Imagine sending 10 top designers out into the world to make something. Now imagine you give them just three criteria: it has to be wonderful, desirable, and...sustainable.
That's exactly what the Nature Conservancy did to create what is now an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt museum in New York.
The designers, ranging from Yves Behar and Isaac Mizrahi to Maya Lin and Paulina Reyes from Kate Spade in New York were sent out to Nature Conservancy project sites from Maine to Alaska and from China to Bolivia. Each designer used materials found in the place and even employed local people to help fashion such useful objects as handbags, furniture, rugs, and jewelry.
Among my favorites from the exhibit: Maya Lin's red maple Terra Bench, Abbott Miller's FSC-certified wood chair, Mizrahi's salmon leather dress and matching shoes, Reyes'/Spade's wooden tiled handbag, and Ezri Tarazi's bamboo-totem wine racks and speaker tubes.
I also rather liked Hella Jongerius's failed experiment to find a design application for chicle latex from the Maya Forest of Mexico. You've got to admire her valiant efforts to transform this material, once the basis for most chewing gums, into a surface design element or even bonding material.
The exhibit is on view at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York through January 4, 2010.
For more information, visit nature.org/design or Cooper-Hewitt.