Thursday, June 03, 2010

SCIENCE - Future Past, Plastic

"The Way We Design Now" by ALLISON ARIEFF, New York Times 6/2/2010


Though our connected culture would be lost without it, plastic assumes a radically different role in the design world: its most high-profile usage of late comes not in throwaway consumer goods but rather in the form of the 12,500 plastic bottles (that’s about the same number consumed every 8.3 seconds in the United States) used to build the Plastiki, a wind-blown, solar-powered boat currently sailing from San Francisco to Australia, stopping at environmental hot spots like the roughly Texas-sized North Pacific Garbage Patch or Pacific Gyre along the way. The goal of the Plastiki voyage is to encourage people to re-think waste: according to Project Aware, 15 billion pounds of plastic are produced in the U.S. every year, for example, but only 1 billion pounds are recycled.

It would be overstating things to say that Plastiki is helping chart a new course for design, but the vessel and the voyage do provide a nice departure point for discussing the place the discipline finds itself today. Though the expedition leader, David de Rothschild, has in many ways been the face of Plastiki, the project as a whole speaks to the reality of collaboration versus individual creation. The Plastiki site acknowledges a team including diver, documentarian, boat builder and solar array designer. Designers like Philippe Starck may have turned their attention to things like wind turbines now, but most design efforts these days, whether for iPods or affordable apartments, seem to be very much the product of teams. Coming off an era where designers assumed the role of artist/auteur, that’s a big shift.

(click image for better view)

My article title is in reference to when plastic was new-thing and all the hype that resulted.

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