Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sustainable design.

Since coming to Milan for Milano Salone del Mobile a couple of days ago, I have been thinking about design from time to time.

I am aware that people nowadays talk about "sustainable design".

It is certainly a good idea to make a design sustainable, so that too much burden would not be put on the earth's environment, and in order that human resources would develop without fears of distortions or coercions. At the same time, sustainability is a difficult concept to grasp and/or materialize.

Walking through the streets in Milan, I realized afresh that most of the things I saw around me were actually related to design in some sense. After all, every artifact in an urban environment was designed by people at some stage. Some of the things might now be manufactured and installed without thinking too much about the origins, but they were designed by people in the first place, anyway.

The call for more sustainable design comes from the realization that human activities have done much damage to the earth's environment. This is certainly a salient point, but there seem to be some serious theoretical and practical issues.

For example, things in nature, whether biological or otherwise, are mutually entered and eroded, where no definite boundaries are defined. On the other hand, most artificial designs are based on a principle of exclusion. Exclusion is the very foundation of the identity of things designed, manufactured and maintained, and yet is the ultimate reason for the unsustainable feature of artificial designs.

An urban environment, of which Milan is an pristine example, is based on the principle of exclusion. An urban space is composed of concrete, glass, and steel, into which biological entities other than humans are not allowed. Nowadays, people put greens on the walls and roofs, aimed at the ostensible appearance of being environmentally friendly. But at the core, the urban space remains largely and jealously exclusive to any forces of nature which might work towards its corrosion.

I wonder how you can make any design sustainable in essence, without addressing this exclusion issue.

(Maybe I will come back to this issue later)


Ko Nagata said...

Your diary is insightful. I’ve also felt that the two words---“design” and “sustainability”---are, in a way, inherently incompatible.

Man has expanded the urban environment, which is not materially sustainable by itself (which is a statement Dr. Takeshi Yoro has mentioned many times). I also feel, however, that an extremely urbanized environment is “mentally unsustainable” as well. A lot of us may already be living in such an environment where we can't sustain the healthy "environment" within our minds.

It reminds me of what Steven Pinker wrote in The Blank Slate: “Our minds are adapted to a world that no longer exists, prone to understandings correctable only by arduous education, and condemned to perplexity about the deepest questions we can entertain.” pp241-242

(ma)gog said...

There used to be a time when nature and artificial things were indispensable to each other. How fascinated I was when I first visited beautiful rural villages in Canterbury or an old cathedral in Ely or tiny cosy cottages nestled here and there surrounded by small foot paths in Cotswold!! There are places where you can definitely say that there must exist "artificial" entities in the neighboring nature, where there is otherwise, no meaning of existence.
It is impossible to imagine Anne Shirley without Green Gables, or is it?? Only one condition for the sustainable artificial design depends, perhaps, on how much affection we can give to it or cherish it or adore it until this design starts to breathe itself and glow up in our spirits.