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   Architecture and Design versus Consumerism
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
31 Dec 2012
y designs last - be it of a refrigerator, a washing machine, a laptop or a smart phone. Conversely, present-day designs are designed (not to last) to propel a consumptive pattern that is conducive for economic growth. In a world obsessed with ‘growth’, designers have been working overtime to churn out designs that can spurn profits, expand markets, reduce costs and increase sales. The relative cheapness of new designs entice a large population to fit into the clinical definition of ‘compulsive shopper’, oblivious of the fact that the lower prices do not include human and environmental costs.

Ann Thorpe, well known design strategist, provides intriguing insights to help the world transit from consumer-driven economic growth on to the path of sustainable consumption. Though she considers this book to be a 'work in progress', in reality it offers a contextualized toolkit for new generation of designers to research into the viability of ‘steady state’ economy.

'Our societal narratives about consumption need to change, argues Thorpe. Her book is loaded with interesting design innovations aimed at cutting down consumptive patterns in the developed world by a factor of 3-5, crucial to attain relative climate stability. Given the challenges of unsustainable economic growth, designers need to encounter the constraints of the real in search for scalable but sustainable solutions to practical problems. The idea of a ‘steady state economy’ may seem somewhat unreal but recent social activism across the world has prompted designers to play a role in weaving the status of well-being into experiences of daily life.

Thorpe cites working examples to prove that designers can indeed help slow the pace of consumerism by devising goods and spaces that offer alternative societal narratives about ownership and sharing. From barge-mountain floating swimming pool to lunar-resonant street light and from adaptive public reuse projects to parking-cum-temporary playground, there are range of design options that can not only confront economic growth but can build and strengthen social infrastructure for collective sharing and use. It is a book of the future, surely a 'brain-opener'.

Architecture & Design versus Consumerism
by Ann Thorpe
Earthscan, UK
242 pages, $39.95

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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