Inside

Thea Hallak

Show RCA work

Major project:

the vicious life of Vacuum.Cleaner

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Until today, domestic work remains an undermined and vulnerable labour. In the UK, domestic work is not acknowledged as work, and domestic workers are not acknowledged as workers. Thus they, do not benefit from mere workers’ rights such as health and safety, the right to a minimum wage, or moderate working hours. Being tied to their employers by a 6 months visa and under those conditions, their situation fits in what would be called “modern slavery”. They lack power and recognition.


The aim of this project is to design a vacuum cleaner, in conversation with cleaners, ladies from the organization ‘Justice for Domestic Workers’ (J4DW). 


The design process I choose is not one but a fusion of many approaches. It starts with the area of participatory design 

(Liz Sanders, Ramia Maze) that involves the experienced stakeholder, here, the domestic worker from J4DW, in the design 

process, towards the making of a vacuum cleaner. The process also walks in the area of critical design, where I make/ bring provocative objects to the conversation table with my participants, for them to test the objects and feedback into them or extract stories they provoke/ evoke. This is when the critical design approach feeds back into co-design (participatory) by bringing generative tools to the process with my participants, for them to manipulate and be creative around.


This project is about domestic work, domestic workers and the domestic objects they use in their daily routine. The vacuum cleaner is for the cleaner worker, about the cleaner, and designed with the cleaner.

Info

  • Family is one pocket. Country is the other.

    In the first pocket lives the pocket of Mary. Mary Poppins, that stores and keeps and kindly caresses, objects to be used, if ever. Mary wants security. Mary provides security.

    In the second pocket, lives Johnny. He drank up his whole guts yesterday, and threw them away. Throws them away. That happens every Friday.

    My name is Thea Hallak.

    I come from a line of people who do not throw anything away.

    I come from a country that throws everything away.

    My left grandmother doesn’t toss. She stores.

    My right grandmother collects anything, of use or not.             

    My father, from right, inherited from both sides.

    My mother from left- like my country- hurls everything away. She doesn’t like excess. When needed, she creates out of nothing.

    For my country, the essential is excess. The society is forced to create out of nothing, like my mother does.

    As a result, I am a double-sided cupboard, full of drawers. I open them from one side, stuff them in when empty, keep them stuffed when stuffed. And then I turn, to that other side, open them again, swallow them from inside out, till they cease to exist. When needed. I will make or assemble. 

  • Previous degrees

  • BA Architecture, American University of Beirut, 2013
  • Experiences

  • Junior designer, PSLab, Beirut, Lebanon, 2013–2015
  • Publications

  • Not all Shellfish are alike, Rusted Radishes, Issue 1, 2012
  • Awards

  • Distinctive student status, American University of Beirut, 2013
  • Funding

  • Association Philippe Jabre
  • Collaborators

  • Ladies of the organisation 'Justice for Domestic Workers'
Royal College of Art