This spring, The Nature Conservancy
and the Smithsonians Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
will present Design for a Living World, a traveling exhibition featuring objects created by leading designers and made from sustainable, natural materials. The exhibition will premiere at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum on May 14 and continue through Jan. 4, 2010.
The Nature Conservancy collaborated with prominent designers from the worlds of fashion, industrial and furniture design, and each designer focused on a natural material from a specific place where the Conservancy works. The locations ranged from iconic American landscapes, such as the sweeping grasslands of Idaho, to such exotic places as the southwest coast of Australia and the forests of Chinas Yunnan Province. The designs explore the transformation of organic itemswood, plants, woolinto beautiful and useful objects. By choosing sustainable materials that support, rather than deplete, endangered places, designers can help reshape our materials economy and advance a global conservation ethic. Through this process, the exhibition reveals fascinating stories about regeneration, natural places and the human connection to the Earths lands and waters.
The exhibition features designs by Yves Béhar, Stephen Burks, Hella Jongerius, Maya Lin, Christien Meindertsma, Isaac Mizrahi, Ted Muehling, Paulina Reyes and Ezri Tarazi.
Béhar worked with a womens chocolate cooperative in Costa Rica to develop packaging for the raw cocoa they use to make a traditional hot drink and a grating tool that evokes the sensual nature of chocolate, delivering an intense experience through taste, form and narrative.
Burks traveled to Australias Gondwana Link to design the Totema tool made from reclaimed native jamwood that the local Noongar people can use to make and package a line of organic herb- and sandalwood-based cosmetics that they are developing for export.
Dutch designer Jongerius traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula to observe traditional chicle latex harvesting and explore the possibilities of chicle beyond its use in chewing gum production, resulting in more than 20 embellished vessels and plates.
Using wood harvested from a Forest Stewardship Council-certified Nature Conservancy property in Maine, Lin crafted a striking piece of furniture that highlights the beauty of an individual tree.
Meindertsma used wool sourced from a sustainable sheep ranch in Idaho to create a large-scale knit ruga flock of smaller components, each one made from 3.5 pounds of wool, the yield of a single sheep.
Famed fashion designer Mizrahi turned Alaskan salmon skintypically a waste product of the salmon industryinto a dress that references the scales of the fish from which it was made.
Acclaimed jewelry designer Muehling transformed Micronesian vegetable ivory and ocean-harvested black and keishi pearls into a series of bracelets, necklaces and other items, spotlighting the beauty of these natural materials.
Reyes, for kate spade new york, traveled to Bolivias forests to work with local craftspeople to design a series of handbags made of sustainable wood, cotton and jipijapa, a fiber made of palm leaves.
Industrial designer Tarazi designed a series of adjustable components that connect to mature bamboo stalks from Chinas Yunnan Province, creating a domestic forest that supports a range of living arrangements.
Our goal with the exhibition is to connect audiences to the natural world by exploring the story of place through innovative design, said Mark Tercek, president and chief executive of The Nature Conservancy. Design for a Living World challenges us to think about the products we usewhere they come from, how they are made and what the impacts are on our planet and on local communities.
Design for a Living World offers a captivating look into the life cycle of materials and the power of conservation and design, said Paul Warwick Thompson, director of Cooper-Hewitt. Cooper-Hewitt is delighted to partner with The Nature Conservancy in raising awareness about material conservation and sustainable design solutions.
This exhibition opens an important conversation between conservationists and designers about the potential and legacy of natural materials, said Abbott Miller, co-curator of the exhibition. By choosing sustainable materials, designers contribute to the advancement of a global conservation ethic that can foster consumer awareness.
Design for a Living World is co-curated by Miller and Ellen Lupton. Miller, a partner in the New York office of Pentagram, is recognized for his innovative installations for the National Building Museum, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Freud Museum in Vienna, Austria, and the permanent exhibitions at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Lupton is curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt and is the author of many books on design.
The exhibition and book will also feature specially commissioned photographs from award-winning photojournalist Ami Vitale, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek and National Geographic. The structures used to display the exhibition will include Forest Stewardship Council-certified plywood from community forests in Bolivia.
Design for a Living World will remain on view at Cooper-Hewitt through Jan. 4, 2010, and then will begin a three-year tour to venues across the United States.