STURM und DRANG: Which trend in the last 12 months surprised you most and why?
Olivia: Attention to honesty, self-care and sustainability has been on the rise year after year, but particularly in the last year. Considering the way the world has navigated through the turmoil of 2020, it isn’t surprising. It is a relief that society is looking inwards a little more, reflecting on their needs and seeking a connection to honest materials and objects. In Denmark, design comes from an organic, natural angle. Places and objects are designed with the environment in mind and for longevity. Natural materials evoke a certain nostalgia with us all and by approaching a material with slowness, we can design a sharper future.
SuD: In your experience, what influence does design have on human behavior? What are the chances for design to impact a more preferable future?
Olivia: Engineers and designers of all kinds have a large influence on human behavior, from your seat on the train into work to the cup you sip your coffee from in the morning. Coming back to natural materials, humans have this desire and sincere love for something that feels organic and slow. Design influences the way we experience spaces and interact with objects. There is a connection to senses and materials, and how we behave when interacting with these, whether we feel relaxed and at ease or uncomfortable and tense. Biophilic design and the use of organic materials can foster intuitive behavior and offer an outcome for a more preferable future. Designers have been working with both of these for a long time, so it is about continuing and amplifying this.
SuD: What are your examples for life-changing design?
Olivia: Le Corbusier and his coined phrase, ‘the house is a machine for living in’, defined architecture and the interior spaces we know today. Examples like the Villa Savoye, Palace of Assembly and Pavillon de l'Esprit Nouveau are classics demonstrating this ideology. Using simple forms/shapes, clean lines, large open floor plans and windows, Le Corbusier designed spaces “exactly made for the needs of the house…It is poetry and lyricism, supported by technique”. This continued with modernist homes like the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe and Glass House by Phillip Johnson. The open floor plans we see today in our homes, column free facades, open ground floors below towers, horizontal windows and rooftop gardens are all examples of Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-Ino manifesto.
„The Farnsworth House addresses fundamental issues about the relationship between the individual and his society. Mies viewed the technology-driven modern era in which an ordinary individual exists as primarily beyond one’s control. But he believed the individual can and should live in harmony with the culture of one’s time for successful fulfillment. His answer to the issue is to accept the need for an orderly framework as necessary for existence while making space for the individual human spirit’s freedom to flourish. He created buildings with free and open space within a minimal framework, using expressed structural columns. He did not believe in using architecture for social engineering of human behavior, as many other modernists did, but his architecture does represent ideals and aspirations.
The 60-acre (24 ha) rural site offered Mies an opportunity to bring the human relationship to nature into the forefront. Here he highlights the individual’s connection to nature through the medium of a synthetic shelter.“
„We should attempt to bring nature, houses, and the human being to a higher unity.“ - Mies Van der Rohe
SuD: How can the design sector become more sustainable?
Olivia: Foremost, investing in knowledge and research into more sustainable materials and objects. Looking at design for dismantle and re-use, and demanding higher eco-specifications from suppliers for finishes and products. Whilst we don’t set our client’s needs or the investor’s desires, we can introduce sustainable touchpoints with both stakeholders when designing spaces. Designing a return brief to provoke thought for re-use, relocation, dismantle, sustainable materials and healthy working practices for builders and all those involved in the process of a project, from start to finish. The full spectrum, the primers and paints used on walls to the fabrics used on furniture.
SuD: What will be better than today in the year 2030?
Olivia: With the way humanity, the earth, technology and science are tracking, today we should not take for granted the cleaner air, beautiful yet deteriorating environments like the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon, access to nutritious food/water and a smaller population/footprint. The growing and ageing population will be a reality in 2030 and we need to work fast to facilitate and design for this change. Technology is also moving at a faster rate than we can keep up with and we should remember to not lose touch with real connections as the technology that’s designed to bring us closer, somehow separates us.