Massive Changes: Repurposing an old dvd project as a psychedelic glare-crow.
Self-watering tomato planters made from repurposed food-grade plastic tubs and hoses: tomatoes need lots of heat, no water splashing on their leaves or on the soil beneath them. These get lots of sun and are covered by the roof overhang, and are watered through the hose that collects water in a chamber below. Click on the picture to see how it's done.
While I am not a Luddite by any stretch, I have my days.
I often come across the “technology will save us” concept. Now, I am a believer that good design (as of manufactured products, homes, neighborhoods, towns and cities) means that form is an outgrowth of function. As a verb, “to design” refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component with intention. As I wrote in an earlier post, I am an admirer of designer/architect/ writer/ builder/ visionary critic Christopher Alexander and the irrepressible James Howard Kunstler. In my own work, I try to adhere to the idea that what the thing is used for must guide what it looks like, what it is made of and how it functions.
That dynamic space between form and content is something that comes up a lot during the film, web and media design and animation classes I teach, and daily through collaborations with clients or partners, as well as through my own personal art production. The main idea is that form (what the ‘thing’ looks like, what it is made of, how it moves, how it sounds, what form it takes) must come from its content (what it is supposed to reveal; the ultimate meaning, even if that meaning is certain feeling or undefinable mood). Of course, all this happens within a context: a time, place, mind-set, culture or sub-culture.
Strangely, what design today seems to be lacking in a clear idea of both function and form: needs are imagined and catered to (often, badly), without a bigger picture of whether these ‘needs’ are real or illusory; whether they serve short-term ‘wants’ or actually solve a real problem for the intended public. The goal here is to first and foremost to generate quick cash , by any means possible. The length of time a consumer product lasts as a usable product is clearly defined, and made as short a time as acceptable by a fickle public. There is no attention paid to the materials the object is made with (probably plastic), that will typically last hundreds of years longer. Add to this the fact that most of what we buy and use is often produced and designed in a substantially different cultural context, thousands of miles away, under unknown circumstances in terms of worker treatment, environmental standards, etc. and you have the mess we have today: cheap dollar-store quality everythings; often it’s just the packaging and brand name that differentiates an actual dollar store object from one purchased from a higher-end store.
So, when I hear of creating intentional cities and communities, I often wonder if we can actually give ourselves the opportunity to really define what we need. In a sense, our 1950’s suburbs were designed with great intention: the ‘white flight’ aspect was definitely one reason many left the inner city. This was further enabled thanks to taxpayer dollars, by the multi-lane highway to allow people to daily commute the long distances from suburbs to downtown, and back.
Christopher Alexander often writes about how ancient cities developed organically over time, as did most homes and many of the churches. There was a basic understanding of building and design patterns that — within a certain cultural and temporal context — produced a livable home or a magnificent public space. These patterns were learned, but not in an academic setting. Rather, they emerged from lived experience: the night-time heat in one part of the planet created the need and mental/physical space for external sleeping quarters, while the ability to grow good quality thatching straw in another area brought about the thatched roof and the straw bale house, while another area’s cold temperatures and plentiful masonry or wood allowed for still different possibilities based on need (content or function) and the access to formal elements. I wonder if “intentional community” design often takes it for granted that we actually can envision a long-term sustainable lifestyle. I think that a mass awareness of what we are doing to the planet (and what the planet in turn is, and will be, doing to us) will need to solidify before we know how to design for our future communities. I see willingness to make tiny steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle, but nothing that really has much impact when you consider that at best, just slowing down the damage each person inflicts, when added to population growth, basically spells ‘full-steam ahead’. We have to come to a realization that we have been working against our real needs while accepting others’ idea of what ‘progress’ means.
There’s a massive change required, and it’s going to first have to come in our revaluation of what we have, where we want to go and how we want to go about it.
This below is from the Chamber of Commoners organizing committee:
After a long gray winter, it’s time for all of us in non-profit, community, and people-based activities to refuel by coming together at the upcoming ‘Chamber of Commoners’. It’s going to take place on June 9, so save the date. Once again, the evening will be filled with snacks and drinks, information tables, ‘organizational’ speed-dating, door prizes, and even more open time to mingle with new and old friends. In addition, we’ll have a bit of fun trying our hands at some collective song writing. That’s right! We’re going to work together to add a few verses to John Prine’s ‘In a Town This Size’ and give it some local Powell River flavour. Some of Powell River’s very own music talent will be on hand to help perform the final product.
Mark your calendars, and spread the word! Here are all the details you’ll need:
Chamber of Commoners
Club Bon Accueil (French Club)
5110 Manson Avenue
7-9 pm, Wednesday, June 9, 2010
This is a ‘by donation’ event (suggested donation: $5.00). No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
RSVP to email@example.com to confirm your attendance.
Please let us know ASAP if you’d like to reserve space for an information table (space is limited).
We are looking for donations of door prizes. Contact us if you have something to offer.