Nature as a design element for sustainable homes

We live in a time of great challenges. The environmental crisis forces us to question the ways we produce and consume, in search of a new balance between people and nature. Design can go a long way, e.g. helping to rethink our relationship with objects. Would that change if these were made of organic matter, and instead of lasting, could disappear when their task was done? Beauty is a cultural issue and never has the issue of ephemeral things – from performative practices to the web – seemed so relevant as today. Also thanks to a segment of consumers (Generation Z and Millennials, but not only) who are aware of the impact their lifestyle has on the planet, in line with values ​​based on respect for resources and animals and beyond the generic demand washing of companies.

The big brands undoubtedly have an advantage in terms of experimentation, because by collaborating with start-ups in the sector, they are able to introduce innovative materials that are often too expensive for those working at lower prices. Yet every day we hear about individual designers who have created something weird and wonderful from scraps of wood orfruit, mushrooms and algae. Erez Nevi Pana is one of them. Born in 1983 in Bnei Brak, Israel, and raised on the grounds of the family nursery, he transformed the attraction for natural materials into the conceptual basis of his work: “Now, instead of growing flowers and plants, I grow objects”, leaves well. He says he inherited his talent for design from his mother, a former pattern maker who quit her career to devote herself to her family.

Ph.D. Dor Kedmi

After studying at the Holon Institute of Technology in Israel, Nevi Pana enrolled at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, one of the most well-known schools for distinguishing talents. “The curse of design”, he calls it ironically. “During my studies in Holon, I have always been considered an excessively ‘artistic’ student, in contrast to the more ‘practical’ ones around me,” he says. “But I always knew I wanted to continue studying for a master’s”. And that is how it is. In Eindhoven, his thesis focuses on the recrystallization process of salt.

Inspiration gives him a vacation in the Dead Sea, where he visits Dead Sea works, a leading producer of potassium chloride and other minerals extracted by solar evaporation. “I saw a white mountain in the middle of nowhere that piqued my curiosity,” recalls the designer. “When I realized it was a neglected pile of salt—a byproduct of mineral extraction—I decided to embrace this material and look for ways to make it desirable again.”

The result was a long-term study that began with the creation of surfaces similar to marble (which he proposed to use inside Frank Gehry’s Luma Tower in Arles) and culminated in the project Bleached (for the Friedman Benda design gallery in New York), in which he immersed a series of wooden and loofah structures in the waters of the Dead Sea, allowing them to crystallize into wonderful decorative objects.

In 2020, his experiments with salt-based architecture became part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. When Nevi Pana is asked what the designer’s role is today, his answer is unequivocal: designers examine society critically. In each project, according to him, a vision is exposed, where his own corresponds to a specific problem possible solution. “People call me an artist, but I’m a designer. Creating art means transforming the existing into something abstract. On the contrary, I start from what I have in mind to create tangible products that, despite being very artistic in form or material, always retain the possibility of use’.

Ph.D. Ofer Kantor

Almost ten years ago, Nevi Pana embraced veganism: he started with food and questioned his clothes and finally his own studio, from which he removed all elements of animal origin. Convinced that the current environmental crisis is an expression of a spiritual crisis, with his work he would like to make people think before they eat and other designers to choose clean materials. Over the years, it has become a goal to be achieved holistically to stop animal abuse and explore alternatives to living in harmony with nature. Up to understand the challenge of tracing the origin of all the materials used.

For the “Banana” project, which consists of a multifunctional fiber (he also weaves pouf in it) made from banana stems and leaves, he has grown the necessary raw material himself. “In addition to ethics, there is an ecological side to my approach. Animal farms can produce food, leather or woolen bags for our sofas. But the environmental price we pay for these things is extremely high,” explains the designer.

Ph.D. Dor Kedmi

For him, matter is the starting and ending point of a research that strives to reduce people’s footprint on the planet. How? Imitation of nature’s efficient metabolism, where the concept of rejection does not exist. Nevi Pana’s creations are “completely responsible, as well as 100 percent sustainable” because they are made with plant material, salt and other biodegradable compounds, and are meant to dissolve in the environment. “As a creative, my personal life is intertwined with my professional one. Using the platform that the design world offers, I share a harmonious state of consciousness ». Since embracing vegan design, Nevi Pana says he is even more optimistic about the future: «We are beginning to understand that we cannot continue to ignore the demands of our planet because it will find a way to restore a state of balance on. With or without us”

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