Dissolving Design: Ecology and Environment as Destabilizing Agents

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations

Description

The emergence of ‘ecology’ and ‘environment’ as key tropes in the Scandinavian design discourse of the 1960s and 1970s did not grow organically out of the earth, but required significant investment in conceptual construction. This paper explores two ways in which this conceptual construction destabilized the object-centred epistemology and culture which had brought Scandinavian design to international fame in the preceding decade. First, we look at the close and reciprocal interrelations between ideology and methodology, as practitioners, critics, educators, students, and activists awoken by the ecological crisis struggled to find new answers to the questions of what design should be, and how it should be practiced. Examples are taken from the fields of design education and design activism, where the interaction between ideology and methodology has been particularly prominent. Secondly, we take a closer look at the many and diverse uses and understandings of the concept of ’environment’, or ’miljø’ as it was called in Scandinavia. In the early years, the term was by no means reserved for the dominant contemporary understanding of natural surroundings—it also carried meanings as both habitat, creative milieu, and spatial design. What these two developments have in common—the shift in focus from product to process, and the shift in scope from individual artifacts to systems and situations—is that they undermined the unquestioned centrality of objects and objecthood in design culture and instead made objects more transient, more peripheral, more subordinate. In a way, then, the new tropes of ‘ecology’ and ‘environment’ worked to destabilize the object to the extent that the conventional notion of design as product and practice dissolved into a much less clearly defined discursive field grappling with a far broader array of material culture and creative practices.
Period8. Sep 2022
Event titleDesign History Society Conference: Design and Transience
Event typeConference
LocationIzmir, TurkeyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Keywords

  • Ecology
  • Design Culture
  • Nordic Design History
  • Environment