The total, global, living ‘environment’: a key concept in the Danish design debate around 1970

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Abstract

We have been worried for the environment for many decades now. The very same phrases are stated today as in the first, broad, public debates around 1970, but did they mean quite the same? Does ‘environment’ mean anything specific at all? The debates started out with references to many sorts of environments, many others than natural or global ecosystems. And they were driven by very different scientific, professional, institutional and political agendas. We will trace uses and understandings of the concept of ‘environment’, or ‘miljø’ as it was called in Scandinavia, in Danish design debates. It carried meanings as both habitat, creative milieu and spatial design. The concept performed as a lens both to gather – but also to muddle – the many perspectives. And the field of design shows examples of ‘our’ environment as meaning both very abstract and concrete things, as in this quote. “Our environment consists of landscapes, regions, cities, climates, shelters, tools, devices, information, products, happenings, messages and much else.” Nature was not even the primary meaning of environment in the first years. The muddling of aspects and the dilemmas are still stumbling stones to our debates of ‘environmental’ sustainability today, so an understanding of the constraints of the first debates is crucial, especially in a field as design, where problems and actions are closely interlinked. Based on historical sources of the period and scholarship in conceptual history, environmental discourse, history of sustainable design, as well as Danish design history, we trace the differing understandings and uses of the concept of environment in Danish design and discuss, how the uses and positionings in different design practice influenced how the complexity of this environmental discourse could influence the consensus and action towards improvements.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNordic design cultures in transformation, 1960–1980 : revolt and resilience
EditorsKjetil Fallan, Christina Zetterlund, Anders V. Munch
PublisherRoutledge
Publication date2023
Pages24-41
Chapter2
ISBN (Print)9781032290423
ISBN (Electronic)9781003309321
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Environment as concept
  • Danish Design
  • History of Concepts
  • Environmental Discourse

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