A Portable Kit Relies on Everyday Items to Bring Toilets to Disaster Zones

Carl Court/Getty Images
Carl Court/Getty Images

If you look at the minimLET, you probably don't immediately think “toilet.” The kit, made by the Japanese design firm Nendo, consists of a piece of white, curved plastic, a sheet of fabric, a segmented aluminum pole, plastic bags, and tissue paper. But to survivors of natural disasters, the device may be the closest thing they get to an actual toilet while living in an emergency shelter.

As Co.Design reports, the minimLET addresses a major issue faced in disaster zones that often goes ignored: the lack of flushing toilets. Earthquakes and hurricanes can leave communities without power and clean drinking water for extended periods of time. They're also capable of destroying sewage systems. But because people can survive without private bathrooms, in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophe, the lack of toilets doesn't usually get top billing.

There are portable toilets designed for such situations, but most of them are big and bulky, making them hard to deliver to affected areas. In response to disasters like Japan's Tōhoku earthquake in 2011, Nendo devised a better solution: a portable, minimalist toilet that can be set up anywhere.

A plastic toilet seat stands on four aluminum legs.
Nendo

The minimLET toilet is compact enough to slide into a small bag, making it easy to transport and store. To set it up, you just need to secure the plastic seat to the four aluminum legs and attach a plastic bag underneath to act as the toilet bowl. The nylon cloth included in the kit works like a poncho to provide privacy in open areas.

The product is adaptable depending on the needs of the user. For added seclusion, you can also set the seat on plastic water bottles or metal cans weighted down with sand, allowing you to use the aluminum pipes as a tent pole instead of legs for the toilet. Then you can attach a cheap umbrella to the pole and drape the nylon cloth over it to form a makeshift outhouse, as you can see in the video below. The kit’s carrying case doubles as a waterproof pouch that can transport more than 4 gallons of liquid at a time.

That adaptability was a major goal for the design firm. “When living in evacuation shelters in contemporary urban spaces, various everyday items and waste materials are available" like umbrellas and 2-liter soda bottles, as Nendo writes on their website. "It was possible to appropriate such everyday items, due to the fact that these external dimensions, cap sizes, screw shapes, etc. are standardized to some extent to fit the shelves and vending machines in retail stores."

The minimLET is set to make its commercial debut in Japan sometime next year.

[h/t Co.Design]

Hong Kong's Peculiar Architecture Can Be Explained by Feng Shui

iStock
iStock

Most people are familiar with feng shui—the ancient Chinese art of arranging one's environment to maximize good energy—as it applies to interior design. But you don't need to walk into a building to see feng shui at work in Hong Kong: It's baked into the skyline.

This video from Vox examines how feng shui has shaped the design of Hong Kong's skyscrapers. Some of the most extreme examples are dragon gates: large holes cut out of the center of buildings. The idea is that dragons, which are said to live in the mountains behind the city, will be able to fly through the openings and into the water. If their passage is blocked, bad luck will befall any buildings in their way.

Some superstitious design features are a little more subtle. In the lobby of the HSBC building, the escalators are positioned at a strange angle to fend off the bad energy flowing into the space. When Hong Kong Disneyland hired a feng shui consultant (a real and lucrative job), they were told to shift the entrance 12 degrees to keep chi from flowing out.

But not every architect in Hong Kong takes feng shui into account. The Bank of China Tower is infamous for its sharp angles, which feng shui experts claim damages the positive energy around it. Anything bad that happens to the surrounding businesses is immediately blamed on the tower, and the neighboring HSBC building even installed cranes that are meant to combat any bad luck it radiates.

You can watch the full story below.

[h/t Vox]

How Makeup Artists Transformed Heath Ledger Into The Joker in 'The Dark Knight'

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Heath Ledger gets most of the credit for reinventing The Joker with his performance in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. But creating a look for the character that diverged from the comic books was a collaborative process, and makeup artist John Caglione Jr. played an essential role.

In an interview with IGN, Caglione reflected on the makeup he did for The Dark Knight that earned him an Academy Award nomination. Unlike his work on movies like Dick Tracy (1990) and Chaplin (1992), precision wasn't the goal in this case. Instead, he wanted to give The Joker an organic appearance that matched director Christopher Nolan's realistic take on Gotham City and a crazed style that reflected the character's unpredictable nature.

"What would it be if this guy slept in his makeup?" he said in the interview. "If he didn't spruce up his makeup for two weeks? You think of a clown's makeup and for the most part they're pretty detailed with sharp lines, but this had to be the opposite of that."

Caglione worked with Ledger to scrunch and contort his face as he applied the makeup—an old trick borrowed from theater. This method resulted in lines and creases in the paint that made it look like the character had been wearing his makeup for days.

The makeup artist also drew inspiration from classic art and cinema when crafting the character. At the start of the design process, Nolan sent Caglione a book of abstract Francis Bacon portraits for him to reference. During the interrogation scene, The Joker's dark eye makeup is smudged above his eyebrows, a nod to Eric Campbell who played the villain in many Charlie Chaplin films.

You can watch the full interview below.

[h/t IGN]

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