5 August 2020
Have you noticed it too? Over the past year or so, there has been a greater sense of urgency in how we talk about climate change, and a much deeper and more wide-ranging conversation around what wellbeing means – for today, and for the years ahead; for people, and for other entities and systems. And there has finally been a broader dialogue in design disciplines about what we can and must do to target non-diabolical outcomes in the future.
Hand-in-hand with this reckoning have been wonderful examples of design that challenge the status quo with common-sense responses to the many-sided issue of sustainability – not just environmental, but social and economic too. These are at their best when they embody a sensitive assessment of what particular places and circumstances really need – not just what will tick the most boxes on a checklist.
It’s heartening to see many such examples of design intelligence in the INDE.Awards this year, not least in The Influencer category. This award category is about recognition of design that sets the agenda for the region and the world. And judging by the 2020 category shortlist, representing five countries around the region (Australia, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Singapore), there’s much to be celebrated this year in terms of tackling serious challenges with a strong mind to issues of place and care.
“We’re delighted to see the depth of talent that exists across the Indo-Pacific region,” says Roderick Wiles, Director at category partner AHEC Oceania. The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is a non-profit trade association that supports the SME-dominated hardwood industry in the United States, which produces and exports hardwoods all over the world. Says Wiles, “An important part of what we do is to provoke architects and designers to explore different materials in their work and move away from conventional ways of thinking. This is what led us to support The Influencer category.” He adds, “The American hardwood forest is a truly sustainable resource, and it will keep being used for iconic designs for generations to come.”
What stands out to Wiles in the 2020 Influencer category Shortlist is nature. He observes, “Most of the shortlisted designs embrace the natural world and natural materials. The impact of being surrounded by nature on our wellbeing has been proven time and time again. Incorporating timber into a design is perhaps the easiest way to bring the outside in and lift our minds and spirits.”
Jury members Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, founders of Formafantasma, zeroed in on the link between sustainability and the broad perspective on care embodied in many of the shortlisted projects, saying: “While a lot of the entrants presented very much styling-based interventions, essentially characterised by pleasant material combinations and attention to the experience of the user, the majority of the shortlisted projects combine the care for the user with the care for the environment and local specificity. This is an encouraging trend for a more responsible and ecological use of design.”
Shinta Mani Wild, a resort camp in Cambodia, provides a good example of concern for local issues. Designer and owner Bill Bensley purchased the wild forest land on which the resort sits to protect it from logging. A collection of 14 ‘tents’ is set along 1.5 kilometres of river, with repurposed and upcycled finishes incorporated into the construction. Local people are offered training and employment as part of the Shinta Mani mission.
In Indonesia, bamboo characterises Riverbend, Bambu Indah – an eco retreat set in the Balinese jungle and designed by IBUKU in a way that diminishes the boundary between the interior and the natural setting. No two bamboo poles are alike, and the design and construction team took the time to allow each piece to tell them what it wanted to do in the heavily curved structure.
Meanwhile in Sukabumi, West Java, Goy Architects have created an organic vegetable farm stay that seeks to reacquaint city dwellers with nature and the origins of their food. With its footprint guided by existing trees, Sukasantai Farmstay is a low-maintenance construction with elements such as a bioswale to filter rainwater runoff for farm irrigation, and tiles developed with local artisans and manufacturers.
In Sydney, CplusC Architectural Workshop makes an impressive case for carbon-positive living with Welcome to the Jungle House, which serves as both a functional and symbolic advocate for sustainable design. The house was designed in such as way that food, garden, environment, energy, waste, water and architectural aesthetic can exist symbiotically, making the most of the nurturing capacity of human beings.
Who will win INDE.Gold? Join us and the region’s top winners at the free INDE.Awards 2020 Digital Gala this August 13. Register here.