|Blimp Bus. Mitchell Joachim.|
This past Friday I attended the Dwell on Design convention sponsored by Dwell Magazine. Amidst the high end bath fixtures and sleek induction cooktops I found a few simple but wonderful ideas that I’ll blog about tomorrow. But first I’ve got to try to digest the strangeness that was a presentation by architect and futurist Mitchell Joachim.
|Fab Tree Hab. Mitchell Joachim.|
Joachim is the thoughtstylist in chief of Planetary One and Terreform One, non-profit organizations that, “pioneer visionary socio-ecological and infrastructural strategies for urban environments.” Articulate and entertaining, Joachim delivered a rapid fire PowerPoint lecture showcasing many of his outré notions: floating jellyfish-like mass transit thingies, foam electric cars, strawberry shaped hydrogen peroxide powered jet pack capsules, houses made of in-vitro cultured meat and the favorite of contemporary futurists, high rise hydroponic farms.
|Sheep Cars. Mitchell Joachim|
I really couldn’t tell if Joachim was simply trying to provoke a discussion, delusional, self-promoting, or engaged in some kind of conceptual art project in which we, the gullible audience, were part of an elaborate ironic or post-ironic house of mirrors. Joachim seems hipper than old school World’s Fair futurist types and yet he’s promoting exactly the same Jetson style future, albeit with an eco tinge, those of us over forty can remember from our childhood.
|Green Brain, A Smart Park for a New City. Mitchell Joachim|
I completely agree with Joachim that whatever designs we come up with have to make the world a better place, that technology must create what he calls a “positive contribution model.” And I appreciate his clever renderings and sense of humor as a way to provoke a dialog. But Joachim’s vision veers too close to what John Michael Greer calls the “apocalypse meme,” the idea that some sort of cataclysmic event (Joachim suggests an ecological crisis) will usher in a new techno-utopian age. Joachim even suggested that his positive eco-feedback loops could form the basis of a new faith to replace our current consumerist spirituality.
|In-Vitro Meat House. Mitchell Joachim|
At the risk of being a nattering nabob of negativity, I just have to say that I think it’s time to grow up and stop fantasizing about jet packs, hydroponic farms and electric cars. We need to get realistic about our future and explore design work that lives within the resource limits of this planet. Like Greer, I believe it’s time to return to what came to be called, in the 1960s and 70s, appropriate technology, things like solar water heaters, rocket stoves and permaculture. Designers have an important role to play in the coming years, but that role may be more about working on the ideal pit toilet rather than foam electric cars or in-vitro meat houses (I will admit the meat house is pretty funny). As a design challenge, that ideal pit toilet, by the way, is just as engaging, perhaps more so than the techno-utopianisms that Joachim peddles. Maybe Joachim can work on an in-vitro meat pit toilet.