Postcards From

Postcard From we+

Anna Carnick

The Tokyo-based design studio proposes a path forward from the Anthropocene 

In our Postcards From series, we invite esteemed creatives from around the globe to pen an open letter to the international design community sharing their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of our era. On the occasion of Design Miami/ Basel 2022, we are presenting a special series of postcards focusing on resilience through design. At a time when we can feel far too divided, these unique perspectives offer visions for a better world and concrete ways we can all help in this moment.

Today’s postcard comes from Toshiya Hayashi and Hokuto Ando, cofounders of Tokyo-based contemporary design studio we+. 

 Toshiya Hayashi (left) and Hokuto Ando of we+; Photo courtesy of the designers

Dear Design,

Human activities have significantly—and dangerously—impacted the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, within an epoch now known as the Anthropocene. Mining has developed worldwide without regard to natural cycles, and manufacturing processes have become very complex. As a result, understanding an overall picture of resource extraction, production, and disposal is extremely difficult, and people have yet to find a clear way out of the current situation.

The designers salvage discarded copper in a Tokyo waste plant. Image courtesy of we+

While modern design has grown within a socio-economic system of mass production and consumption—rooted in flawed but often well-intentioned origins—now that we recognize the dire impact of this approach on both an environmental and human level, contemporary design’s drive for sustainability must become more conscious of its surroundings, in order to identify what is truly needed for the world of tomorrow.

Top: Extracting copper wire to repurpose for Haze, a series that reimagines our relationships with vernacular materials; part of we+'s research project, Urban Origin | Bottom: The new Haze series. Photo by Masayuki Hayashi. Courtesy of we+

Therefore, as a studio, we explore the possibilities of alternative design that establishes a close coexistence with the natural and social environment around us and incorporates a diversity of values that are often forgotten in today's society, where convenience and efficiency are too often prioritized. We are committed to research and experimentation and purposefully collaborate with colleagues with diverse backgrounds and skill sets—designers, engineers, writers, researchers and more—to come at each project with fresh eyes.

Kogei. This is a Japanese word that refers to handcrafted daily products, which harmoniously combine the beauty of materials, techniques, and design. It is characterized by what is known as “local production for local consumption,” in which woodcrafts, washi (traditional Japanese paper), and ceramics are made using vernacular materials and local techniques from different regions of Japan. We think, as a Tokyo-based design studio, that we might learn from Kogei Japanese crafts and update them to present new possibilities for contemporary design.

Refoam, a new series composed of upcycled styrofoam waste collected in Tokyo. This project is part of we+'s research project, Urban Origin. Photo by Masayuki Hayashi; Courtesy of we+

If we’re to achieve the global changes we require, we propose a refocusing on a local, intimate level—working with the materials and skills around us in new ways, approaching each project with a framework that values humanity and nature equally, analyzing every step of the creative and production process to honor tradition while utilizing innovation and technology to find balance.

Sincerely,

Toshiya and Hokuto, we+

 

 

we+ is a Tokyo-based design studio founded in 2013 by Toshiya Hayashi and Hokuto Ando that explores the future of craftsmanship and design through research, experimentation, and collaboration. The studio investigates design’s potential to establish a more balanced and intimate coexistence with the natural and social environment around us. Recent projects include Urban Origin, which examines the roots of today’s overly complicated manufacturing processes and reevaluates the waste produced by cities as viable materials, as well as Nature Study, which considers how human beings have coexisted with nature until now and imagines new ways of living where the natural and artificial merge.

This letter is part of a special editorial series spotlighting stories of resilience through design. For Design Miami/ Basel 2022, Anna Carnick and Wava Carpenter of Design Miami and Anava Projects invited a short list of exceptional creatives to share their perspectives on paths towards a more equitable, more secure future by design and beyond. 

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