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The dematerializing and rematerializing of design

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The article begins by considering design in relation to the rising environmental awareness in the decades since its beginnings in the 1960s and 1970s. Increasing environmental awareness has accompanied what several thinkers have noted to be a paradigm shift in values, as they come to embrace process, variability and experience in lieu of progress and material goods. Given the beginnings of such a shift, and given the goal of shifting the world away from one based on material consumption, there is a need to shift values. The article suggests designers need to change their thinking away from offering total, complete solutions isolated from the natural world towards designing with the forces and energy flow of nature. At the same time, artefacts can play a role in shaping values, taking into account immateriality – forces and energy – and experience. Liquid Sky is presented as an example of how designing with the vagaries of the natural world might instil appreciation and change values. Liquid Sky is a window installation that amplifies the changing light and airflow conditions, using them to paint the domestic interior in an animate display of light. The artefact itself is an incomplete armature, which is completed by the interrelationship of material (textile) and immaterial (sunlight and air movement). Liquid Sky offers an example of how artefacts can instil the unpredictability and endless variations characteristic of the natural world, and how – through materializing the immaterial – artefacts can co-shape our values and thinking regarding an ecological future.
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Keywords: air movement; daylight; ecological sustainability; experiential design; immateriality; product design; window shade

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia 2: Monash University, Australia

Publication date: 2013-02-01

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