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Design Problems

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on August 8, 2006 at 2:56:37 pm

Design Problems


The Crofton Pulp Mill spews poison into water and air as it chews up ancient forests. The wasp nest may suggest an alternative way to design for pulp production.


Can we see hunger as a design problem? There is no scarcity of food on this planet, but rather an economic design that prevents food from being distributed to all. Can we see pollution as a design problem? The design of our homes, our communities, our manufacturing processes, our legal system, are all implicated in the construction of environmental problems. "Design problems" is a concept that foregrounds human agency and allows optimism. Employing creativity and a willingness to learn from natural systems, we can redesign our world.


David Orr writes, "Frank Lloyd Wright once commented that he could design a house that would cause a married couple to divorce within a matter of weeks. By the same logic it is possible to create buildings and cities so badly as to cause a culture to disintegrate socially and come unhinged from nature." http://www.designshare.com/Research/Orr/Loving_Children.htm


William McDonough is a celebrated architect, designer, and author with M. Braungart of Cradle to Cradle, a book which argues that "the conflict between industry and the environment is not an indictment of commerce but an outgrowth of purely opportunistic design. The design of products and manufacturing systems growing out of the Industrial Revolution reflected the spirit of the day-and yielded a host of unintended yet tragic consequences. Today, with our growing knowledge of the living earth, design can reflect a new spirit. In fact, the authors write, when designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun's energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist." McDonough has applied these principles to redesign large-scale manufacturing processes so that they do no harm to the environment. "While this may seem like heresy to many in the world of sustainable development, the destructive qualities of today’s cradle-to-grave industrial system can be seen as the result of a fundamental design problem, not the inevitable outcome of consumption and economic activity. Indeed, good design—principled design based on the laws of nature—can transform the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force." http://www.mcdonough.com


Massive Change: The Future of Global Design is a project by Bruce Mau Design and the Institute Without Boundaries, organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery. Their premise is that "design has emerged as one of the world's most powerful forces. It has placed us at the beginning of an new period of human possibility, where all economies and ecologies are becoming global, relational, and interconnected." http://www.massivechange.com/ : "No longer associated simply with objects and appearances, design is increasingly understood in a much wider sense as the human capacity to plan and produce desired outcomes...Design ...has placed us at the beginning of a new, unprecedented period of human possibility, where all economies and ecologies are becoming global, relational, and interconnected."


Discuss design problems is your home community at http://www.islandsinstitute.com/cafe.htm!



Napkin sketch by Bruce Mau that began the Massive Change Project from [http://www.massivechange.com/whatisMC_02.html


Aerogel, the world's lightest solid, is 99.9% air. Courtesy: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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