A young Australian architect is a finalist in the prestigious international Lexus Design Award.
Ben Berwick’s ingenious solar blind concept has earned him a spot in the finals ahead of 1500 other international entries.

The owner of Sydney-based architecture firm, his Solgami concept uses origami geometry to create an experimental window blind that incorporates solar panels.

Solgami — a hybrid word derived from solar and origami — allows users to vary the amount of energy harnessed and the level of natural light filtering into a room.

It can also increase the electricity-generating efficiency of the solar panels by ‘bouncing’ light between them, enabling them to absorb more of the available energy.

Mr Berwick said being named one of six finalists encouraged his company’s smaller, more sustainable approach to architecture.

“Prevalent’s work is centred on social, public projects that make a difference within their community, and Solgami challenges prevalent apartment typologies that are trending toward uninhabitable spaces, while combating climate change,” he said.

The Lexus Design Award, now in its seventh year, encourages the use of design thinking to solve everyday problems and help build a better future for individuals and society.

Judges include John Maeda, the global head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic, a publishing platform development company; eminent architect Sir David Adjaye; Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and Yoshihiro Sawa, president of Lexus International.

The finalists receive a production budget of up to three million yen (more than $37,500) to develop a prototype.

They also attend a two-day mentorship program at the newly opened Intersect by Lexus in New York City, receiving hands-on guidance by acclaimed design and innovation leaders.

Other finalist designs were a 3D-custom lace bra for breast cancer survivors; the creation of composite materials using desert sand; housing that can withstand a sudden rise in floodwater levels; a turbine that converts aircraft jet blast to energy during take-off; and emergency treatment equipment for offshore oil spills.

Their prototypes will be displayed at the illustrious Milan Design Week in April, where the Lexus Design Award 2019 Grand Prix will be announced.

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Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.