Last week at the Phaidon Bookstore in Soho, White Box held a benefit for their new sustainable art garden by organizing a panel discussion called “Sustainable Work Lab: new projects in art, architecture and urban design.” Ali Hossaini moderated the discussion between landscape designer Frances Levine, architect David Turnbull, and urban designer Maria Aiolova.
Hossaini yielded to Turnbull’s freewheeling conversation about Socratic love, i.e. the coupling of poverty and invention. Inspired by his fresh-off-the-plane-from-Kenya presentation, the crowd indulged in the philosophical debate. Turnbull balked at biennials and instead encouraged artists “to make artifacts that are useful and have that magical quality that keep them from being thrown away.” “Sustainability should be the bare minimum,” concurred Aiolova. She should know. Her firm, Terreform1, held a sustainability love fest all summer long, which culminated in winning the Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award on August 17.
Aiolova said that impetus for entering the Design for the Real World competition came after she and partner Mitchell Joachim were approached by Ron Labaco of the Museum of Art and Design (MAD). Though Aiolova was unaware of any financial aspect of the award, she seemed more interested in the conference to be held at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in the fall, where Paola Antonelli will be the keynote speaker and the winning work will be exhibited. The exhibition will come to New York at MAD in the spring 2012, sponsored in part by the Austrian Culture Forum New York.
There, the group will discuss “Urbaneering Brooklyn” at a symposium on social design. The model takes a look at downtown Brooklyn one hundred years in the future, a place where all necessities—food, water, and energy—are provided from within the area’s boundaries. “We are projecting what the technologies are going to be to achieve the state of self reliance.”
For her presentation at Phaidon, Aiolova revisited the more practical aspects of some smaller scale projects, like the group’s Fab Tree Hab designs, which combine a natural scaffolding made of vines with fully grown trees that are grafted to act as a support structure and columns. Aiolova acknowledged that the design may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the client who wants to live off the grid, literally at one with nature, the Fab Tree Hab might hold the answer. What about the time it takes to grow the house? “It takes three to nine years for a good bottle of scotch,” she said.
Back at the studio, Terreform had just completed ONE Lab: Biodesign, a summertime boot-camp where architects, scientists, and artists met to explore design with living matter: