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We're all a part of nature, aren't we?

21 October 2020

Living Coffin - Bob Hendrikx
We can all agree: 2020 is going down in history as the year when everything changed. Now that physical contact is almost impossible, we only notice how much we value intimacy. As our personal world shrank, many people rediscovered their appreciation of nature. Precisely for that reason is one of the sub-themes of DDW20: 'It's in our nature'.‚Ä®

During the imposed standstill on everyday life, humans once again become one with the green world around them. In a society that has wanted to move forward for decades, always looking for more, higher, better, faster, suddenly there was room for reflection and the question of what is really important to us. With Covid-19 as nature's red flags, we've had to face the facts. From a capitalist point of view, resources have been exploited, habitats and ecosystems have been destroyed, and the number of animals on our planet has been drastically reduced. David Attenborough's Netflix documentary A life On Our Planet shows how mankind managed to do this largely within a century. As Attenborough puts it, it is time we see ourselves as part of nature and not as an outsider. During Dutch Design Week (DDW) we investigate, within the theme It's in our nature, how we can live in harmony with nature.

We are one
© ©Studio Hendrikx - Loop Biotech

Waste or compost

We can find the solutions in the nature around us. Biomimicry inspires us. By imitating nature, we come up with new ideas. When humanity and nature can live more in balance, we can prevent situations like our current one from recurring in the future. Designer Bob Hendrikx embraces the vibrancy of nature with a living coffin. In a poetic way, he shows that in the end we are all part of nature. He asks himself: ‘If we are all part of nature, why do we behave so differently? We work with dead materials while nature is full of life. When will we become one with nature again?" Hendrikx lets online visitors think about whether they want to be waste or compost after their death.

Human influence

Eindhoven-based BioArt Laboratories breathes symbiosis with nature. The exhibition The Symbiocene Forest shows the work of eleven different talents, focusing on ecological and evolutionary thinking about the interconnectedness of life and all living things, in contrast to the current human influence. Shaakira Jassat shows how we can use the workings of nature in a good way. Her design Tea drop shows how structures in nature extract water from the air. It makes us aware of how much water and effort a cup of tea really costs. Jassat explored this water extraction technology in urban construction in the project Aquatecture. During this DDW, she also shows the development of a circular building block. Romy Snijders' Symbiotic Futures maps the communication flow of trees. By listening to the trees, we learn to protect the forests and improve the environment. Another design that supports the survival of nature is Project Habitate. Recent graduates of the combined master's degree at the Royal College of Art - Imperial College in London have developed a material that mimics the bark structure of dying ash species, to support the growth of tree related organisms. You can wear the material around your arm as a wearable, and through your movement, you help rebalance the ecosphere and allow the ash population to grow. You become one with nature.

Economia - The Limited Edition: Exhibition
© ©Gabriela Baka

Unlimited growth

The current state of our planet is largely due to human actions. It is in our nature to want more and more. And if that was about more flora and fauna and healthier air, then that wouldn't be a problem. We are part of larger systems in society that direct, manipulate, tolerate or maintain our current relationship with nature. These systems grind and squeak on all sides, how do you design for that or along with it? Can you design for a system? As a species, we are incredibly resourceful and solution-oriented. How can we use that creativity to change these systems? Baltan Laboratories explores how we can transform this paradigm of unlimited growth in their exhibition Economia. Within the themes Nature's Economies, Shifting Value and Re-designing Infrastructures, designers show their answer with installations and films. The consequences of wanting more and more can be seen in the research Flowing Garments by Fengjiao Ge, one of the talents in the Antenna program. Fast fashion is a global problem. The production of clothing and the speed at which it is disposed is only increasing. An unethical and unsustainable supply chain model has been created. According to Fengjiao, 5 percent of our landfills now consists of textiles. Flowing Garments gives a glimpse into the future where textile waste serves as a raw material for building materials and becomes a positive contribution to our landscape.

The Social Design Lobby
© ©Graphic Design by Hoax

Bringing about change ‚Ä®

How do we ensure that solutions for a better balance are not just a thing of the future, but are actually implemented? This takes a lot of work and requires a shift in politics from local to a national level. And if the change is initiated with a new policy, how do you get all those residents on board? The programme of The Social Design Lobby focuses on addressing social issues with the help of social designers. Designers can play a large part in bringing about lasting change, especially in shaping what will happen. They guide people through times of change and hear and translate the fears of those involved to achieve social improvement together. What if the new nature of our thinking becomes 'always better' instead of ‘always more’?

Want to see or read more about this topic?

Tune in on Wednesday, 21 October for the DDW Talks: Eco Pioneers (Future Fossils). Next Nature Network hosts this DDW Talk within the Eco Pioneers track. The footprint that we as humans leave behind is explored in the theme Future Fossils. What are future fossils? Or imagine yourself virtually strolling through the Eco Pioneers route, among a selection of projects designed for or with the power of nature.
The New Intimacy: It’s in our nature
Covid-19 has enveloped our entire social fabric, exposing all the threads and frayed edges. One of the most important human values, intimacy, is at stake now that physical contact is often no longer possible. How do designers reflect on this? How can they translate the value of intimacy into their work creatively and innovatively? As our personal world shrank, many people regained their appreciation for nature. Precisely for that reason, "it's in our nature" is one of the sub-themes of DDW20. Read the full text about The New Intimacy here.