Design Weeked Out

Link UP Showcase 2009 Opening Night. Photo: Thomas Larsen

Link UP Showcase 2009 Opening Night. Photo: Thomas Larsen

A terrific, hectic and inspiring eleven days of Copenhagen Design Week is over. From Thursday afternoon, August 27 to Sunday night, September 6 the city has been overflowing with exhibitions, talks, seminars and parties; a week of early mornings with food for thought and late nights with drinks and jokes.

Luckily the Design Week aimed at targeting businesses and focusing on design for sustainability. Though this once again proved to be a hard nut to crack it prevented the event from turning into a ‘designer’s padding designer’s on the back’-week. In stead of celebrating icons of the past and showcasing next weeks tabletop ware focus was on what INDEX: precisely has put as ‘design to improve life’. And in this case design should be read as both a verb and a noun.

Three major events in the Design Week which I will describe separately were the INDEX:award, Copenhagen Co’creation and Link UP Showcase. Other important events were the Danish Design Centre’s Cradle to Cradle seminar which together with ‘Future Living’ and the CLEAR Village Launch at the Danish Architecture Centre featured the largest brain trust within architecture design and business seen in Copenhagen for many years.

At the Cradle to Cradle seminar Michael Braungart (co-author of the book ‘Cradle to Cradle’) presented the paradigm of waste equals food and how this equals good business. Braungart is a magnificent and inspiring speaker with a clear vision but most important at this seminar were the business people backing the vision with action: The Dutch carpet company Desso, the world’s largest furniture company Steelcase and Ingrid Zeegers who is director of sustainable innovation at Philips telling and showing how designing for sustainability is not a question of consciousness or branding but simply common sense and good business.

Future Living and CLEAR Village Launch at the Danish Architecture Centre presented some of the most inspiring people working with sustainability and social entrepreneurship within architecture and design. At Monday’s ‘Future Living’ Simon Guy (Manchester School of Architecture) stressed the importance of sustainability being a global challenge calling for local and personal relevant solutions (glocalisation as some call it) while Alejandro Gutierrez (Arup Urban Design) described how they as a global engineering company works within exactly this framework. Hopefully Danish developers and mortgage providers will soon wake up and smell the coffee and not just keep covering behind the ‘we just deliver what the market demands and no-one ask for sustainable housing’-argument.

On Tuesday Thomas Ermacora launched his project to create a sustainable village through the CLEAR Village Foundation. It is a grand scheme and an ambitious and inspiring project that addresses sustainable living in a very concrete manner taking into account the important issue of scale on both a physical and societal level. For the launch the project got heavily supported by among others Alex Steffen (Worldchanging), Ken Yeang (Llewelyn Davies Yeang), Cameron Sinclair (Architecture for Humanity), Eve Blossom (Lulan Artisans), Bjarke Ingels (BIG) and the quartet of thought leaders Henning Thomsen (Gehl Architects), Jennifer Leonard (IDEO), Paul Hughes (Lava Studios) and John Manoochehri (Resource Vision). Together with this heavy overload of thoughts and visions the following eco-buffet at The Paul in the Tivoli Gardens with live music from Jazz Kamikaze and Imogen Heap made it an outstanding event.

Being the first of it’s kind already from years before the official opening the Design Week was subject to a lot of criticism. A lot of it has been relevant and the execution was far from perfect. Presentation and communication of the events have been messy and even as a representative of one of the Design Week’s partner organisations it was virtually impossible to find out what happened when and where. Moreover the design and production of the Design Week’s website, catalogue and material in general has not in any way been of a standard to expect from a national design event of this calibre.

But right now that’s not so important. The lasting impressions from the first Copenhagen Design Week is a plethora of vibrant activities, clever, energised and fun people cruising the city (on bikes of course) from seminar to seminar via exhibitions and improvised events, after-hours talks and late nights in bars with some of the greatest designers, architects and thinkers of our generation. – already looking forward to the next time!

Watch pictures from Copenhagen Design Week on Link UP’s Flickr

By Jesper Pagh • September 8, 2009
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Design is all around

Jesper Pagh

I am a designer devoted to sustainability, technology, experiences and human behavior.