One of the really interesting things for me has come from the green materials and products developed in response to sustainable design and the effect these have had on our developing design aesthetic. Fifteen years ago the green materials we had were few and generally “green equivalents” to the standard catalog of building products & materials (and usually lacked a level of quality). In the last 6 or 8 years there’s been an enormous number of green materials and products introduced into the marketplace and many of them have no equivalents in the standard catalog of products & materials. Many of these new products are based on new ideas, new technology and new materials.
These new green products have changed the design equation entirely. Manufactured wood, stone and plastics are a big part of this and have evolved around the green marketplace. One that I really like are the plastic resin panels inlaid with a choice of different materials, wood, grass, twigs, leaves,…most anything, developing a great visual texture in a translucent plastic panel (also available in other colors). An interesting design tool and one that has affected the way we can consider a space and light. This was used at the new Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and brings together an inlaid wood grain with curves in the molded panels- really nice. The walls/seats/ceilings in the hall were done in the resin panel which is inlaid with a thin wood grain, creating a translucent material- 40% recycled (by 3form). It’s still strange to think I like plastic but… it’s a different material now!
The traditional materials we have used are by no means in the past but I do believe that they suggest a way of thinking and a way of designing. Certain issues and concerns have to be dealt with (like moisture) and are often designed for in similar ways. Bricks and concrete work pretty darn well and I like ‘em but some of the new green materials push us to think and design in new ways. We now have buildings rapped in sheets of metal, filled with plants for purposes of air filtration and people are excited about buying furniture based on modern ideas. This is exciting!