Kiwi ingenuity for a cool operator

By Zoe Walker

Industrial design student Ben de la Roche shares his inspirations.

Ben de la Roche and his award-winning design 'Impress', an external refrigeration system. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ben de la Roche and his award-winning design 'Impress', an external refrigeration system. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Ben de la Roche recently returned from Milan, where he took out second place at the annual Global Electrolux Design Lab competition with his "Impress" refrigerator wall, a sustainable storage system that holds food and drink out in the open - so you don't forget about it - and doesn't refrigerate when empty.

The Massey University industrial design student utilised thermo-acoustic technology and non-ozone depleting gases like argon and helium to create the concept, which he designed as part of a third-year university project.

The global design competition was established in 2003, celebrating innovative home appliance design among design students.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for students to get their name out into the world. As a big fan of science fiction I find the Electrolux Design Lab's focus on design for the future exciting and I love how much room it leaves for students to imagine and explore. It offers a much needed link between students and the real world environment," says de la Roche.

He tells us about some of his favourite things, from Lego to the steam punk universe of Mortal Engines.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Lego
While my huge collection of plastic pieces are not as well used as they used to be, alongside drawing, Lego began my creative path as a child by bringing my imagination into the physical world. It is still occasionally used today to create rough mock-ups of designs and when little cousins dive deep into the Lego box to make strange cars and houses, I can't help but "oversee" the situation.

2. Inlaid wooden trick box
A recent purchase from my trip to Sorrento in Italy but I'll treasure it forever. Inlaying wood is an incredibly skilled art form that requires many years of training to perfect. Every detail and picture is created not by paint, but by a combination of different inlaid wood veneers, some of which are dyed. This, in combination with the fact that opening it requires a lot of careful study, makes it an object that I both greatly appreciate and enjoy interacting with every time I use it.

3. Star Wars
There's no denying my passion for science fiction began with Luke Skywalker and his lightsabre. George Lucas created a rich universe that combined all kinds of different aliens and technologies to ignite the imagination of the viewer. In this case, 7-year-old Ben, who I'm sure at the time really did believe this happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

4. Human physiology
Don't get me wrong, my expertise on the subject does not extend beyond high school biology; however I feel I can still appreciate it as one of the most incredibly designed machines in existence. Everything from our nervous system to our eyebrows has a specific function that is carried out using as little energy and resources as possible. Biomimicry aids us in design and technology alike and I believe that industrial designers in particular should have a good understanding of our own mechanics.

5. Ballerina style corkscrews
I think everyone will agree that there is something really satisfying about using these corkscrews. Whether it's because its design so closely follows its function or the "pop" of the bottle when it opens, I love the experience of using these corkscrews. I believe it's that really simple and satisfying tactile function is lost in many of the products of the digital age and that it's a quality that should never be overlooked.

6. Fiordland
There is something so fantastic about Fiordland. Some people don't like the rain but I think it makes it all the more beautiful. Even when you're driving through, there is a certain feeling of exposure and vulnerability to nature with the surrounding trees and mist. They are wild, untamed valleys that have been partially swallowed by the ocean and they are the first things that come to mind when I think of New Zealand scenery.

7. Statue of David
I would never have put this as my favourite sculpture before I had seen it for myself. Standing at just over five metres tall, David is already an awesome sight. However, it is when you hear its story and see the details, that it becomes truly extraordinary. Sculpted with chisels in just under three years, David was created from one piece of marble. Ironically, the marble he is sculpted from isn't very high quality. Michelangelo crafted it without a single mistake, a skill the likes of which the world may never see again.

8. Syd Mead
When it comes to science fiction design, Syd Mead is a god. Known best for his work on the film Blade Runner, Mead has an extraordinary imagination and his ability to transform concepts into something that feels real and tangible. His methods have inspired me in my own methods of creation and spurred me into following my ambitions of film design.

9. Mortal Engines
The first novel in the Hungry City Chronicles, Mortal Engines fascinated me as a child and still does today, despite being a "young adult" novel. Author Phillip Reeve has an incredible imagination and painted a fantastic steam punk universe. The premise is in a post-apocalyptic world thousands of years in the future when cities have been tiered up and now move on huge traction wheels eating smaller towns and cities and stripping them for materials. I absolutely recommend it, you won't be disappointed.

10. The cinema
I love movies; for me it's storytelling at its absolute best. However, though watching them inside on a rainy day is great, it's the cinema where it is best. In the cinema you are completely blocked off from the world and immersed in whatever is put in front of you whether it be good or bad. Along with this we have our little habits, all of which fascinate me. One such example being that throughout the trailers we cannot help but scrutinise each of them and lean to the person beside you and tell them what you think. The cinema is such an escape from reality and an experience that, for me, will never get old.

- NZ Herald

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