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Bringing research to reality

The image of the elderly woman crawling on her hands and knees into her makeshift home haunted him.

Watching the TV news with his mother in the wake of a natural disaster, NSCAD professor Gene Daniels says a CNN story about an engineer corps setting up a tent village affected the future course of his research.

“The camera man was walking through these communities that were starting to form—and zoomed in on this woman, who was probably 75 to 80 years, and had to stoop over and crawl into her tent,” he recalls.

“I looked over at my mother and imagined her coping with those conditions, sleeping on the ground, in a tent … because as we know, that’s not a community that would be there for a week. Those people are going to be living in that situation for years.”

It got him thinking: What if something could be designed to house families temporarily but at the same time provide a greater sense of house and home? Something “with a door, windows that function, a table to sit at, an area to wash and a place to sleep that’s elevated off the floor?”

Gene, an associate professor at NSCAD and a chair of the university’s Foundation Studies, is ready to take his research to the next level. Which is why the Faculty Research and Creative Practice Award he received at the President’s Convocation means so much.

“Even though we’re small and very close knit, sometimes we do things that even the person in the office next to us isn’t aware of,” says Gene, who has worked for the past eight years at NSCAD. Before coming to Halifax, he was a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art and an architect in the firm Daniels & Daniels with his sister Janna. “It means a lot for me to be able to share my research with my colleagues.”

Called the “e-Home”—"e" stands for environment—the shelter is envisioned to be a place for sleeping and eating, with furniture that can transform to serve different uses. It would be built of sustainable materials, including recycled plastics, bamboo and recycled paper. Gene has thought of it from all angles: how it would be produced, transported, set up and adapted for different climates, from tropical zones to colder environments. At six feet six inches by nine feet, each unit is small but can be attached to others in family units.

With a sabbatical upcoming in January, he is hoping to continue his research on the e-Home and develop a prototype, which could then be tested over a year at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts near Canning, Nova Scotia. “This would answer what rains does and what wind does,” he says. “What it’s like to sleep in, cook in and study in.” Other plans for his sabbatical include talking with “world support organizations” on the development and funding of the prototype, caring for his young son, Kaden, and completing a children’s book on design.

“As a designer, one of the things that’s always exciting is the process of going from concept to design development on paper to reality,” says Gene. “I still feel like a child when you see the thing that you designed full scale and you’re moving through a space you designed.”

 

 

 ehome480
 A look at the "e-Home" designed by Gene Daniels.

 

Read the latest issue of VIVID

VIVID-30

Volume 23, Winter 2015

Featuring stories on Governor General's Literary Award winner Sydney Smith;  Halifax's art district, Prof. Gary Markle's Worn Well fashion line; and a profile of high school art teacher Anna Whalen.