simplest form, the eco-brick is a plastic bottle stuffed with inorganic trash. Stuffed to capacity, these bottles are of sufficient integrity to be used as building blocks for homes and schools throughout Central America.

With the help of the Peace Corps and charities like Hug It Forward, this deceptively simple building innovation is now spreading throughout the world. FULL POST

April 22nd, 2012
08:57 AM ET

Bjarke Ingels: Rethinking social infrastructure

By Bjarke Ingels, Special to CNN

The infrastructure of the industry of the past seems to be inevitably appropriated as the framework for the social and cultural life of the present.

The old train tracks on Manhattans lower west side turns into the highline - the most popular park of NYC today.

The Tate Modern in London is an old power plant. FULL POST

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