Travel wisely

It’s strange when things really fall into place. When decluttering my home in Amsterdam, just ahead of New Year’s Eve, I decided to throw away at least 5 years of conference badges. (Why do I keep them in the first place – I wonder.)

Five minutes later, my phone rang. My mother. She pointed me to a conference in San Francisco she was eager to attend: Wisdom 2.0. It took me a split-second of Googling to realize that conference embodies a movement I’ve always felt part of. Here, speakers are monks and tech entrepreneurs, programmers and neuroscientists.

My current teachings at the Design Academy about social design, building meaningful interactions with Daniël and chairing the board at Your Lab all point to – playful – mindfulness in action. Eventually.

So, hold your horses, since I’ll definitely put down the fruits of my stay in San Francisco on Living Antenna. A virtual monastery for the mind, I’ve just learned.

TIME

Apply for a card in 2014

Dear reader,

To me, nothing beats finding a handwritten card on the doormat. I also happen to like writing them myself. That’s why I will mail one card each and every week of 2014.

You can apply for one by filling out your address at the bottom of this post. Be swift, there are 52 cards to be sent.

Happy 2014,

Barbara.

***

2014

* * *

Application closed 31st of January, 2014.

Thank you all for applying! One card will come your way.

Conferentia

Witnessing the design of the annual TEDxAmsterdam-conference since 2009, I’ve seen how the role of conferences is changing. Speaking to conference connoisseur Monique van Dusseldorp one day, she told me that “conferences used to mark a single opportunity to access the latest insights from a field of expertise”. Today, ‘the latest news’ does not require a conference-visit. Nor does linking to fellow professionals, hobbyists or aficionados. We work the web for that.

What then, takes us to conferences these days? A keynote speaker? An impressive guest-list? A business-promise? Maybe (not). I believe it’s the quality of hosting. With that challenge in mind, Pepijn and I accepted to design a conference for a sustainable packaging company.


Photos: Bibi Veth

As a complementary team (he: design, bits-based infrastructure – she: concept, communications), we kicked off the design process with internal workshops to evaluate past conferences and sense needs and expectations. Not to say the past determines the future, but it provided a benchmark for our conference.

We aimed to offer the company and its guests inspiration and practical guidance to prep their businesses for a sustainable future, because “what we practice, is what our future will be” (Toke Moeller, co-founder The Art of Hosting). That included inviting engaging speakers, who shared their entrepreneurial zest, such as Mark Aink and Ynzo van Zanten.


Practical guidance also meant bringing stakeholders in conversation and collectively harvest solutions for a sustainable supply chain (the theme was ‘realizing circular concepts’). Of course, sufficient breaks with local and delish food were one way to go.


Another was to invite Anne Walraven, a young social entrepreneur who collects questions. She then takes these (local, personal) questions to thought leaders across the globe. During her talk, the guests formulated a question for Chinese advocate for international collaboration on sustainability, Peggy Liu.


This way, the conversation of a single moment leads to an answer in the future (and new questions, of course). ‘Realizing circular concepts’ thus included evoking a conversation that continues in people’s minds and hearts after the conference.

‘Conference’ finds its etymological origin in ‘bringing together’. We noticed that, with conscious hosting, people are invited to take responsibility and move “their issues and ideas into wiser actions and innovative solutions that last”.

PS Watch Peggy Liu’s answer here:

A Junction of Creative Collaboration

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Interdisciplinary education often involves interdisciplinary collaboration. So, apart from acquainting oneself with the jargon of different faculties, the most interesting part of studying Industrial Ecology was teamwork. Co-creating with techies and analysts, creatives and the business-minded, philosophers and designers. Luckily, … Continue reading

Sketch Away

Every Thursday I face an auditorium packed with 60 designers-to-be at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Together with my senior colleague, trained architect and Belgian gourmand Jos Delbroek, we teach first-year students about architecture (he) and social design (me).

One of the first things Jos teaches the students – and taught me – is swapping your laptop for an A4 sheet and a sharp pencil. This way, you train your handwriting, your design signature. Over and over again, he asks to draw what you see or imagine. Because, “the more one looks, the more one gets to see”.

Lecture Sketcher

Jos pointed me to Urban Sketchers, a global network of artists, who “show the world, one drawing at a time”. They sketch by taking the following in mind:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

Product of a predominantly academic schooling myself, I’ve for long perceived any doodling in between the lines as competing with my lists, causal-relations-pointing arrows or starry bullet points. Now, I know it’s a great means of putting things down as clean as possible.

Words, shapes, lines, voids, hand-drawn type growing from the movements of your hands process the input of your senses. That makes paper and pencil a great means to train unbiased observation. And if your sketches in turn reveal a bias,  just sketch it away.

The Crusoë Company

When cold and wet nights set in, there’s nothing more tempting than revisiting memories of a French summer’s bright and starry skies. So, that’s what I’ll do. Now, yes. Since it was quite an extraordinary summer. Having spent the beginning half of 2013 working on or with my supplementary limb – the laptop – I was in dire need of some physical routine, cooking and making. Did I know there was an island for that. In France, even.

IMG_0136

So I swapped eight (possibly) sunny weeks in Amsterdam for eight stove-bound weeks in Rémalard. But one does not end up in Le Perche for no reason. It’s really devoid of standard travel-entertainment. Some serendip here and there led me to the single darn pearl in the Perchean woods: d’une île. There, you can sleep, eat and wander.

The driving force behind this ‘island in time’ are Michel + Sofie. They manually turned the old countryside manor(s) into eight apartments, where unwinding is unavoidable, and desirable. Love, dedication and beauty are the main ingredient of e v e r y t h i n g you see, touch, hear, feel and taste.

Café

I crusoëd along with Michel + Sofie for the 2013 summer season, and witnessed a unique process of creation. Where many of us might feel they’re overflowing with ideas, but find too little time to realize them, I discovered it’s not (only) about time, but about space. At d’une île, there is space.

Space, because:
- you overlook les fôrets from your window, making ideas grow whilst musing.
- le terroir of Le Perche rewards entrepreneurial efforts that offer quality.
- there’s always work to do and mainly your own pool of creative solutions to tap from.
- moments of buzz and business are alternated with time for reconsideration and reflection.
- time takes what it needs to grow d’une île organically.

What most fascinated me was that, although the space-statements above might evoke some sense of ‘slowness’, the opposite is true. The design, reconstruction and interior of d’une île were realized within a time-frame any architect or contracter could only dream of.

To me, it feels as if the key lies with a vision rooted in the courage of two talented personalities taking some space.

Take-A-Cucalu

Ever since I discovered that space invaders are found all across the globe, I realized what can make my day: something small, that’s easily overlooked. It’s especially rewarding when you’ve made some effort. Shit in, shit out – they say. Time in, time out – I say.

Each space invader I discovered (from Melbourne to Amsterdam, Bangkok to New York) whilst scrutinizing rooftops, obsolete viaducts and desolate alleyways would leave me daydreaming about who picked that spot and type of invader. A moment of discovery as a time-out from the present.

Cucalu

That’s how Cucalu works, too. Cut short, it’s  a smartphone game that invites you to stretch your creativity by taking photos. Photos containing basic, geometrical shapes. You know, that circle or triangle you subconsciously spot day in, day out.

By really looking out for them, you embark on a visual adventure in a familiar environment. Bonus: a new perspective. Combine your photos into unique short movies and go Dutch: share the creative effort by releasing it into a pool of new friends.

Daniel Disselkoen (who’s also mentioned here) coined the idea, and we’re collaborating on the communications. That runs from Thinking Biggy about its launch to Writing Tiny for the in-game instructions. A message is everywhere. Just as triangles, circles and squares. Go hunting.

Globistique

Food That Moves

Sounds scary, right? Food that moves, moving food. But what if you take it a little differently? Food that moves you. That gets you into eating more consciously and a whole lot healthier. Although salad bars are a default street corner take-away in parts of the Americas (here’s a Guide To), the Dutch wouldn’t really get it. Salad remained something leafy and too light for our sandwich-loving bellies.

Luckily, salad has now moved up and is definitely more than the finishing touch to a ‘broodje gezond‘. Health-conscious and creative entrepreneurs help pave the way in Amsterdam, many of them are in some way related to the Youth Food Movement. But not all of them. Such as salad bar SLA.

SLA is the creative offspring of Nina Pierson (PUP Concepts) and Jop van de Graaf (DJ, and more). Both experimental eaters gifted with a knack for entrepreneurship. A couple on a mission, inviting you to see, taste and experience how good food can change your life.

Funny, I just copied a sentence from their website, and didn’t feel really guilty. That’s because I was responsible for SLA’s copy. From tagline to tone-of-voice, manifesto to menu and online website to offline packaging. Along the way I discovered how I enjoy conversations with entrepreneurs, or ‘brand-owners’ and support them in bringing their ideology and values to their, in this case, eaters. To get food to move the world.

SLA
Photo: SLA

Experimental Gastronomy

When I met Martin Kullik for the first time, he was exhibiting recycled men’s fashion in one of Amsterdam’s design-wise hottest hotels, the Lloyd Hotel. Martin runs the project space (Steinbeisser) in the Lloyd with Jouw Wijnsma. And, since food is en mode, his next project would be a cooking experiment.

He coined it Experimental Gastronomy and challenged himself, Jouw and his friend Alexander Gehrsberg (experienced vegan chef) to cook with only bio-dynamic and local ingredients. The quest for the right ingredients resulted in a collaboration with the oldest bio-dynamic farm in The Netherlands, Land en Boschzigt, who supplied the vegetables, and wine (amazingly flowery!).

Three days in a row, Martin and Alexander cooked a 5-course meal for a maximum of 20 guests. In a small hotel room with a kitchen. There were no tables, but many chairs, a boxbed and stairs to sit on. The far end of the room was an open kitchen – and everything was prepared in sight. On the other side, a large round table exhibited cutlery from jewelry designer Maki Okamoto. Maki loves the shape of spoons, and designed fusions of spoons and forks for the dinner. The fork shown on the picture below reminds me of a pitchfork – increasing one’s awareness of your food’s road from-farm-to-fork.

Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a true challenge to limit oneself to local and bio-dynamic ingredients. Martin and Alexander explained how they had to compromise on the use of certain oils – to guarantee a desired taste palette of the dishes.

Anyhow, the boys succeeded in inspiring all the guests to cook more vegan. Here’s an incomplete list of what tickled our tongues: nettle soup with thyme, cucumber and daisy flowers (yes, they’re edible!); pumpkin flower (the green part is the best as an after-dinner refreshment); nasturtium blossoms; falafel balls (Alexander is partly Isreali) from kidney beans with parsley, summer savory and chard; pelmeni (Alexander is partly Russian) and a strawberry-sweetened oatmeal cookie with gooseberries (full of vitamin C, fiber and potassium)..

I look forward to the next series of no-frills vegan inspiration!

My First TEDx!

Whilst I’m working on a new version of Living Antenna, things are happening in the meantime – that also contribute to a better idea of what it could, and should be. So in this under construction phase I did not want to withhold this from you: my first TEDx-talk! I was invited to speak at TEDxWageningen, the academic and business food valley of The Netherlands. The theme was “The Emergence of Bio-Based Economies”.

It was exciting to think of what I’d like express to an audience of critical strangers – and amongst some other really inspiring speakers. I decided it’d be best to speak from personal experience, and from what I’m passionate about. And that is – no surprise – about everything typically Living Antenna. In other words: how I believe food, design and sustainability relate, and contribute to each other.

Click here or on the picture to watch the talk!

Unfortunately my microphone was switched off the first three minutes, so I’ve included the first paragraphs for you to read along:

“I’ve got a terrible disease, and my disease is that, in certain areas of my life, I can experience a deep sense of joy, wonder or disappointment. At those moments, I am moved to feel at dis-ease. It happens to me all day long, and the way to cope with that dis-ease, is to ask questions and that is what feeds my personal and professional life. This story is about the symptoms of my disease, and the ideas that result from it.  

The first idea is about what I think is the missing link in (effectively) tackling sustainability issues, then I move on what in our daily lives is one of the major overlooked elements on the road to realize a sustainable future, and I’ll finish by why you, sitting right in front me, can make a difference without any effort whatsoever.

My first observation concerns the whole production and consumption system, where sustainability thinking mainly focuses on optimizing either the pre- or the post-consumption phase. Pre-consumption includes energy efficiency, fair trade and logistics, whereas post-consumption deals with materials, waste and emissions.

But our daily routine of using the products and services we buy, is hardly addressed in present sustainability thinking. It seems as if this consumption phase is a foggy, grey box that we don’t want to look into.

And that is an example of what made me feel at dis-ease, because a substantial part of “unsustainabilities” are hidden in these daily routines. In our standards of normality. The power of standards is that you never question them. Apparently, it’s next to normal to shower for ten minutes, to throw away your boiling water, to only eat perfectly shaped veggies, to turn your home into a tropical paradise in the middle of winter. To me, these standards of normality are an unquestioned opportunity to contribute to a sustainable future.. “

For more, it’s best to just sit back, and watch the talk. I’m really curious what you think of it, so feel free to comment or contribute to the ideas.