By John DeFore
Green Right Now
Opening this week at New York City’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the exhibition “Design for a Living World” explores possibilities for ecological sensitivity in a realm of top-tier design work — from fashion star Isaac Mizrahi to artist/architect Maya Lin — in which conspicuous over-consumption is often the rule.
The show was developed by The Nature Conservancy, whose Project Director Sara Elliott says they “were looking for designers who demonstrated an innovative and open-minded approach to materials or who were thinking about the relationship between products and place or source,” instead of only recruiting those known for green-friendly work. Designers were pointed toward areas where the Conservancy works — from Bolivia to Australia to Idaho — and asked to draw their inspiration from whatever they found there.
The show, which is expected to travel to cities like Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco after leaving New York in January, wound up with a broad array of creations, from sculptural pieces to prototypes for what could be mass-produced, everyday objects. More important than marketability, Elliott says, is “that the objects say something about the place, the people who depend on that place for their livelihood, and/or the inherent qualities of the material.”
In a way, the show’s impact on viewers seems like a secondary concern: The challenge here was to designers, who make so many decisions on the consumer’s behalf long before a product is available for sale. Non-designers come away from the show, hopefully, ready to pay more attention to questions about where their goods come from and how their production affects a community. As for the creative professionals who participated, Elliott says, “I think in almost every instance, the designers have been inspired to pay closer attention to the materials they specify in their work and the impacts that those material choices have on real people and real places across the globe.”: Next Page-->