Three college seniors have created an innovative bike lock meant to provide more room on Taipei’s congested sidewalks. Offugo (公共自行車停車磚) is an aluminum alloy plate that fits like a manhole cover into the ground and works by pinning a tire to a retractable spine. It doesn’t look like much, but that’s the main attraction.
“Think about YouBike, which uses a special rack on the sidewalk,” said co-inventor Cin Siou-huei (秦秀惠) about Taipei City’s bike rental system. “Take away the bike and that rack is still there, taking up space in a space-poor city.”
“Our lock isn’t a visual or literal block to pedestrians,” she said. “Also, in the end it would be cheaper to switch to this system from the YouBike rack, since all you really need is the disc.”
Last week, the disc was a big winner at the Young Designers’ Exhibition (YODEX, 新一代設計展) in Taipei, where graduating college seniors from across Taiwan vied for a handful of medals. Offugo beat out 1,160 entries for the gold in Product Design (產品設計類) and a silver in the space solutions category (空間設計類), which received 320 entries.
Chou Jing-heng (周敬恆) took a gold medal in the space solutions category with Boundary into the Plan (邊界突入計畫), a scale model based on an abandoned oil drilling platform in the East China Sea. Chou has done major remodeling, which includes knocking out walls and adding a floor with a gambling casino and resort.
Chou even has a colorful story to go with it. The upstairs entertainment zone is for Chinese tourists and the downstairs chambers are for Taiwanese, who service the resort. The space encourages an economic interaction that could allow Taiwan to “elude domination” by its neighbor across the Strait, according to Chou, 22, who is a passionate observer of current events.
“Hypothetically, if Taiwan is taken over by China, at least we would still have this place. From here, we can slowly take back the island chains, so long as the Taiwanese spirit is there,” he said.
Meanwhile, two students who took a silver medal in the visual communication design category also had tourists in mind, though they were thinking more in the present.
“In bookstores today you can find good guidebooks on Taiwan, but they introduce sites to visit and places to eat. There aren’t many about daily perplexities that foreigners encounter,” said Hazel Tsao (曹乃云).
Tsao and schoolmate Chen Hsiao-tzu (陳孝慈) won a silver medal for Taiwanese Manual, three books of advice customized for Japanese, American and Chinese visitors. For example, Japanese tourists are warned that tea sold at convenience stores are usually sweetened — “Teas in Japanese stores are not,” Tsao said, citing her interviews with Japanese subjects — while guests from the US are advised that braziers are not garbage disposals. All the advice is presented together on the page, so that the Japanese reader can see all the questions of Americans and Chinese.
“At first, we thought about separating the manuals by language, but then we thought that if we combined all the information, each nationality can see how other people respond to Taiwan and the manuals can be a point of communion for first-time visitors,” said Tsao.
Other YODEX winners included an origami set by Shu-Te University (樹德科技) — original foldable designs based on Toroko Gorge wildlife — which picked up a silver each from the product and visual communication categories. Some of this origami is quite a challenge and designers said they want to encourage parent-child interaction.