When you want to rip into something, it's really hard to come up with a title that is more damning than their own headline.I compulsively check the website Dezeen for what is the latest in architecture and design. The site isn't particularly good, its editorial content and editorial style formulaic, but it's quickly accessible, carries lots of images, and importantly for me it often has drawings of buildings that it publicises. Well, today I got my just deserts. If I ever wanted confirmation that the design community may aptly be compared with the most parasitic manifestations of fashion generally, this article by editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs couldn't do a better job.
".....sustainability turned out to be unsustainable. We just didn't have the time; we couldn't afford to be green. We thought the products looked ugly. We didn't enjoy the preachiness or the guilt."trumpets the editor somewhere around the middle of his rant, the culmination of the litany of one liners glibly conflating sustainability with the handmade and with one-off up-cycling. I read on, desperately waiting for the hook, thinking I'm being wound up for the real message. But it turns out that is the real message of this article.
".....green's message did not adapt and it ran out of steam. It fell foul of the law of diminishing returns: it's easy to make the first cut in your carbon footprint, but every subsequent one gets more difficult. And because the back-to-nature, made-do-and-mend doctrine supped from a limited gene pool of visual stimulus, it became an aesthetic trap. Once you've hewn furniture from raw timber, there's not much further you can go.I know, the word 'sustainable' was really debased almost as soon as it was defined, along with the much more problematic metaphor of 'green'. But don't these people get it? Sustainability isn't about engaging the attention span of a bright young thing with a high pain threshold for tight pants but a low one for diminishing returns.
Technology however is intrinsically optimistic: each new development, each new device brings the promise of a new future. Each new way of arranging atoms or bits opens the door to a new solution cloaked in a new form. And since these elements are infinitely configurable, technological development is more sustainable than sustainability, since it will never run out of ideas."
For anybody who thinks, 'sustainable' never was confined to the exaggeratedly, and exploitatively organic. It always engaged the potential of technology to change the balance between consumption and irreversible exploitation. Perhaps there was reason to be sceptical that you could have such a thing as healing architecture, for instance. But yes, we did develop LED lights and low consumption computer displays, and high yield photovoltaics all at the same time, so that we can begin to think of future buildings as giving back more than they take. All that an article like this does, is to deny that complexity which has always been the promise of design, and substitutes for it a glib superficiality. Okay, I know it has always been like this. But it still hurts.
If you are a masochist, read the full article here.
And for balance, to explain why the editor's stand might be perfectly understandable, glance at this article, also in the same day's Dezeen. It is on the work of Sou Fujimoto with the image of Final Wooden House as its anchor.