In three days at Dwell in Design, there was enough to hear, see and discuss that we could keep the reports rolling out for days. We will bring you some specific product highlights before the conference fades into memory, but for now, the weekend in review… Friday morning we heard a panel on prefab. It was great to see so many of the designers we talk about on Inhabitat up on stage in conversation, but even more interesting were some of the cultural and historical perspectives from the professors and authors who peppered the panel. The prefab session concluded with a screening of the documentary, Leisurama, which chronicles midcentury prefab through a 1963 housing development by the same name. The film was full of the same retro visuals of idyllic post-war living as the images we found when we researched the Lustron Home last spring.
In our opinion, Friday afternoon brought the day’s highlight — a presentation by David Baker, whose distinct multi-unit urban buildings provide shelter to low-income residents in a number of San Francisco neighborhoods. Inside and out, David Baker Architects’ work is remarkable, with transitional entry courtyards, daylight in every room and corridor, and access to outdoor space via balconies. We’ll be speaking with David in greater depth about his work in the near future.
On Saturday morning, the sustainability panel — most anxiously anticipated by the Inhabitat team — planted plenty of seeds for further conversation. As we mentioned yesterday, the sequence of speakers seemed to organically develop its own narrative, which began with what’s current and pushed us toward what’s possible. Bill Browning, a senior fellow at Rocky Mountain Institute (among many other credentials), spoke about sustainability and the preservation of resources as a matter of considering human experience and the health of the people who inhabit spaces.
Jennifer Roberts, an author and all-around advocate for sustainable living, challenged the audience to consider the “mainstreaming of green” to be only an incremental improvement upon what currently exists; and a far cry from sufficient to solve our environmental crises. We couldn’t agree more. She closed with excerpts from poet Paul Williams’ Common Sense: “We have been born into a moment of unprecedented danger and opportunity…It is time for each of us to vote with our lives –our daily lives– for or against the vision of a more hopeful future.”
The panel closed with Jay Baldwin, who is nothing short of a genius. He gave a rapidfire presentation on the work of Buckminster Fuller, (saying he sees himself not as a protege but as an artifact of the great inventor and visionary). Seeing so much Bucky brilliance wrapped up so tightly led to just one obvious question: if all of these solutions already existed more than half a century ago, and we know about them, why have we continued to design and build our world in a manner that fosters degradation instead of sustainability?
That question did get asked at the end. Is it just a matter of increasing the momentum of the next green movement? Is there something we’re missing? What do we need to know and do for the centuries ahead? No sharp answer emerged, but the fact that these were the questions we were asking as the formal segment of the conference wound down felt hopeful, even if they went unanswered.
From here the exhibition floor opened and the public show remained abuzz right up until the end of the day Sunday. Among other things, there were full-scale models of Chris Deam’s Breckenridge Trailer, two Airstreams, Jay Baldwin’s Quickup Camper and a Modern Shed (shown above). Steve Glenn of Living Homes spoke (also pictured) about achieving LEED Platinum for their prefab design; and we met Andy Thomson, creator of the gorgeous green Sustain MiniHome.
We congratulate Dwell for packing so much great stuff into three short days, and for doing it with all the style and attention to detail they’re known for.