Confronted with irrefutable video evidence that an unarmed black man in Minneapolis was violently killed by police, George Floyd’s death has touched off an outpouring of grief, rage, protests, and calls for an end to police brutality. It has also produced some incredibly powerful graphic posters and street murals, mostly done by unknown artists. Interestingly, these images do not depict the shockingly cruel manner in which Floyd died, but afforded him the dignity of a portrait that presented him as a martyr for social justice – justice that is centuries overdue.
April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which most years focuses on how mankind is endangering the environment and the creatures that inhabit the earth. This year illustrator Craig Frazier created a poignant reminder that humans are also an interconnected part of this ecosystem. With the coronavirus pandemic threatening our very existence, it behooves us to remember that we are all part of one earth. Explaining how he arrived at this year’s Earth Day theme, Craig said, “At this time, we need to take care of those who are taking care of us all over the world. I designed this poster to honor the health care workers who are doing the heavy lifting.” Indeed.
Plastikophobia is a new immersive art installation in Singapore made from 18,000 single-use plastic cups collected from local food markets to raise public awareness of plastic pollution. Although beautiful to look at, this art piece is in no way an endorsement to use more plastic.
The art project started when Canadian photographer Benjamin Von Wong and Joshua Goh at the National University of Singapore teamed up with social impact strategist Laura Francois to create an exhibition for the Sustainable Singapore Gallery. Knowing that Singapore recycled less than 6% of its plastic waste, the team set out to draw attention to plastic pollution by making an art installation from discarded plastic cups. In a short time, they managed to collect thousands of single-use cups from local merchants and recruited hundreds of volunteers to bring the project to life. The end result is surreal and lovely, and hopefully disturbing.
In Singapore, plastic waste is reaching crisis proportions. According to the Singapore Straits Time, plastic waste has increased sevenfold since the 1970s. The average Singaporean uses and discards about 13 plastic bags a day. The statistics are equally daunting in other parts of the world. Studies show that 91% of plastic worldwide does not get recycled. The toxic chemicals that leach out of plastic have had an alarming impact on the environment and all of its inhabitants.
Like Singapore, other parts of the world are awakening to the harmful effect of plastic. Just last week the EU Parliament banned single-use plastics by 2021. It’s not just the proliferation of unsightly litter; it’s the toxins that are slowly killing us. A solution must start with product and packaging designers who have made plastic their favorite “go to” material.
The Plastikophobia exhibit is showing at the Sustainable Singapore Gallery until April 18th.
If you think that when you’ve seen one Starbucks cafe, you’ve seen them all, you need to visit the Starbucks Roastery and Reserve Tasting Room in Shanghai. The Starbucks signature mermaid and green brand elements are underplayed to the point of not being noticeable. Elegant wood and gleaming copper finishes adorn the 30,000-square-foot establishment, staffed by 400 employees. The place feels like “Disneyland” for caffeine lovers.
The sights are awesome and entertaining! A towering copper cask, adorned with more than 1,000 traditional Chinese chops (stamps) hand-engraved to narrate the story of Starbucks and coffee. A ceiling made out of 10,000 handmade hexagonal wooden tiles, inspired by the locking of an espresso shot on an espresso machine. A Roastery featuring three wood-carved bars, one of which is 88 feet long, where customers can watch beans being roasted and baristas brewing coffee using six different methods and beans from 30 countries. If that isn’t enough, an integrated AR system, built with an Alibaba web app, lets customers immerse themselves in the space through their smartphones. There is also specially crafted nitrogen-infused teas at the tea bar, and an on-site bakery offering scrumptious artisanal baked goods by famed Italian baker, Rocco Princi acclaimed from Milan to London.
With a population of 24 million people just in the city of Shanghai, even a gigantic Starbucks store can’t serve all the locals. Shanghai already has 600 other Starbucks cafes in the city, and 3,000 locations in 136 Chinese cities, with one new Starbucks location opening in China every 15 hours.
Most municipalities around the world view sewage manhole covers as a mundane part of the urban infrastructure. At best, they try to make these heavy metal plates functional and inconspicuous. Instead, cities and towns focus their civic beautification efforts on creating a broad range of public art installations — murals, sculptures, archways, fountains, and the like. But ignoring the artistic possibilities of humble manhole covers is a missed opportunity. These metal plates, typically 34 inches in diameter, are the perfect size for casting images and decorative patterns that relate the culture, history, industry, and flora and fauna of the area.