Design for a Living World
Inside the sustainable design exhibit at New York's Cooper Hewitt. By Joe MarianekBy: Joe Marianek, Published: May 21, 2009
Some marketing folks have even deployed "green" as a value-adding, feel-good prefix to throw in front of any product ranging from plastic dog toys to linoleum flooring. This is not the case with Design for a Living World, which is a green exhibition in principle, form, and spirit.
The landmark exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum was developed in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy and was co-curated by Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller. Pentagram designed the exhibition, catalog and website.
Ten leading designers from fashion, industrial and furniture disciplines were commissioned to create objects utilizing sustainably grown and harvested materials from around the world. Each designer paid respect to the origin, use and impact of their material in the various settings.
From their "Truth and Materials" essay in the exhibition catalog, Lupton and Miller state that, "each of the commissions... strives to provoke conversation and to raise awareness of the origin of natural materials. As one-of-a-kind prototypes, they reflect a continuous thought process rather than recipes for mass production."
All in all, Design for a Living World exposes the beauty of conservation in design; inspiring practitioners and consumers without dropping the empty "G" bomb. Below is the inventory of the ten designers contributions, with location photography by Ami Vitale and object photography by Jay Zukerkorn.
Federated States of Micronesia:
vegetable ivory and black pearl, Ted Meuhling
raspberry jam wood, Stephen Burks
cocoa, Yves Behar
FSC-certified plywood, Abbott Miller
Abbott explained, "The chair is really a cousin to the exhibition casework and wall system, and follows a long-standing interest in making something dimensional out of something fundamentally graphic. This happens in a lot of work, and this approach made sense especially with a commission that highlights FSC-certified plywood."
FSC-certified hardwood and jipijapa, Kate Spade NY
salmon leather, Isaac Mizrahi
chicle, Hella Jongerius
organic wool, Christien Meindertsma
bamboo, Ezri Tarazi
FSC-certified red maple, Maya Lin
The exhibition is on view at the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum now until January 4, 2010.
Joe Marianek is a designer at Pentagram and teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.