Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Designing for the World's Poor, & Potters for Peace

It's going to be a gorgeous weekend, perfect for the opening of the outdoor exhibition "Design for the Other 90%" at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. Presenting a garden-full of ideas for changing the world, the show will highlight “the growing trend among designers to create affordable and socially responsible objects for the vast majority of the world's population (90 percent) not traditionally serviced by professional designers,” as stated on the website. It runs May 4 - September 23, 2007.

I heard about the exhibition on The Leonard Lopate Show this morning as he interviewed Ron Rivera of Potters for Peace. PFP is an organization that works with local potters in poor communities (mostly in Central America) to create ceramic objects for sale and use. For example, he has developed a ceramic water filter that can be made by local potters using local clay to improve the drinking water supply for the community. This approach fosters sustainable community ownership of the project -- after the organization people leave and there’s breakage or they need more filters, local artisans are able to fulfill the need, rather than having to wait for the outside group to return or having to spend money they don't have to buy new filers made elsewhere. From my vantage point, this kind of sustainable development approach is the way forward for what was once called "aid work."

I'll be reviewing the exhibition for WorldChanging next week, and will post more about it here, too.

One thing I'm really hoping for this show is that it will demonstrate how design needn't be shiny, ultra-clean, cute, or high-tech to be good design worth looking at. I sometimes wonder why we don't see more, for lack of a better term, roughness from the world of design. Consider the ceramic water filter pictured above (from PFP's website). It's not superficially beautiful, but it carries significant aspects of design and, I think, contributes importantly to the field of applied design. More on this after I've seen the show.

Which reminds me...

For those of you keeping up with my WorldChanging articles, on April 19 I posted about phthalates, the nearly ubiquitous chemicals found in everything from vinyl shower curtains to polymer clay. They're not good for us, but the government is not regulating against them. Read more in WorldChanging New York.

Thank you for reading!

1 comment:

Mad said...

This is a great post and very apt. I look forward to the one at World Changing. You have a box of mad pots arriving today! :)