After learning about the different case studies and examples of social justice design, I was inspired to want to improve society and change the world through design. But I admit, I still had questions about how we as students could really get involved in social justice and design activism. So I began to look on a smaller scale and came across a project that seems really small, but has made a huge difference in many African communities: The Q Drum – the rollable water container for developing countries, although the website now lists other uses as well.
Deisgned by Piet Hendriske, the drum is a plastic donut shaped container that can hold up to 50 liters of water. The idea originated in response to the needs of rural people in South Africa who struggle with transporting potable water from a given source back to their residence- a task that is generally given to women and children in the communities. The Q drum has reduced the number of neck and spine injuries and increased the amount of water that can be gathered and transported at one time.
Unique features of the design:
- the central hole, that a rope/strap can be tied through to pull and roll the drum along any terrain.
- no handles or other metal attachments to worry about breaking off and causing the container to be less effective.
- can be stacked up to 40 containers high, because of the remaining flat sides and the central core adding extra structural support.
Of course, I think we can agree that the more long term solution for improvement would involve working to get more water sources in these countries to increase access. However, this short term solution addresses the issues of “today”, without relying on a change for the “tomorrow”. The one concern I have is in regard to the material, because even the most durable plastics are not designed for major, long-term use.
With products like this, you really get to see how innovative this field of design is- and I believe it has to be. As Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair stated, many of the people you are designing for with these projects don’t have the finances to support energy-consuming buildings and high maintenance materials. Sustainability really becomes a focus because the spaces will have to last for years/ generations to come without much necessary upkeep.
Images from Q-Drum.