Miles Of Styles - The 100 Mile Design Challenge

Not so long ago, it was a challenge to make something that didn't consist almost entirely of materials found locally. By comparison, these days it would be even more challenging to make something that does.

Which was the point of the 100 Mile Design Challenge, posed to students in the Maryland Institute College of Art's (MICA) Environmental Design and the University of Washington's Industrial Design programs.

The project, which helped win MICA the honor of being named Best Design School at this year's International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York, gave students the challenge of harnessing local materials - and icons - and turning them into something new.

Poe PenPoe PenWith help from the National Aquarium Conservation Department and Weed Warriors, one of their main focuses was on invasive plants, such as bamboo and the tree of heaven. But students also utilized found objects and other local materials like clay and discarded industrial materials. Some even incorporated local history, including famed Baltimore poet Edgar Allen Poe, with things like the Poe Pens to the left.

The project has inspired and informed many of the designs that appeared in MICA's MICA (Material Inspired Concepts & Artifacts) exhibition at ICFF, in which "students transformed age-old materials - cotton, bamboo, wood, terra-cotta, silk, etc. - into environmentally friendly products for the future via classic and new technologies."

Says MICA instructor Inna Alesina, "Let's carefully craft our future."

It looks like that's what's happening, if some of the work she introduces in this video is anything to go by: