Designers going off-grid — Gentler Futures Festival* (Past)

The potential of low-tech tools and decentralised energy in preparing the design practice for a post-fossil future.

An informal afternoon of ideas, talks and exchanges, exploring what it means to design today, what challenges twenty-first century designers face and which legacy they hope to leave behind. Through the presentation of a series of inspiring case studies, in which guest makers, designers and architects are invited to share their stories and perspectives, we aim to pose questions, launch provocations and inspire new mindsets.

The theme of this event, Designers going off-grid, explores the potential of low-tech tools and decentralised energy production in preparing the design practice for a post-fossil fuel world. Most of the technology we use today—from electric vehicles to the internet—is dependent on resource-intensive global systems and on fossil fuels. How do we transition our lifestyles to exist without them? How do we stop relying on big corporations for the products we need on a daily basis? Which older, simpler technologies can we readapt to contemporary knowledge? And in general, what is the role of design in creating resilient and self-sufficient urban communities? 

About the program

The projects invited for the event, SOS HEATER, SUN FACTORY and SLOW LAB, will present their work in a joint session open to anyone and will host 3 hands-on workshops for 15 participants each (attendance upon registration).

Workshop 01 — Build your own low-energy heater / SOS HEATER
Workshop 02 — Sun powered plastic recycling / SUN FACTORY
Workshop 03 — Fireless cooker: design and build / SLOW LAB

15h00 — Open doors
15h15 — Introduction to the event
15h30 — Introduction to the projects
16h00 — Workshops 01, 02 and 03 (part I)
16h45 — Drinks and snacks
17h15 — Workshops 01, 02 and 03 (part II)
18h00 — Thank you for joining us

The introduction and presentations will be held in English. The workshops will be held in English or in Portuguese depending on the preference of the participants.

Workshop 01 — Build your own low-energy heater
Tutor: Manuel Sánchez at SOS HEATER

SOS HEATER is a social impact initiative based in Lisbon, aiming to make heating more accessible and sustainable. Their do-it-yourself 250W heater is affordable to use even for those with a tight budget, it is fume-free, operates silently, and provides a spot of warmth in indoor spaces.

With increasing energy-related prices and pollution, why heating a whole house, or even a whole room, if we are going to spend hours in the same spot? During the workshop participants will learn how to repurpose and combine everyday objects and materials to create a functional low-wattage heater. As a spot heater, the SOS Heater is especially recommended for sedentary activities such as using a computer, reading, watching TV, or sleeping. By the end of the workshop, each participant will be able to take their own heater home and start saving on energy bills while contributing to reducing energy-related pollution. Low wattage also means that the device can be run in small-scale and off-the-grid renewable energy installations. The project's model for development is based on the idea that cooperation can be more powerful than competition: new users are invited to join the community of testers and contribute to improving the technology with their feedback.

Disclaimer — Participants should be aware that the SOS Heater is a prototype, not certified for domestic use (yet), and as such, it requires special precautions. By signing up, participants agree to follow the "Usage and Safety Guidelines" provided during the workshop.

Workshop 02 — Sun powered plastic recycling
Tutor: Marco Bernardo at SUN FACTORY

SUN FACTORY‘s mission is to empower communities worldwide with solar thermal and human-powered technologies to transform plastic waste into sustainable products, while implementing intelligent solutions that maximise the value of recycled plastic and drive sustainability forward.

The workshop will consist of a practical demonstration of Sun Factory’s methodologies and process, showing each stage from sorting to transformation. After learning how to identify plastics based on symbols or characteristics, participants will explore the possibilities offered by the prototype tools developed by Sun Factory for the electricity-free plastic recycling process, including a solar concentrator, metal cartridges, and a manual injection machine (live demonstration according to weather conditions). Along the process, you will also learn basic notions on the shapes achievable through moulding and the guidelines for successfully creating an injection mould. All of Sun Factory’s DIY machines can be replicated globally following their open source blueprints and instructions.

Workshop 03 — Fireless cooker: design and build
Tutor: Audrey Belliot Darmon at SLOW LAB

SLOW LAB is a Barcelona-based collective at the intersection between the slow movement and low-tech, bringing awareness and promoting a resilient lifestyle. They organise social events and design artefacts to open conversations around how to integrate ancient techniques into the present context and become less dependent on high-technology.

What would our kitchens and cooking habits look like if we didn’t have unlimited and cheap access to energy? What if we could only use locally available resources? During this workshop, which mixes theory, inspiration and hands-on experience, participants are going to learn about slow cooking techniques and discuss their impact on food rituals, on the larger social organisation, and on the habitats beyond the closed physical space of the kitchen. Drawing inspiration from ancient knowledge, you will learn how to design and craft contemporary tools more in tune with nature’s pace, by focusing on one specific tool that disappeared from modern kitchens: the fireless cooker. What is a fireless cooker? Also known as a hay box or thermal cooker, the fireless cooker was very popular in the 1900s. It is an insulated container capable of maintaining a temperature at which food can be cooked, therefore reducing the amount of firewood, gas or electricity needed in a kitchen. By the end of the session, together with the tutor, you will have designed and built a collective fireless cooker, easy to replicate with readily accessible materials.

How to attend

Tickets, granting access to both presentations and hands-on workshops, can be purchased with debit or credit card (via Ticket Tailor), and by bank transfer or MB Way (instructions during checkout). Prices vary according to the workshop and reflect the cost of the materials required. All donations and proceeds from tickets sold go towards supporting guest speakers and workshop tutors, as well as Gentler Futures Festival’s open program and public initiatives. Please note that ticket sales are non-refundable.

The ‘Introduction to the event and to the projects’ session (from 15h00 to 16h00) is open to anyone and free to attend.

Mouraria Creative Hub
Travessa dos Lagares 1
1100-300 Lisbon

We are mindful of privacy rights and obligations under GDPR, therefore we would like to inform you that we are going to capture the event with photographs and/or video recordings. These will be used to share the event’s activities on our website and communication platforms, as well as in eventual articles or publications. If you wish for your image not to be used, we ask you to let us know during the event or by email.

About the organisers

BY THE END OF MAY is a research and design studio exploring the roles of manufacturing and crafts in creating a (non-linear), (post-consumerism) and (anti-alienation) economy.

Politécnico de Lisboa is a Higher Education institution that offers a diversified range of courses in the fields of Arts, Business Sciences, Communication, Education, Engineering and Health Sciences. Politécnico de Lisboa is also a member of Distributed Design Platform, a Creative Europe platform aimed at developing and promoting the connection between designers, makers and emerging digital and local markets. Gentler Futures Festival is part of Distributed Design's local activities coordinated by Politécnico de Lisboa.

Mouraria Creative Hub is the first business incubator in Lisbon that provides support to startups, projects and business ideas related to the creative and cultural industry, particularly in the areas of design, media, fashion, crafts and jewellery.

A Bairros is an active network of organisations and individual actors, which aims to contribute to the local development of Lisbon's neighbourhoods, collaborating in building active, cohesive and solidary communities. It assumes itself as an intermediary agent, focused on empowerment and sociocultural innovation.





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