SAFE: Design Takes On Risk

Bezalel Research & Development, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (Israel, est. 1906) Shmartaf Protection System for Toddlers 1988–91

Bezalel Research & Development, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (Israel, est. 1906). Shmartaf Protection System for Toddlers. 1988–91

Polycarbonate and PVC, 21 1/4 x 17 3/4 x 5 7/8" (54 x 35 x 15 cm). Manufactured by Supergum Industries Ltd., Israel (2004). Lent by Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. Photo by Yaron Reshef

DIRECTOR, GLENN LOWRY: Israel is the only country in the world that guarantees every citizen protection against chemical and biological attacks. To make good on this promise, the government asked designers at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem to come up with innovative masks that safeguarded not only adults but children -- on down to newborns. Ezri Tarazi headed the design team:

DESIGNER, EZRI TARAZI: We had the experience of the first Gulf War where over 800,000 gas masks designed by us were used successfully by the children. The old system, you threw your infant into a sealed box. No contact between parent and child. But there were many problems, especially for children, who had to breathe hard to overcome the resistance of the air filter. So we started basically from scratch. So we made protection for babies that’s clear plastic, to maintain visual contact. And for toddlers, the soft plastic allows parents to hold and comfort the child.

We use a battery-operated blower to pump filtered air into the mask. This means that children and the old and sick don’t have to work hard to breathe. And with positive-pressure in the mask you don't have to worry about contaminated air coming in through a leak or faulty seal.

It was very significant that the government asked designers, and not engineers, to come up with solutions. Because as designers, we thought not just about technical problems, but also about the psychological problems of having to live in this equipment for hours at a time.

Of course, the designers were also designing for themselves. Three days after the birth of my child, I was given what every new parent in Israel receives from the government, a blue bag with the Mimi Mamat Baby Protection kit inside.

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