Disconnecting to Connect
Feature Article
Sydney, NSW, Australia

Words Bronwyn Marshall

We fetter, we scurry and we muster; all in the direction of creating spaces and places to inhabit; its what we as humans, know. We forage and hunt, and we tell stories, build relationships, bridges to connect to one another, and to other places of intrigue. We all inherently want to belong to something and some place. We are building these worlds to connect, and the bigger and further we move from where we started, the larger this inherent longing grows. In this crazy, every-day-more-stimulated world, we are craving the locality of the familiar, the comfort of the context from which we know; we want the nostalgia of the ‘local’, of the familiar. The Local Project is exactly that, it’s about celebrating community, connection and the honesty in process. It’s about highlighting places and portals through which you can’t hide; where you’re ok that everyone knows your name.

Mammoth Café - Australian Timber Table - Techne Architecture + Interior Design - Interior Archive

Design initiatives such as the Intent Journal, Slow magazine, brands such as Aesop and local industrial designers whose tenet is centered around a core conscious sensibility, is an inevitable next step, in an absolute best direction. There is growing curiosity of process, of how things are, and become what they become, and there is an accountability that designers want to be a part of. The Intent Journal’s ethos to aim ‘to reconnect the designer, maker and wearer – encouraging people to value what they buy on a deeper level,’ showcases the popularity of the masses wanting to ‘explore the relationship between people and style’ and ‘in how personal values inform the way we live and work.’

Aesop Emporium by Kerstin Thompson Architecs - Melbourne, Victoria. Photographed by Derek Swalwell.

Across all disciplines of design, there is a growing shared voice of wanting this connection. Warren Harrison of bespoke Melbourne-based Menswear label, Scott Benedictine, says ‘one of the main things that has become apparent to be in the need to keep questioning,’ where there is a ‘return to conscious thought; a deeper level of connection and understanding between maker and wearer’. This curiosity, it would seem, exists on both sides of the table, where everyone is listening intently. Aesop founder Dennis Paphitis principles of wanting to avoid ‘the kind of assault on the streetscape that retailers inflict through the ordinary course of mindless business’ is ever evident in every design initiative who so gracefully has the privilege of working with the skin and hair care brand. His sentiments that a design brand ‘should be possible to grow in a lateral way without prostituting the essence of what the company is about,’ couldn’t ring more try, and the scale is only expanding.

There’s something curious and utterly complexing about the simplicity of the human being, our ability to find ourselves so fascinating, our endless attempts to understand each other, and the resulting explorations. It’s the utmost in vanity really; we’re constantly shining mirrors on ourselves, in attempts to gain glimpses of some vein of understanding, and again, trying to connect. Philosopher Alain de Botton studies at length our nuanced weird-ities. In amongst our explorations with 3D augmented realities, this constant push to escape the realities we are creating, he says ‘we like to feel unimportant to things that are not human. It’s why we stare at glaciers, nature’, it’s this idea that we are constantly searching for meaning, purpose and connection to this planet.

Fortune and Love - Scott Benedictine.

The number of local designers also wanting to be amongst this level of accountability is only growing. Local Adelaide Industrial Design Justin Hermes, sources and store timber when not in use as a means to have control over geographical sustainability and its source. Tom Fereday also speaks to advocating for honest design, through ‘upholding the intrinsic quality of the material’ of his works. This fascination, and our want for knowledge, is just incredible. In as much as processes are known to go in cycles, there is a definite arc leading us to recreating the local gathering spots, in both a physical, literal and virtual sense.

Mito & Jeanette Chair at Milan Design Week 2017 by Tom Fereday - Australian Design

Bjarke Ingels, in all his relatable adorability, speaks to generations that crave this connectivity of process and people. In his piece ‘Advice to the Young’, he says ‘we’re not here to build for other architects; we are here to build for human kind. We need to care about the people we are designing for, understand what their dreams, desires and problems are, and we have to use this understanding as the driving force for the work that we put forward.’ In fewer words, we need to be responsible for the legacy of design being more than un-relatable artworks without context. Whether through materiality, transparency of process, or even the accessibility of public buildings and spaces, designers such as Ingels are the new breed, inspired by the likes of Rem Koolhaas, and how ‘each project (of Koolhaas’ S.O.M.) deals with a situation; a political, economical, technological situation. Architecture that reflects on society, this idea that architecture is a direct dialogue with society. Good design is careful, bad design is careless.’

Bjarke Ingels & Team - Courtest of Inglis' Instagram.

Design is changing to embody more than just reflective surfaces, glossy magazines and ego driven ribbon cutting ceremonial tugs; there is a growing want for places and spaces to exist with soul. As the emergence of the individual as maker, the DIY-er and the endless media jaunts encouraging the masses ‘to do it themselves’, the real essence of what designers can bring, is also being reexamined. Ingels’ reference to Nietzsche’s ‘Hammer Theory’, and for anything of substance to subsist, there needs to exist solid veritable foundations; ethical, social and sustainable. The resulting assumption is that without which, upon a blow, they collapse. Particularly in the growing epicenter of design that is the Australian design scene, there exists a very real translucence and honesty, mainly due to size and isolation. As a young country, finding its design aesthetic ‘feet’, this experimental phase is both exciting and very accountable. It’s an exciting time.

Published 23 June, 2017
Words:  Bronwyn Marshall
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