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Design for Change.
Cameron Sinclair, 22 Oct 04


So another year has past for the design world to honor its best and brightest.  The annual National Design Awards , held by the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum picks its nine winners from the year's bumper crop. This year definitely had a theme running through most of its award winners – sustainability and ‘green’ design.

The architecture prize was split for the first time in the awards history between Rick Joy, famed for his rammed earth structures in Arizona, and to Polshek Partnership, best known for the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., opening this November.

Cradle to Cradle author and architect William McDonough scooped the Environment Design prize. McDonough has been much talked about on WorldChanging and is at least from our end an obvious choice. However, most fittingly, this prize is for the community based design work of his Charlottesville-based design practice, William McDonough and Partners.  So we should tip our hat not only to Bill but also in particular his fellow partners, Kevin Burke, Diane Dale, Allison Ewing and Russell Perry, for their amazing work.

The surprise of the night went to Yves Béhar of Fuseproject for his sleek yet thoughtful product design. The fuseproject design team have produced a variety of products including the Jawbone cellphone headset, accessories for the Mini and a new line of Birkenstock shoes, which incorporates his interest in new recyclable technologies. In a strong category Yves edged out Ray Anderson’s Interface, Inc. and Burt Rutan, famous for the White Knight and X-prize winning SpaceShipOne.

Amanda M. Burden rounded out the gang as with year’s Design Patron Award for her devotion to planning New York City communities. An urban planner and civic activist, Burden is Chair of the New York City Planning Commission and Director of the Department of City Planning. In her current position, Burden encourages growth in business districts through quality design and is a champion for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s edict that good design is good economic development.

The funny thing about the prize is that, other than great esteem bestowed upon the winners, they are all invited for lunch with the first lady at the White House.  Given the common thread that binds these designers, I hope they will take advantage of the opportunity to state the case for pushing the boundaries of sustainable design on a national level.  

As these lunches take a while to be scheduled, if the administration changes hands next month, the award winners may find themselves with quite a different hostess. Over a decade ago Ms. Heinz Kerry, along with her husband and Anthony Cortese, founded Second Nature, an organization which promotes ‘education for sustainability’ and in 2001 the group held a conference that asked 'How Can the Architect Contribute to a Sustainable World?'. That year, Theresa was awarded the first Gold Medal ever given by AIA Pittsburgh, and 2003 the Pittsburgh Green Building Alliance awarded her the 'Shades of Green' award for her vision and contributions to the greening of the region. I spoke with her in June about the administrations plans for the environment and she was detailed, articulate and extremely knowledgeable – no pulling the organic wool over her eyes for this gaggle of designers.

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ok, admittedly this is a very short view of a great post, but (there's always a but)--those particular Birkenstock shoes are dreadfully expensive. I would love to own a pair, but they're well over $200! maybe there is a sector that can and will put that kind of money down for "green" products, but I wouldn't call that sustainably priced for most of us.

Posted by: emily on 22 Oct 04

thats true, I don't think I've paid more than $50 for a pair of shoes, but then again I have 100% scottish blood in me.

you can always go for the Birki's, a steal at $40

In the next couple of weeks I'll do a post on affordable 'green' products - in the meantime you should check out green home

Posted by: Cameron on 23 Oct 04



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