At the beginning of 2006, a group within the World Economic Forum made a list of our current fears, in other words, what people see as world risks for the next ten years. It makes chilling reading. Thierry Malleret of the World Economic Forum opines that with globalisation, risks have become global too. It would appear that all of us without distinction live with a lurking fears.
And as insecurity grows so does the desire for protection, physical and otherwise.
‘Safety Nest’, the exhibition organised by the Brasilian group AG and curated by Nicola Goretti with Paola Antonelli, organiser of the important exhibition “Safe: Design Takes On Risk” (MoMA, October 16 through January 2, 2006), invited international designers - including a large contingent of South Americans - to reflect on the emerging need for protection. Unlike the ‘Safe’ exhibition, whose 300 plus products and prototypes explored the need to protect the body and mind from dangerous and stressful circumstances, ‘Safety Nest’ looked specifically at the home, the symbol par excellence of man’s primary need for shelter.
The designers were invited to represent their own idea of the home as a nest, fortress, refuge, cocoon, etc.
The need to build a refuge, especially a mental refuge, was represented in many intriguing ways. It applies even to the homeless, as shown by Diana Cabeza’s series of cocoon-like shelters in diverse materials. Matali Crasset, on the other hand, invented a metropolitan oasis of greenery, sustained by rain water, to provide temporary respite to besieged inhabitants of polluted cities. Spanish Ana Mir created a dream-like environment furnished with a series of objects ensuring protection, safety and well-being in today’s world.
Alejandro Sarmiento from Argentina built a 12-sided cell made of a latticework of bubbles in recycled PET: a symbolic shelter in a material recalling the links that bind humankind. Brazilian architect Sergio Rodrigues transformed his classic leather armchair into a sort of nest where you can curl up as in a protective womb.
Hella Jongerius showed a series of helmets and shields made of fabric and mail that recall medieval armour, including soft yet fierce looking breastplates to frighten off would be aggressors. Clothing and homes described increasingly nomad lifestyles. Increasingly too, the written word is being used to testify to this nomadic state, typified by artist Lucy Orta whose clothing and domestic creations testify to her tenacious defence of the homeless.
Design has shown once more that it has to open up to new needs, point the way in social issues. A shelter is not just a metaphor of a basic human need. It is also a pressing social question, as was dramatically shown during this year’s harsh winter and the tents set up behind the Beaubourg by Médicins du Monde to stop the homeless freezing to death. It gave wide media coverage to a problem that can no longer be ignored, as underlined by Diana Cabeza with her project Nidos Urbanos.