At the Interior Design Show this past weekend, British innovator-icon Tom Dixon lamented the impossibility of creative rebellion in today’s art and design world. In the eighties, he said, postmodern design values were near-universal, and thus easy to subvert. In the oughties, however, the aesthetic is increasingly fractured, and there is no one standard to either strive for or strain against. If anything goes and nothing is new, how are today’s students to design anything truly radical?
Perhaps the answer is not to design any thing at all, but to redesign design itself. Huh? That’s what we said when we came across the Institute Without Boundaries exhibit in the student section of IDS. Their display was more of idealism than function, a newsprinted manifesto stretched across a series of cardboard tubes. One student explained that IWB’s mission is to completely rethink the way we construct and create living environments. So while the other Toronto school exhibits—Humber, OCAD, Ryerson, and Sheridan—displayed their eye-pleasing objets d’art, the post-grads at the Institute (an interdisciplinary branch of the Design School at George Brown College, founded in conjunction with Bruce Mau) talked objectives. As outlined on the IWB website, the students—numbering fewer than 20 in total, culled from an international pool of applicants ranging from architects to sociologists—aim to create “new models that are collaborative, holistic, and consider the ecology, social equity, cultural values and economic properties of the world we live in today” and “an affirmative design agenda that encourages us to create beautiful, healthy, sustaining environments for human and natural communities.”
Of course, as one shrewd observer pointed out, newspaper and cardboard isn’t going to do much for sustainable housing or the environment. Still, the ideals behind IWB’s presentation are as laudable as they are lofty, and we look forward to seeing if, and how, they translate into workable ideas.
For information on the Institute’s current project, one that envisions entirely self-sustaining shelter, visit WorldHouse.ca.
Photo by Sarah Prickett.