On Wednesday, February 24th 2010, the first ever German Town Hall Meeting was held in Berlin with over 120 guests. It was an evening intended to introduce the Designers Accord, share projects, and discuss initiatives. Thanks to writers Philipp Züllich & Christine-Maria Kittner for the recap and Saskia Nagel for providing the photos.
The International Design Center Berlin was an ideal venue for the Town Hall. It's a non-profit organization that was founded more than 40 years ago, in the back then divided city. It has long since emphasized topical issues and social questions in design.
Cornelia Horsch, Director of the IDZ, welcomed the guests to an evening that brought together "many unknown ingredients," and suggested that the outcome would be "a tasty dish." Philipp Züllich followed with a Designers Accord introduction.
Florian Sametinger, a Munich-based interaction designer and Ronen Kadushin, Israeli-born designer and Berliner-by-choice who adopted the Designers Accord guidelines, gave lectures on their approach to sustainability. Stephan Bohle, managing partner of futurestrategy, a sustainable marketing and brand management firm, kicked off the lectures that night by provocatively claiming that "designers are guilty of killing our planet." His lecture titled "There is a pig in every designer!" offered insight to how designers fuel mass consumption by supporting various industries that throw millions of products into the market every year. 90% of them are taken off the market again within one year because products either go out of style or are not profitable enough. Bohle claimed that designers should mediate between humans and nature to achieve as much as they can with as little complexity as possible. Naturally, Bohle had best-practice examples up his sleeve illustrating how designers can do better. He introduced Better Place, an Israeli company working to redefine the way people consider and use personal transportation. He also explained Pee Poo, a throw-away toilet in the shape of a bag that offers a solution for 2.6 billion people globally who currently live without access to toilets. Lastly, Bohle mentioned "Make it Right," a project initiated by Hollywood-Star Brad Pitt helping to rebuild New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward using state-of-the-art sustainable architecture.
Next up was Ronen Kadushin. He spoke about how sustainability can be a by-product of a designer's output. He also claimed that it cannot always be a priority because "a designer's gotta make a living too!" The LYTA chair, a product Kadushin designed for Movisi, is a good example of how sustainability can easily be incorporated into the design process without being too prominent. The list of requirements for the chair, designed and produced to provide seats in hospitals, was already long enough. For example, it needed to comfortably seat people of all shapes and sizes, be super lightweight in order to be swiftly maneuvered by hospital staff, and be easy to clean and antibacterial for a sanitary environment. The final result was a lightweight yet durable chair. It was easy to take apart and even easier to recycle, as all components were made of the same material. Additionally, the chairs were made for do-it-yourself repair, preventing "throwawayism." Kadushin showed that sustainability need not always be reflected in just recycled messenger bags, but also needs to find a way into unconsidered, unhip markets - such as hospital seating.
Florian Sametinger presented on how sustainability can be applied in the field of interaction design. This is a rarely considered discipline since we usually speak about material choice, environmental impact or resource challenges. Sametinger's standpoint: Just "Green" is not enough! Sustainable production, longevity and recyclability aren't sufficient enough to create sustainable products. Illustrated by examples of PDAs, mobile phones or navigation devices, Sametinger showed how a complex menu navigation can waste consumer's time and energy, and ultimately the device's power. Good interface design increases the sustainability of products. An eco-meter can help to control and effectively decrease power consumption.
The lecture was followed by a heated debate about product life cycles that are especially apparent in the field of mobile communication. Keeping up-to-date seems to be most important among consumers even when they are generally in favor of sustainable behavior. Consumers tend to get rid of perfectly functioning mobile phones after only two years. Therefore, it takes more than just a designer to bring about a sustainable revolution.
Cornelia Horsch summed up the evening's lectures by stating that it "will not be enough just to redesign our existing environment. We have to change our behavior and our way of thinking. Designers face the task to come up with new ideas and positions that pave the way for consumers, industry and policy."
Following the lectures, nine people participated in an open mic session. Kirsten Juchen began by introducing BerlinNordik, an international platform bringing together Berlin designers with their counterparts from the Scandinavian capitals. Among many other activities, BerliNordik will put up a design exhibition in Berlin this summer.
Moritz Grund introduced the newly found Sustainable Design Center Berlin, an initiative organizing lectures and workshops about sustainable design, and their project to redesign their office space in top-notch sustainable style.
AGD's Christhard Landgraf presented the "Charta for Sustainable Design" as well as a project to initiate a sustainable design award.
Karin Zacharias-Langhans presented her Sustainable Furniture Store "Inligna," where sustainable design and production methods meet affordable prices.
Arno Schuenemann presented two of his designs: a solar-powered milk-frother "Solait" and a telephone system. Both were designed with all possible sustainable design criteria in mind.
Recent university graduate Tiphaine Conrads presented her sustainable packaging concept for cosmetics, a one-piece form made of PLA that was held together origami-style by merely folding it.
Mareike Lienau gave insights into her carpet manufacturer, Lyk Carpet. Her designs are hand-made in Nepal. Her focus on sustainability includes respect for people manufacturing her product and respect for nature, as she provides the material.
Beate Schoendienst rounded the lectures up by presenting her approach to a modular furniture system called, "Moving Circle." It's made out of recycled paper that is glued together by a mixture of quartz-sand, starch and water.
The lectures and presentations were as diverse and broad as the evening's key-topic, sustainability. The different approaches to sustainability introduced in the open-mic-session lead to further discussion, exchange and networking with a glass of wine and a pretzel. It was midnight when the last guests left, having not only heard bigger ideas on sustainability, but wiser on what is actually going on in Berlin on a smaller scale.