Ecological by Design
A History from Scandinavia
How ecological design emerged in Scandinavia during the 1960s and 1970s, building on both Scandinavia's design culture and its environmental movement.
Scandinavia is famous for its design culture, and for its pioneering efforts toward a sustainable future. In Ecological by Design, Kjetil Fallan shows how these two forces came together in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Scandinavian designers began to question the endless cycle in which designed objects are produced, consumed, discarded, and replaced in quick succession. The emergence of ecological design in Scandinavia at the height of the popular environmental movement, Fallan suggests, illuminates a little-known reciprocity between environmentalism and design: not only did design play a role in the rise of modern environmentalism, but ecological thinking influenced the transformation in design culture in Scandinavia and beyond that began as the modernist faith in progress and prosperity waned.
Fallan describes the efforts of Scandinavian designers to forge an environmental ethics in a commercial design culture sustained by consumption; shows, by recounting a quest for sustainability through Norwegian wood(s), that one of the main characteristics of ecological design is attention to both the local and the global; and explores the emergence of a respectful and sustainable paradigm for international development. Case studies trace key connections to continental Europe, Britain, the US, Central America, and East Africa.
Today, ideas of sustainability permeate design discourse, but the historical emergence of ecological design remains largely undiscussed. With this trailblazing book, Fallan fills that gap.
“One of the most concrete efforts yet made to track the real historical entanglements of design and environment in the postwar period. Kjetil Fallan explodes clichéd images of Scandinavian modern furniture and design culture still nurtured by many of us, and replaces them with socially complex, philosophically sophisticated, and technologically ambiguous case studies that shed new light on the successes and failures of design's ecological aspirations.”
Larry Busbea, University of Arizona, author of Proxemics and the Architecture of Social Interaction and The Responsive Environment: Aesthetics, Design, and the Human in the 1970s
“Fallan, a leading international scholar, charts the historical course of arguably the most important issues facing designers today: how design contributes to environmental sustainability and unsustainability, growth and degrowth, justice and injustice. Drawing on the critical roots of environmental design and philosophy in Scandinavia, Fallan frames the damage done by capitalism and colonialism within global design history to make this a vital, timely, beautifully written, and far reaching book.”
Christina Cogdell, Professor, Department of Design, University of California at Davis, author of Toward a Living Architecture? Complexism and Biology in Generative Design
“This is the nuanced contribution to the discussion about design and environmentalism that we need. Making vital Scandinavian design history accessible for an international audience, Fallan skillfully traces the moment in history when design lost its innocence and status as a tool for progressive modernism through becoming complicit in unsustainable production and consumption. Nonetheless hopeful, he unravels the complexities and paradoxes of design's entanglement with environmentalism with a forward-looking focus on ecoproduction, ecoconsumption, ecophilosophy, and renewable energy.”
Mads Nygaard Folkmann, Professor of Design Studies, University of Southern Denmark, author of Design Aesthetics (forthcoming)