less stuff, more happiness

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Got lots of things to say about it - good and bad -, will publish soon.
Am investigating his LifeEdited website as well, will be back with thoughts.

Opening remark: TED’s 6 minute talks are so frustratingly short they border on the ridicule – speakers can blurt out any kind of nonsense they want, and run away without having to elaborate. But they are also cool because they plant just enough of an idea in your head to start you thinking.

Criticism: I agree with the general intent of that talk (encouraging people to live with less things in less space), but its interpretation / implementation by GH leaves me more than perplexed.

How can you with a straight face tell people to ‘edit ruthlessly’,
then describe the brief for your ‘small’ 420 sq ft apartment as: ‘I wanted it all: home office; sit-down dinner for ten; room for guests; and all my kite-surfing gear. ’
Dude. What the heck did you edit out of your Soho yuppy lifestyle? The talking oven?
‘And, of course…my own movie theater’.
Oh, sorry. You were not done.

The final, completely refurbished apartment looks slick and clever, yes. However:
1. It is doing exactly the same thing as the stackable chairs, Russian-doll bowls, and magic digitization that makes ‘everything disappear’: finding a clean way to cram a lot of stuff into less space, i.e., the opposite of editing.
2. The big elephant in the room is the nasty question which designers do not want to hear: is it relevant today, especially within the framework of a ‘green’ discourse, to even think of designing anything from scratch?
As Christopher Guignon once said: 'sustainability must redefine itself as a tool for dynamic transition, not a tool for sustaining an existing modus operandi.' 

Which is exactly what GH doesn’t seem to have the guts to do.
The entire experience of the LifeEdited contest, while very interesting in terms of space optimization, seems to offer, as the main final deliverable, the design of a highly-customized apartment to sustain the lifestyle of a wealthy New Yorker, while easing up his environmental guilt through some ‘green’ patches.

To me some important questions haven’t surfaced: what does ‘simple life’ mean when societal pressure requires most of us to be connected through technological devices which we must more or less own? Do we really need to each have a fully equipped kitchen? What are daily utilities we could start sharing? Aren’t good plumbing and safe, natural materials more important than home-theaters? How can we be effectively coherent between what we preach and what we do?

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