Approaching Poverty with Alice Min Soo Chun

Approaching Poverty with Alice Min Soo Chun

Poverty scenarios along with natural disasters are the most unfortunate combination for people lacking the basic necessities. The case of Haiti is an example of that, where mostly 80% of the land is surrounded by poverty, lacking electricity and clean purified water. Such emergencies are mostly what Professor Alice Min Soo Chun, so eagerly seeks to remediate, not exactly whole, but at least the minimum possible.

Alice Min Soo Chun, is Co-Founder and CEO of FAARM: Focus on Architecture Art Research and Making, a non-profit alice_headshot_mediumdesign network that collaborates with inter-disciplinary teams in architecture, ecology, and social purpose world wide. She is also Assistant Professor of Design and Material Culture at Parsons the New School for Design, School of Constructed Environments, in New York City. She is currently working with Wiley Press and on a book titled GROUND RULES in Humanitarian Design. She has been building award winning community outreach projects in Philadelphia, PA, since 1992. Her work and writings on sustainable construction and design build has been published in the New York Times, Architectural Record, DWELL magazine, New York Observer, E-Occulus, WALLPAPER, and Journal of Architectural Education. She has taught graduate level architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, University of Arizona, was a lecturer at Yale, and critic at Harvard GSD. She has won the Brunner Grant from the Architecture Foundation in NYC for her work on textiles, technology, and solar energy, which led to the invention of the Solar Puff Light, the first inflatable and fold-able solar lamp.

Chun recently visited the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico’s New School of Architecture, providing students with insights of what sustainable construction means in terms of aiding the poor and incorporating basic resources to the community using innovation of design. Some of the insights provided, are part of her innovative designs and inspirations across her career.

The topics discussed were:
• Solar Puff Inflatable Lamp
• Mycelium and Ecovative designers
• Bamboo construction and the particularities of this strong plant.
• Wool and how it is applied, how is it really pure wool essence when used as fabric and clothing.
• Wood techniques for preservation – Shou-sugi-ban. (learn more about this technique here)
• Permaculture
• Bio-plastics and bio-materials:
-Bio-plastic Kamboocha for fashion
– Bio-plastic fantastic
• Biomimicry- spider webs stronger than carbon fiber.

The Solar Puff Light, is the first inflatable and foldable solar lamp ever designed for communities that are not connected to a grid and its functionality does not require the use of kerosene lamps as the solar puff is solar charged. In terms of durability, Chun’s website remarks that “4 hours of charging in the sun allows for 6-8 hours of lighting at night. The circuit is comprised of 6 LEDs at 4000mcds, a solar panel with light sensor and switch, a Lithium Ion Battery.”

Besides the solar puff, Chun discussed about alternatives for sustainable design and materials that provide clean, carbon-zero and closed-cycled results. Briefly introduced such natural sources as mycelium and what designers at Ecovative are already inserting into our society as bio-degradable products. Read more about mycelium here and mycelium construction by David Benjamin here.

Find more information about Professor Alice Min Soo Chun at her website



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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.