“Environmentally responsible design should be like dark chocolate”
February 1, 2012
Yesterday xkcd’s satirical graphic on the unsustainability of the word ‘sustainability’ used a simple line graph to mock our ideology-crazed society and its affinity to swap real accountability for the comfort of shrewd marketing. Meanwhile, over at Domus, MoMA curator Paola Antonelli had a similar criticism to share, but as usual, she threaded her thesis with whimsical analogies and prudent examples, making the future shine seemingly brighter than ever. While beginning with a similar critique on the conflation of ‘sustainability’ with costly products in matte cardboard packaging, she immediately digs into the solution, and with trademark poeticism she writes, “Environmentally responsible design should be like dark chocolate: delicious and sensual, yet still good for the health of body and soul.” Read on.
Manoteca’s ‘Indoor,’ a table made from a street door.
Antonelli hails design for its ability to ground ideas in the present, to manifest our dreams and our beliefs in the precise interaction between human and object. To Antonelli, design is crucial: “When it comes to the delicate process of adjusting to new circumstances, especially something as pervasive and incommensurable as a worldwide environmental crisis, designers can help translate it from a global scale to a very local, personal one.”
Dekalb Market in Brooklyn, New York.
When it comes to ‘green design,’ Antonelli recognizes the current situation, in which ‘green’ sits at one end of the product spectrum, often cloaked in a patent ‘holier-than-thou’ aura, and the indulgent or cost-effective things fill the rest of the spectrum. Instead, the entire spectrum should be ‘green,’ says Antonelli, and “[g]reen products should have their pros and cons and be subject to the whims and vagaries of taste that all things are subject to.” In other words, there is room for Bjarke Ingels’ hedonistic trash-incinerator-ski-slope alongside the rejuvenated railroad of the Highline and all of the world’s shipping container marketplaces.
The Makerbot, a consumer-facing 3D-printer available for less than $2000.
She then comes up with a few guidelines for exploring and implementing a more sustainable future, from the most basic (create objects that last long and can be repaired, and if not, create objects that can be innovatively recycled) to specific petitions for greater use of 3D-printing and experimentation with new materials. Though her ideas are not revolutionary in nature, her final statement once again reorients the goals of sustainability away from being a vague paradigm to a pervasive norm: “Design’s goal is to enable us to live life to the full while taking advantage of all the possibilities provided to us by contemporary technology. Ideology, instead, is limiting, the enemy of the elasticity that is required of us today. Through designers’ work, we will be able to outgrow the need for any kind of green ideology. Sustainability will become normal, integrated in all the other aspects that make life worth living, like humor, imagination, vision, curiosity, humanity and love.”
A chapel in England refurbished into a self-built dream home furnished with salvaged furniture and artwork.