My second conference day starts with an inspiring presentation about the essence of ecology. David Oakey raised in rural England is telling us about nature as inspiration for our lifes and more specifically for product design. As a child he was fond of searching for bird nests. His search learned him about behavior, about shapes, about natural solutions. How many children, and adults, hardly interact with nature anymore nowadays? This could lead to a so-called nature-deficit disorder with serious societal consequences (David refers to a book from Richard Louv: Last Child in the woods). From the airport I started a talk with the Indian taxi driver. Living in Canada for 5 years now, he praises the beautiful nature around Vancouver. It turns out he has never been there himself. Probably too busy with getting life going…
As a junior designer David Oakley sometimes considered human design outperforming natural design. He completely withdrew that illusion. What nature has designed over billions of years is always superior to what men came up with in a limited period of time. Beautiful series of pictures and movies illustrate his statements. Nature’s design is organic, small, flexible, fluid, limbs. It is self-cleaning, self-healing, sustainable, resistant, full of variety. With many colours, no straight angles and lines, without flat surfaces.
David Oakely also addresses human resistance towards ecological design. It goes against our intuition almost. We do not want to live in an ecologically shaped house: how to get our straight-angled furniture in there? Companies do not want ecologically shaped buildings: more expensive, not efficient. But that is changing at the same time now. We are re-adopting nature in our lifes, in our architecture, in our interiors. Some companies like Google are frontrunners. They realise that in the end people are so much more expensive than the buildings they are in – saving on that is not paying off in the end. Google is hiring the best people, and it wants to care about the well-being and health of this most important asset. After all your employees while awake spend more time in the office than they do at home. Back to my taxi-driver, do we want him to drive a more ecologically-shaped car? No we’d rather offer him a drive into the Rocky Mountains. There is nothing better than true nature.
At the same time I consider the implications for Avans. How close or how far are our students, lecturers, and other employees from nature nowadays? Driving in cars and trains, being inside almost all day. What about the ecological design of our buildings, our class rooms? Food for thought for all of us. Let’s discuss it sometime… while making a brisk stroll in the woods.
Jorna Leenheer at Globe 2016, Canada