Design for Sustainable Prosperity
(By Adital Ela | S-Sense Design / 10-Nov-2010)
In the Buddhist tradition there is a saying inviting humanity to go about in the world just like a bee gathering nectar from a flower. The bee is nourished by the nectar, transforms it into sweet honey and not only that it doesn’t harm the beauty nor the fragrance of the flower – she actually supports its process of growth and procreation.
The allegory of the bee invites us to re-think our daily life habits and re-tune the way we dwell on earth. For designers exploring the path towards sustainability, it is a call to adopt a fresh mind-set and explore our capacity to create ways in which we can respond to the challenge set to us by the honeybee.
Since designers share the unique quality to envision, illustrate and enable the realization of objects and behaviors, we can play a central role in designing new life habits that thoroughly re-think the encounter between man, object and environment.
This essay will share my journey towards such design action and thinking - which is conducted through my own work as a designer and through my work as a sustainable design lecturer at HIT – Holon institute of Technology, Israel, and as a facilitator of sustainability design workshops in various academic settings in different parts of the world.
This search is performed under the umbrella of a sustainable design methodology which I developed named: THE BRIDGE. 'The Bridge' was inspired by indigenous knowledge and indigenous living patterns. Its five strategies were designed with the intention of addressing the individual, communal and environmental scopes, offering an invitation to a holistic, yet applicable, view to sustainable design.
The paper will be formed according to the five BRIDGE strategies: Dance to the Chi; Revive Objects; Create Mediators; Discover abundance; Design Sharing.
Design Strategy 1 – DANCE TO THE CHI
This field of search evolves by exploring ways in which human needs can be answered through participating in natural processes, allowing the natural energy to empower us and move on unchanged to the next cycle.
'The CHI Dance' illustrates a sustainable design vision in which products become a direct link between renewable resources and basic everyday human needs. As such, products are created or operated by their direct contact with a renewable energy, resource or phenomena. This encounter is transformed into the desired human need.
figure 1: WindyLight by Adital Ela
WindyLight is a collection of self-sufficient outdoor lights operated by wind energy. It is created from a repetitive module which integrates wind collection and a LED light source into one element.
WindyLight creates a variety of lamps for the urban environment that operate on free, clean energy and require no connection to the city's electrical grid. It illustrates a sustainable design vision in which products become a direct link between renewable resources and basic everyday human needs.
WaterFull is a private upper-well that acts as a multi-season water collector as well as a shading element.
WaterFull illustrates an opportunity for products to become nourishing interfaces enabling every one of us to harvest accessible natural abundance.
Reviving objects refers to exploring ways in which our artifacts participate in the changeability of nature and re-enter the living realm. It is an invitation to let go of attempting to make things that ‘stop’, but rather things that grow, change and react to diverse phenomena through their life span.
This strategy is explored by designing objects that react to and/or are nourished by the natural or man-made occurrence in their surroundings. And promotes the design of objects that change through their life-span according to the changing needs of the user and/or changes in technology, lifestyle etc.
An inherent part of this strategy is the invitation to explore ways of embodying the concept of ‘closing the loop’, thus promoting the re-design of products and processes into self-nourishing cyclical flows of organic or technical materials.
Figure 3: Alive Bus Stop by designer RTPs Team @ UIA Mexico City
Alive bus stop was designed to enable climbing plants to grow over its poles and roof. The roof is designed to collect rain water and direct it to water the plants. The residue of water is channeled into the ground.
Figure 4: A DIY Shaded Roof-Garden by Ravid Rovner @ HIT, Israel
A simply assembled construction and special terrace planters create a gardened environment for tenants on their roof-top. The system is self-transportable and self-assembled and fits any roof. Climbing Plants create a cover which has all the environmental benefits of green-roofs, while the planters provide a space for urban agriculture. This object changes throughout the year according to the seasons.
Creating mediators relates to empowering people to regain their capacity to participate in designing their own environment and using their unique creative skills to create the artifacts they need. This notion is explored by creating designs that mediate between an individual and the materials or resources he might find in his surrounding environment, thus supporting users in producing their own daily objects.
At the same time this strategy addresses the potential of design to become a mediation tool that supports people in adopting more sustainable life habits or in other words, supports the rehabilitation of the developed world inhabitants from the destructive lifestyles they have embraced for only a few decades. This mediation process includes creating fresh and creative alternatives which offer not only social and environmental benefits but also illustrate appealing, sensual, experiential and inspirational concepts, products, services and systems.
Figure 5: TWO GO by Yael Livneh @ HIT, Israel
TWO GO is a DIY designed project that supports the user in creating his own 2 in 1 bicycle seat and storage.
Slow Water is a simple in-door system that can be integrated into an existing bathroom, supporting the user in collecting water from a wash basin and re-using it for toilet flushing and other needs.
The call to Discover Abundance invites us to participate in the way things are ‘right now’ and make an attempt to identify sources of abundance that we usually tend to overlook.
In relation to this strategy diverse work is done with the aim of putting to use unseen sources of abundance that could be revealed at various layers of object, infrastructure and community.
'Design Sharing' alludes to designers creating platforms for people to collaborate for a common goal. It strives for the strengthening of community ties and on a larger scale - strengthening the local social fabric.
This area of search is explored by creating experiences that would initiate shared common moments in which people are playing or working together to address common goals that are either long term outcomes or spontaneous moments of joy.
figure 9: Zocalo interactive shadow system by Blessed @ UIA Mexico City
El Zocalo is a public square commonly used as a meeting point although it has no resting or shaded areas. Zocalo is a human powered shadow system, which becomes effective only when a number of people use it together. This system promotes interaction between people sharing the same space while creating a common shaded waiting area. Zocalo is an outcome from a four-day 'Bridge Workshop' at Universidad IbreoAmericana, Mexico City.
This clothing exchange platform was designed to be located in various places in a city creating a playful and appealing platform for people to donate objects and clothes they no longer need as well as having a chance to get a new treasure that was another person's waste.
The work with various groups of students and professionals during the last six years shows that sustainable design methodologies such as THE BRIDGE can have great impact in supporting designers to grasp this wide scope and, at the same time, identify their unique applicable approach within it.
In many cases working with THE BRIDGE strategies allowed participants who had little or no background in sustainability design to grasp its essence swiftly and address the design and conceptual challenges it contains. These types of processes enable designers to join and perform meaningful actions within the vast challenge of sustainability design – the biggest task design ever encountered.
If we manage to inspire the critical mass of designers to join the genuine quest towards sustainable prosperity, I believe we can get much closer to making that giant leap toward a society that is nourished by the nectar of the world while turning it into sweet honey.