by , 04/04/07
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Core 77 Manifesto on sustainable design, Allan Chochinov, 1000 word manifesto on sustainable design

We love manifestos here at Inhabitat. Sure they are didactic and dogmatic, but they also exude a passion and idealism that is hard to find in this cynical day and age – laying down the law and spurring the unmotivated and overly-analytical into action. We definitely think the sustainable design movement could use a few more manifestos, as Cradle-to-cradle is the closest thing we have, and that only addresses one small aspect of the bigger picture of sustainable design. This is why we love Allan Chochinov’s recent Sustainable Design Manifesto which was just published on Core77 >

+1000 word Sustainable Design Manifesto

Allan takes on the material concerns raised in Cradle-to-Cradle, as well as the problems of over-engineering, over-production and consumer culture in general:

Design for Impermanence
In his Masters Thesis, “The Paradox of Weakness: Embracing Vulnerability in Product Design,” my student Robert Blinn argues that we are the only species who designs for permanence—for longevity—rather than for an ecosystem in which everything is recycled into everything else. Designers are complicit in this over-engineering of everything we produce (we are terrified of, and often legally risk-averse to, failure), but it is patently obvious that our ways and means are completely antithetical to how planet earth manufactures, tools, and recycles things. We choose inorganic materials precisely because biological organisms cannot consume them, while the natural world uses the same building blocks over and over again. It is indeed
Cradle-to-Cradle or cradle-to-grave, I’m afraid.

Stop Making Crap
And that means that we have to stop making crap. It’s really as simple as that. We are suffocating, drowning, and poisoning ourselves with the stuff we produce, abrading, out-gassing, and seeping into our air, our water, our land, our food—and basically those are the only things we have to look after before there’s no we in that sentence. It gets into our bodies, of course, and it certainly gets into our minds. And designers are feeding and feeding this cycle, helping to turn everyone and everything into either a consumer or a consumable. And when you think about it, this is kind of grotesque. “Consumer” isn’t a dirty word exactly, but it probably oughta be.

Mighty words, which we support wholeheartedly here at Inhabitat.


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1 Comment

  1. Stiven (sustainableday.... April 5, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks Allan. I don’t think that you were being to rough on consumerism as a mater of fact I would go further as to say that it is an illness of the developed world especially in the US where culturally we measure happiness with the amount of “crap” we can afford to surround ourselves with. Media and corporations have taught us to believe that happiness and quality of life lies in owning an Audi or being the first to sport the I-phone, not to mention all the other far less useful and badly designed products we think we need.

    Just one example is Cuba, a place where consumerism of any kind practically does not exist but yet they are a one of the healthiest nations in the world both physically and mentally. I traveled there for a few weeks last year and was so surprised how few materialistic possessions they have and yet how happy they are as people.

    I believe that as designers we must take on the responsibility of redefining the meaning of good design. You are right, it’s about context and appropriateness and balance of all the meaningful variables. This is much harder to achieve than just beautiful form and function but paradoxically not often identified as good design.

    The folks at http://www.worldchanging.com have put together a great book documenting some of the world’s best sustainable and practical solutions. To me, there are better examples of good design in that book than any other traditional artsy fartsy design publication.

    We humans invented trash with our crude industrial systems and still today we are the smartest creatures on earth but also the dumbest as we stumble to realize the side effects of our shallow addiction to our superficially manufactured need for crap we don’t need.

    These ideas are not new; Papanek and Fuller figured this stuff out 30 years ago…

    Checkout my manifesto and blog at http://www.sustainableday.com

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