July 3, 2010
Today began with a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, a few short blocks away from the Met which we visited yesterday. The exhibit on display was the National Design Triennial’s “Why Design Now?” — an examination of the work of designers addressing modern human and environmental problems. Put simply, it was a display of the edgiest new solutions to human problems using technology and sustainable design.
The exhibit was fascinating. I won’t go into detail about it because there was so much to see and learn, but as an example of the types of products included in it, I will tell you about my favorite one: the power-aware cord.
Obviously, whenever most people plug an appliance or other device into a wall you simply turn it on and use it without the thought of its power consumption. The power-aware cord, however, when incorporated into existing appliances, is designed to make you take notice of the fact that you are using energy through a clever visual cue: when turned on, the power cord lights up in a chasing pattern so that you can actually “see” the power traveling from the wall to the device! I love it! It’s such a simple idea, but one that could have a dramatic impact on our day-to-day energy consumption. I highly recommend a visit to the museum to see more products and technologies like this; it will really open your eyes to the possibilities of the use of technology to solve everyday problems.
Our exciting day continued in the afternoon with our first studio-wide “pin-up” of our first project: the conceptual interpretation of the High Line Park in paper and string.
All of the students pinned their projects up on the wall side-by-side, the idea being that when lined up, the combined projects would constitute a complete examination of the entire linear park from start to end. The result was quite fun to see:
Once all of the projects were up we had a studio-wide discussion of the individual and collective projects, on topics ranging from spatial and material representation and significance to the experiential qualities of the projects, having to do with light, sound, movement, etc. It was really interesting to see how each person interpreted their own section of the park as well as how they presented their interpretations to the class. Some people created a physical diagram of certain experiential and environmental factors, while others created a more abstract expression of their opinions of the design and concept of the park itself.
One of the more interesting discussion points raised, in fact, was the debate over whether the complete gut and renovation of the park undercut the experience of the park in its original, overgrown state, and whether or not the implementation of “designed” elements like walking paths and planned gardens interrupted the natural beauty of a man-made structure reclaimed by nature. One student in particular directly addressed the issue in his project, and so was the subject of intense questioning and discussion in front of the class.
The experience as a whole was very thought-provoking, and the studio professors were very helpful in leading the discussion as well as instigating the discussion of new topics.
More and more I’m beginning to like and appreciate these types of discussions, whether with the entire studio or within our small sections. I feel very comfortable sharing ideas and discussing abstract concepts and design details in each of our projects here; I’m also learning it’s very helpful to receive constructive criticism of my work at each step in the process, not just at the end of a project. It is sometimes difficult to take a step back from a project when you are focused at your desk, so it is extremely helpful and productive to get the feedback of others while I’m working. I’m also glad that my section-mates and I are starting to get to know each other better and interact more to help each other out. It’s a fun group to work with, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in the next few weeks.