The Viridian Design Movement

Key concepts:, weblogging, cybergreen activism, Tech Nouveau
Attention Conservation Notice:
You should definitely take the time to read this Note. This is good news of high importance to the Viridian scene.

(((Alex Steffen, Alan AtKisson, Jamais Cascio, Dawn Danby. If you've been on Viridian List any length of time, these are going to be familiar names to you. They're either hard-core, long-time conspirators from the Viridian Curia, people who win our design contests, or really cool futurist guys, or all three.

(((Now they've rounded up a pal or two, plus the services of Laughing Squid – (likely the coolest ISP in the world) – and boldly started a world-changing weblog.)))


(((I just got through surfing it. Man, does that thing rock. It's shaping up to be a kind of BoingBoing of Cybergreen. Practically everything on that blog is of direct, penetrating interest to anybody who would be putting up with Viridianism.

(((So go help them. Go help them right away. I don't know what they need – probably everything – but whatever it is, go try and give them some.

((("Worldchanging" is very much the same work the Viridian movement has been doing since 1998, only now (thanks God!) it's being done by a relatively organized team of capable activists instead of by some wacky novelist in his spare time! So go make them famous. Do it now.)))

(((And if that awesomely cool development weren't enough, check out this great article that I just snagged off "Worldchanging." It's the New York Times suddenly discovering and validating Viridian aesthetics! There's a tagline now! "Tech Nouveau."

(((TECH NOUVEAU. There may be prettier coinages, but needless to say, we Viridians are absolutely down with this trend, no matter what it may get labelled: zoomorphism, organic minimalism, neo-organicism, Tech Nouveau. That is our signature Look. It's amazing that it can still fight its way up through a grimly militarizing society, but that's a tribute to its power, its burning need to exist.

(((Christmas is coming. Are you Viridian? Go buy something "Tech Nouveau" and flaunt it! Give it to your best friends! Go consume it, for heaven's sake! Waste not an hour.)))

(tiresome registry required) Phil Patton > Home & Garden

CURVE APPEAL Ross Lovegrove's stairway, with its helix profile, is part of a new tendency by designers to borrow forms from nature.

Biology and Biochemistry
Interior Design
Home Furnishings

(((I'm loving this already and the article hasn't even started yet!)))

GONE NATURAL Ross Lovegrove's staircase.

"Going With the Flow, Tech Nouveau Arrives


Published: November 6, 2003

"REAL estate in the Notting Hill section of London has become a lot more valuable since the designer Ross Lovegrove bought a building there nine years ago and established his home and studio. So when he needed more room this year, instead of building outward, he expanded downward – with a remarkable staircase.

"It looks like radiating flower petals or like part of a double helix – the code for DNA – but with sensuous blades of a glass and carbon composite instead of building blocks of nucleotides. Mr. Lovegrove calls his design, which echoes the sensibility of his bleached-bones Go chair for Bernhardt, organic essentialism.

(((Hey! Are you rich? Buy me that Lovegrove Go chair! I'll tell you where to ship it! I wanted one since 1999!)))

"That sensibility has also been called zoomorphism or neo-organicism or biomorphism, and reflects a widening interest among designers in borrowing the flowing forms of nature. But because of new materials and aesthetics, these influences are updating the effulgent, botanical shapes of Art Nouveau of a century ago and rethinking the biomorphic sci-fi boomerangs and kidney-shape coffee tables of the mid-20th century. (((Hey Mr Home Design Critic, "sci-fi boomerang" guys were updating-and-rethinking all this five years ago! So there!)))

"There is a new, witty nouveau afoot, from the Vallo watering can by Monika Mulder at Ikea, which looks like a stork, to the coffee and tea set by Greg Lynn for Alessi, which opens like a clove of garlic. Tord Boontje's chandeliers for Swarovski look like clouds of slender branches surrounding a light. A great deal of building in Britain has biomorphic roots, for instance, Snohetta's whale-shape museum addition planned for Margate, Foster & Partners' Swiss Re sea sponge building going up in London and Ushida Findlay's proposal to build a starfish-shape country manor house in Cheshire.

(((Thank you Europe, you wonderful continent you!)))

"In the United States, the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava's addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum looks like a giant bird about to take off. William Sawaya, a designer based in Milan, created a blossom-like plastic Calla chair for Heller, which was inspired by a lily. A new digital camera for Creative Labs by the California company Whipsaw Design takes its inspiration from the many-chambered spiral shell called the nautilus.

(((Somebody go find us web-pics of all this stuff!)))

"The spiraling nautilus shape is to the current crop of designs as twining-vine leaf patterns were to Art Nouveau.

"Dan Hardin of Whipsaw Design said, perhaps a little too floridly: 'I wanted users to feel an instant connection with the camera by making it look like a precious shell you find washed up on the beach and want to examine and caress. With its natural beauty and tactile curiosity, the familiar nautilus form, with its graceful progressive curve, expressed this perfectly.'

(((What the hell is "too florid" about that? That's a beautiful piece of design rhetoric!))) "But the new design also looks to new sides of nature – sometimes microscopic, subatomic, cellular, even theoretical. ((("Make the Invisible Visible" – We Viridians have an entire list of principles about this!))) BMW's X coupe concept car shifts from standard aerodynamics to thermodynamics for the 'flame surfaced' look that Chris Bangle, chief of design for the company, calls 'sexy math.' (((Oh to have lived to see the day when there was a coinage called "Sexy Math"! Thank you Chris Bangle! "Sexy Math!" Sure hope you can stick some hydrogen in those damn cars!)))

"The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a show on called 'Zoomorphism,' whose curator is Hugh Aldersey- Williams. (((Get me the book of the show! Cost is no object!))) It includes biomorphic buildings by Mr. Calatrava (whose bridges and structures look like skeletal remains) and Frank Gehry (whose titanium skins evoke fish scales, and whose undulating shapes look like the frozen billows of waves or flower petals) and also explores Wilkinson Ayre's nautilus theater, which has a spiraling arrangement of 20 movie screens of different sizes. (((They're the greatest architects of our age! Them and Foster, and Foster got name-checked up there in paragraph four!)))

"Steven Holl's new Massachusetts Institute of Technology dormitory was inspired by the humble sponge. The Dutch design star Marcel Wanders has created a riot of nature-inspired shapes, including vases based on sea sponges, a Flower Chair inscribed with fine wire flowers and his voluptuous Egg Vase. (((I love that Wanders guy! He's the greatest slapstick humorist north of Phillipe Starck!)))

"In Mr. Lovegrove's studio, bones and fossils are displayed as ideal forms – 'no fat' design he calls them – arrived at by nature. His organic essentialist movement, he said by e-mail, 'is almost biomimetic and inspired by new materials, processes (((Hallelujah!))) and technologies.'

(Page 2 of 2) (((incredibly, there's even more of it, and it keeps getting better!)))

"The new shapes depend on high-tech materials and methods: injection molding, carbon fiber, computer modeling. New materials like carbon fiber, plastics and resins lend themselves to more flowing shapes than metal or wood. Computers that can render the flows of forces – the loads, thrusts and twists – allow designers to work with more dynamic forms. (((Blobject alert! Yowzah!)))

"To design his staircase, Mr. Lovegrove went through countless computer analyses and consulted with engineers, then built the staircase with tools and techniques more often used to fabricate aircraft or Formula One race cars. (((Did I tell you how happy this is making me? I am absolutely eating this up with an injection-molded spoon.)))

"Having built the molds, he is eager to make more staircases. 'I have already received orders from a count in Rome who would like one for his palazzo,' said Mr. Lovegrove, who has not yet set a price. (((Man, that's the Art Nouveau tradition for you. How totally 1912! How on earth does a designer find "a count with a palazzo in Rome" these days? Did Ross buy him off eBay?)))

"Scott Henderson, the director of industrial design at Smart Design, (yay!) a company known for thoughtful ergonomic tools, (i-rey, mon!) thinks he knows why the curvy, organic new shapes are so compelling. 'Because the human form is curvy, it makes sense that we'd want to interact with curvy stuff,' he said. (((Couldn't have said that better myself! In fact I did say it myself!)))

"A new Museum of Modern Art book that focuses on design, 'Objects of Design: From the Museum of Modern Art,' (((hi Paola!))) includes Peter Reed's essay 'Modern Nature,' which discusses Antonio Gaudi in company with Charles Eames, Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen and Philippe Starck. Hector Guimard, the French architect who designed the floral Art Nouveau entrances to the Paris Metro, is cited in the essay for calling on designers to imitate nature, 'the great architect of the universe.' (((I'm breaking down sniffling with gratitude here... just let me get my breath a minute...)))


"Mr. Reed said by phone: 'Organic is back in many ways. Often it is because new technology and materials have made it possible to produce forms you couldn't make before.' (((Yeah! See, that's called "progress"! When it works, people think it's really great!)))

"The computer has been important in rendering organic shapes, but designers are increasingly paying attention to what might be called the software of evolution: complexity theory. Half understood by laypeople, complexity theory, which sees nature as evolving toward better-designed bones and brains, has managed to inspire designers, too.

"After all, said Mr. Henderson of Smart Design, 'Things in nature have been going through a perfection process for millions of years of evolution.'"

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