Design for a Living World

Design for a Living World

This spring, The Nature Conservancy and the Smithsonian's 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 China's Yunnan Province. The designs explore the transformation of organic items-wood, plants, wool- into 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 Earth's lands and waters.

The exhibition features designs by Yves Behar, Stephen Burks, Hella Jongerius, Maya Lin, Christien Meindertsma, Isaac Mizrahi, Abbott Miller, Ted Muehling, Kate Spade and Ezri Tarazi.

Behar worked with a women's 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 Australia's Gondwana Link to design the "Totem"-a 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 rug-a "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 skin-typically a waste product of the salmon industry-into a dress that references the scales of the fish from which it was made.

Using FSC-certified plywood from Bolivia, Miller designed a chair whose components can be shipped flat and dry-assembled with a rubber mallet. The chair design highlights the beauty of Bolivian wood, while also yielding three chairs per sheet of plywood, with a minimal amount of waste.

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.

Paulina Reyes, for kate spade new york, traveled to Bolivia's 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 China's 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 use-where 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."

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum

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