Design Column #12 - Spaceship Earth
Design Column #12 Spaceship Earth brings together projects by designers, artists and scientists who are reimagining the world through innovative concepts.
The agreements at COP21, the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, are more extensive and more ambitious than ever before. With a legally-binding international accord, there is now a clear and ambitious goal: to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced to zero by 2100.
Companies now realise that green and sustainable products are the future. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development - a partnership between 200 multinationals - promises a radical change in the DNA of our energy system. When our energy system changes, it has a knock-on effect: on transport, packaging, the built environment, electronic products and our consumption.
One of the big changes is the emergence of the ‘smart factory’ and ‘the internet of things’. It represents a transition from wasteful mass production to a flexible, on-demand supply of products and solutions. Architect Thomas Rau, initiator of the Pay Per Lux concept, believes we are on the brink of a complete revolution of being. In order to survive on ‘spaceship earth’, which is in fact a closed system, we need to develop a balanced relationship with nature. The future of the economy is closely tied to a redefinition of the man’s relationship with the planet.
Ideas that make a difference
Every three months the Design Column focuses on a news item in the form of a small exhibition. The column is a place where new ideas are made visible, where the power of imagination is given expression. Designers and artists are especially interested in experimental imagination. With their idiosyncratic vision, they see things differently and are capable of bringing about change. The Design Column creates a space for these innovative concepts.
Dave Hakkens, Too Much Stuff, Made In, Small Change Big Difference, 2015
In 2012 Dave Hakkens developed Phonebloks: a modular phone with components that can be easily upgraded or replaced without the need to buy a whole new phone. The videos that Hakkens posts online at story-hopper.com also show how we can do little things to contribute to a more sustainable world. Videos such as ‘Too Much Stuff’, ‘Made In’ and ‘Small Change, Big Difference’ demonstrate how small changes can reduce waste and make the production process more transparent.
Christien Meindertsma, Bottom Ash Observatory, 2015
For her project Bottom Ash Observatory Meindertsma meticulously sifted and analysed 25 kilos of ‘bottom ash’ – the remains of incinerating approximately 100 kilos of household waste – and found all kinds of materials, including costly and re-usable materials such as aluminium, copper and silver. She melted the most valuable materials and cast them into cylinders. Dwindling natural resources force us to re-evaluate our waste: Meindertsma believes that rubbish dumps are the goldmines of the future. Every step of her research has been documented by photographer Mathijs Labadie for the book ‘Bottom Ash Observatory’, produced in partnership with publisher Thomas Eyck.
Studio Eric Klarenbeek, Mycelium Project 2.0 - Veiled Lady, 2014
Whereas the majority of 3D-printed objects employ plastics, this project demonstrates the potential for alternative, natural materials. Klarenbeek mostly uses locally sourced organic raw materials. He seeks contact with 3D printers close to his studio and encourages them to work with local materials. Because there is no melting of materials – the organism itself acts like living glue – energy use is minimised, reducing the product’s carbon footprint.
MIT Media Lab Fluid Interfaces Group, Reality Editor, 2015 - present
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have conceived the Reality Editor: an interface that connects physical objects and enables them to work together. With the Reality Editor the camera on your phone grants you access to an ‘augmented reality’ that is laid over your direct environment allowing you to interact with physical reality without the need for individual apps. Have the heating in your car turned on just by getting up from your office chair? Have the coffee machine start when your alarm goes? By pointing your camera at a device and drawing a virtual line on your smartphone screen to another device, you can connect various objects and edit their functionality.
Gavin Munro, Prototype 2 - ash dining chair, 2007-2015
With his Full Grown project, bio-designer Gavin Munro has taken a radical stance within the furniture industry. Instead of felling and transporting large trees and processing the wood to create individual objects, Munro trains the tree to grow into ready-made products. He harvests the chairs directly from his orchard. By eliminating several intermediate steps, he simplifies the production process and makes it more energy efficient: he lets nature do most of the work. Munro calls it ‘mass production meets delayed gratification’. Mass production is still a long way off: a single chair takes between four and eight years before it’s ready to be sat on. Nonetheless, Munro sees this new approach as an eco-friendly and energy-efficient future for the furniture industry. The company will launch a series of pendant lamps in the spring of 2016.
Turntoo, i.s.m. Philips, Pay Per Lux, 2011 - heden
Architect Thomas Rau has launched the project Pay Per Lux in partnership with Philips. The starting point for Rau’s concept is that consumers are not interested in lamps, but in the light they produce. Consequently, Pay Per Lux is not a product, but a service: the customer buys a subscription from Philips for a certain amount of light per year. Philips then supplies the lamps, ensures that the energy bill is paid and takes responsibility for replacing lamps when needed. Philips remains accountable for its own products and the attendant energy bill, so it is in the company’s interest to produce long-lasting, energy-efficient lamps.
Ecovative, Mushroom Packaging, 2016
With capitalism and mass production controlling our global economy, we are confronted with a surplus of products. This means we also create enormous quantities of packaging and therefore waste. The current battle against the ‘plastic soup’ in our oceans is a direct consequence. Ecovative contributes to a solution by producing packaging material that is completely biodegradable. Their Mushroom Packaging is made from natural materials and uses mycelium - fungus - as a glue. A worthy alternative to plastic packaging.