God is in the details

20110630-210349.jpg I am sitting on the cheap but slow train from Malmö to Stockholm, where the French-owned operator is generous enough to include free wifi. But since I don't know what to use it for, I am using this delightful vacant time to read one of the the books I brought: Cradle to Cradle. Yes, as a manifesto for a cyclic and holistic approach to design it might be a bit dated; these days every other project on design blogs have feature which "give back" something to the environment they have been designed for.

One such example was a new type of concrete that absorbs Co2 from the air in the manufacturing process. More interestingly, the article was found in Wired magazine. You may excuse me for not being a dedicated Wired reader, but there is something refreshing about such an earthy piece of news in a magazine about the likes of Steve Jobs and Google-spinoffs.

As I am washed in broken sunset blaze spreading out across the Swedish Midlands I can't help but hope that there is a possible future when the stuff we create and consume actually are a part of the ecosystem. No doubt there is a long way to go, and all the plastic bags in the Pacific waste dump will never be safely incinerated, but as the public grows increasingly aware of the collective planetary impact of their individual behaviour, we stand a chance of making that fundamental shift needed to stay on this planet.

Re-quoting a 1992 conversation from the above mentioned book: Republican White House representative: " I see. You want an endangered species act for the whole world...and the devil is in the details". Evolutionary biologist: " No, Sir. God is in the details."

Whatever we do as designers, we'll never be able to match the almighty. So far, we have created such a gap between ourselves and nature that we have a lot of "giving back" to do before we can safely re-enter the eco system that surround us.

Ostensible vacation

I'm in Sweden on a long-awaited vacation for the next two weeks, having spent the Swedish unofficial national holiday Midsummer with friends in our family house on the south east tip of the country. Despite the extraordinary setting and great dinner party - orthodox with pickled herring, fresh boiled potatoes and sweet strawberries with cream - we struggled to keep warm in the refreshing but chilly north atlantic winds and finally I decided to cut my stay short and go back to the city (Malmö). Truthfully I was very fed up with Beijing towards the end and coming back here for a short but familiar visit will really help me put things in perspective. My current project in the pipeline, I am sucking up the Scandinavian vibe in order to release it with new powers on my return. But of course, things are never as easy as that and it will really be a challenge to bring a genuinely nordic feeling to China. If anyone can do it, at lease I hope I have a good chance. And soon I'll let you know what it's all about.

Until then, some photos from over here.

Malmö by air

"Self-service strawberries! Put money into the box and grab what you need" (Wait a minute, there must be a CCTV camera around here somewhere...!)

Summer house by and for Danish architect Erik Bystrup of Bystrup arkitekter.