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.

Architect (disambiguation)

trainride A week ago or so, I witnessed an atypical confrontation on the morning train to Copenhagen. I was sitting in the silent compartment, where "mobile phones be switched off and conversations kept to a minimum". As we were leaving Copenhagen Airport, a few people had unknowingly stepped into this silent zone and continued their conversation. An excentric Swedish lady in her 50's rises immediately and points out, rather indiscretely, that this is the silent zone and they should keep quiet, whereupon the young couple continue talking to each other, laughing about this surprising attack on their seemingly normal behaviour. The lady insists, and tells the young man to step out into the hallway, whereupon I hear from another party in the compartment (everyone is now following the intrigue with great interest): "It's not your fault, it's the architect's fault!" And then again, a few minutes later, when the young man comes back, blushed and angry, to pick up his girlfriend and baggage, I hear the same voice insisting that it is the fault of the architect that the signs are not clear and visible in the compartment.

I smile to myself. I find it amusing and satisfying that "the architect" is given such a significant role in this seemingly obscure matter. Maybe it's my Swedish context where the architect plays a very modest and excusing role in society that makes me delighted every time common people bring up the architect and his/her responsibilities, whether it is in good or bad terms.

There is, however, a deeper interpretation of this insignificant event. What is really the role of the architect? Why didn't they blame the train operator? The train crew? The graphic designer? Why was the architect suddenly given the responsibility for the environment to be clear and disambiguous?