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Victor Papanek Designs ! [Eco-Green
Posted on November 23, 2016 @ 08:53:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Victor Papanek wrote 6 books on design for everyday people and everyday uses. Today I browsed the last book he wrote, The Green Imperative (1995). I loaned it out so I could share an interesting design from the book.

The design comes from chapter 9 "Sharing Not Buying". It started as a design for a playground that evolved into including a greenhouse laundromat in order to get kids to play there. The laundromat was in a low income neighborhood and included 4 used washing machines and 1 used dryer.

Victor elaborates upon what happened to the playground after they installed the greenhouse-laundry:

From here on the playground was in constant use, serving the neighborhood in several socially valuable ways. The greenhouse became a natural center where the mothers would gather, exchange community gossip, do their laundry, and at the same time be able to supervise their children at play. There were two further positive spin-offs: a neighborhood bulletin board soon made its appearance in the greenhouse-laundry, listing things to be swapped, shared rides needed to another town, services, baby-sitters and things for sale. The use of a nearby commercial laundromat (demanding exorbitant prices from this captive audience of slum dwellers) declined until it was finally forced out of business. ~ p. 194

It should be noted that this design was still a focal point of the community in 1995, 20 years after it was put in place. The "business model" was for the community to own the space and to do community fund raising to build, purchase and sustain it. Coin operation is an alternative or ancillary explanation.

There are lots of aspects to this design that are interesting. I like the mashup/fusion aspect of it, how it serves real needs, how it exemplies what the "sharing economy" also means (i.e., to own things as a group and share the cost of building/maintaining in order to be more sustainable).

Victor Papanek and his students produced many interesting designs some of which we probably see around us everyday. He collaborated with designer James Hennessey in 1974 on a book called Nomadic Furniture. This was a set of furniture designs that were low cost, recyclable, made from easy to get stuff, easy to move, and do-it-yourself. These were designs that James used in his own life when he was starting out and didn't have alot of money. For example, he and his wife slept on door beds as did their child. Below is one Nomadic Furniture design that became a kit business. IKEA incorporates elements of Nomadic Furniture design in its approach.

Victor was also involved in designing the two-sided chair that is similiar to the design above. In one orientation it can be used to lounge, in another orientation it can be used to sit at a table. The design above was intended to be a Do It Yourself design and Nomadic Furniture helped to pioneer the DIY movement in furniture design although it had always been around in "vernacular" or "primitive" furniture.

There is not much footage of Victor Papanek except this 1992 Presentation at Apple Computer. You can see the scope of the designs that Victor was involved in when he gets into his slideshow (might want to fast foward to that point although I recommend watching the whole vintage presentation).

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