Can design domesticate nature?
There is no need to say that we are influenced by the environment where we live – where we grow up. And also, human beings have many similarities not just with animals but also with plants. It will reflect on us if there is enough light or not, if there is some space or if we are going to follow bonsais way of miniature word (Am I the only person who is truly terrified by human effort to cultivate bonsais?). Not every plant is happy in the wet or dry climate. Not every person can live in a small flat in a city or in a hermitage in some countryside.
So can we say that nature is to plants what design is to humans? Not really. Let’s face the fact that nature is simply a much better designer than we will ever be. It can make sustainable, eco-friendly design from biodegradable materials and it does not need any education or source of inspiration, creativity or computers and “skillfull” hands. We also need to admit that from the nature point of view, any design created by human beings is just a side effect of our own species. But on the other hand a need to create something is just a very human thing. And we will not get rid of it!
Anyway, we get used to everything around us, and to live in houses as some plants used to be houseplants. The only difference is that it was not the plants’ idea to “bring piece of nature to our house,” and for us was this change more comfortable than for plants. But that is so well-known story of adaptability what we have very similar with any wildlife.
The word nature is derived from the Latin word natura, or “essential qualities”. It literally means birth. In the process of design we could sometimes make one step back and realise that problems that we are trying to solve have been already solved. That solution is contained in those “essential qualities.” Why to wrapped peeled bananas at Billa supermarket to a plastic foil? How can anybody design better banana peel than the actual one?
“Some natural objects do have elements in common with the products of the designer’s craft. What is the rind of shell of a fruit if not the “packing” it comes in? Different fruits, from coconuts to bananas, are packed in different ways. Perhaps if we apply the jargon of design to a few natural objects we may make some interesting discoveries.” – Bruno Munari, Design as Art
So what to do with the wastes of what used for packing or wrapping some food? A Brazilian fast-food chain developed edible packaging. If this is really working we will probably explore some more later… There are still some questions which require an answer like: Does it solve also the problem of hygienic separation of food and a tray where it is served? And is it going to be still eaten by people also when it will be no more a new product?
There is also a collection of paper-thin bowls made from carrots, peppers, beet root, leeks, tomatoes, and other vegetables. This project has been created by Dutch artist Geke Wouters. According to Geke, the bowls are an example of “re-shaping what nature offers us”.
Nature cannot be redesigned. Nobody can bring us new “essential qualities” We can just respect it and try to avoid repeating some of the mistakes we have already made. Maybe “re-shaping what nature offers us” can work – maybe not, because there is a tendency to want more and more. Something that was given to us by nature… Where is the borderline between domesticating and abusing of nature? And how long can this relationship work?
Author: Helena Patelisová