Middle Finger

The Sustainability Myth - Parallels in Architecture & Fashion

Thoughts: June 2021 — 1.5 Minute Read

The common answer to sustainability in fashion is to use sustainable materials.

This way of thinking is flawed and I'll explain why.

The fashion industry is innately unsustainable: it doesn't matter if the material you used is sustainable if you're creating 1000s of units with planned obsolescence.

There's an interview with Bjarke Ingels where he mentions that a synagogue was sustained for 2700 years until all of the Jewish occupants moved to Israel when the environment became unsafe for them. When the people who used it moved, the synagogue became ruins.

Did the people who create that building think about the brick they were using (material)? Or did they care more about if it served the people who used it (functionality)?

The second people stop using something, it becomes useless.

If you make a building out of sustainable materials and no one uses it, it's actually less sustainable than a building that is made out of non-sustainable materials but is being used.

The answer to sustainability is in the people, not the object or materials. Are people using the things you create?

Architecture is innately sustainable: it provides space for the needs of the people. It is way harder to create a building than a piece of clothing. The accessibility to conceiving a building is extremely limited.

Fashion is innately unsustainable: you make it first and convince people to buy it. You can make clothing on your own if you wanted to. The accessibility to conceiving a piece is boundless.

So if you make 100 units out of the most sustainable materials and nobody buys it, you just created waste even though the goal was to add to the narrative of sustainability.

Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect that is known for making temporary buildings for disaster victims with paper tubes. He once built a church for Vietnamese refugees in a destroyed village that was meant to stay there for 3 years, but actually stayed there for 10 years because people loved it.

"What is permanent and what is a temporary building? Even a building made with paper can be permanent as long as people love it. Even a concrete building can be very temporary if that is made to make money."
— Shigeru Ban, TED Talk

This is similar to the synagogue in Bjarke Ingels’ example. Materials don't matter, occupancy and designing it to be used does. That is a design issue, not a materials issue.

In fashion, the lifecycle of a product is:
Creation - Use - Decomposition

In fashion we especially focus on two points in the life span of a product: the creation, and decomposition. We focus a lot on creating a product that is made using sustainable materials and practices, and then we look at the decomposition of a product of when it gets thrown out or no longer used it must be able to decompose. I think a good example to look at is paper straws. It solved 2/3 points in this process: it is sustainable to create and destroy, but the usability is worse than what the non-sustainable option is.

Real sustainability, or hedonistic sustainability as Bjarke Ingels calls it, is something that is both performs better and is better for the environment, and not as a “sacrifice” we make in order to become sustainable.

Architecture does the opposite where it really focuses on the use of the item, rather than the details of how it is conceived or destroyed. I believe that viewpoint on creating objects with a true purpose of existing needs to be transitioned into the fashion industry in order to truly answer the sustainability problem.

Design for the object's lifespan, not the moment of creation.

Understanding Art, Design, & Engineering

Thoughts: February 2021 — 1.5 Minute Read

What is the purpose for this existing?
Observe > Identify Problem > Question > Answer.

This way of thinking about creative work actually came from my English teacher in my senior year of high school. He said to me that the way most people write essays is through their own bias and then look for quotes within a text that can prove that bias, rather than seeing what the book is actually telling you and then coming to a conclusion from that.

In that sense, you don't really see anything new but instead, just reaffirm your own bias. I view design in the same way even though these are completely different mediums.

What is being overlooked: Finding problems that actually need to be solved → What is the world telling you it needs (vs) What you think it needs.

"There’s no reason to try to invent a need when there are so many needs and wants that are unfilled. Once you could go to someone and say, “I have that,” people would say, “I want that.” But if you’re just saying, “I'm really clever; I know what you should want,” and when you tell people what it is, they don’t want it. You’re either talking to the wrong people or you made the wrong thing."
- Seth Godin

The Artist

An artist must project an image, a personal bias from their mind into the real world.

The artist can see beyond the scope of reality, but the idea may get lost in translation because of the lack of understanding of the limitations reality imposes. That's why I say art can only truly exist in an unreal world and the thing we see is just a diluted version of it.

Reversal:When you’re so focused on your inner world, you ignore the true demand of the people and end up creating things nobody needs or wants.

Art asks a question, but sometimes it's one that nobody is asking except you.

The Engineer

The engineer is rooted in reality and draws an answer from the things the world is telling them. The engineer is a hyperrealist who understands the limitations of reality and can create ideas that are within the scope of fabrication.

Reversal: The flaw of being too much on this side of the spectrum is that the intuition of creativity slowly disappears. When you’re so focused on the reality of how things are, it’s hard to pull ideas from a vision of a world that might not exist yet.

Engineering answers a question, but sometimes the right questions haven't been asked yet.

Finding Balance

Art brings people into a world, while engineering creates something for the world.

I see the multiple disciplines as different cameras being pointed at one object: each one has it’s own perspective.

The artist sees the world view through a specific lens. Everything in this world is abstract.

The engineer lets the world guide them to questions to be answered. Everything in this world has a function.

Combining these two together removes the extremities of each perspective: the artist's delusion of reality and the engineer's short-sightedness of infinite possibility.
That way you can create within the limitations of reality but still have the open-mindedness of an artist.

If you lack the qualities that are on the other side of the spectrum, surround yourself with people who have those talents. They can see things in ways you never will be able to.

The Future of VR/AR

Thoughts: January 2021 — 1 Minute Read

The direction the technology is going or where people want to take it first is: how can we recreate reality? And I think that is so flawed.

There’s this hidden rule when 3D modelling: when you’re making anything digitally, you have to create imperfections because nothing in real life is perfect.

The human mind is faultless in identifying the flaws of reality because we experience it 24 hours of the day and something will always feel off.

What if the goal is to create an experience that can only exist within these spaces instead of trying to recreate something that already exists?

VR/AR should not replicate real life. Essentially that’s just horizontal progress: taking something that works and copying it. It has to create the feeling of reality (immersion) but has the magic of impossibility (can only exist in digital mediums).

Update: Something I didn’t account for while I wrote the first part is that it can create REALISTIC environments but still put you in a situation you would NEVER be in = still new experience. It doesn’t have to be impossible in human form, it just has to be new. 

The Downfall
Real world application is close to none. For VR, everyone experiencing it has to have this $400 device. A hidden cost involved is space, which you need to move around in the digital worlds. I just can’t see it being a tool and platform that everyone will have access to.

With augmented reality (AR), we have these devices in our hands 24/7: our phones. Spark AR’s Instagram integration allows for mass distribution of these objects and spaces in one click. Does that mean it’s a better technology?

My Final Thoughts
︎VR = High memorability. Very niche. High barrier of entry. Takes you into a new space. Can exist on it’s own as a standalone experience (vertical progress)
︎AR = Low memorability. Mass market. Low barrier of entry. Adds objects into your space. Has to be supplemental to something that already exists (horizontal progress)

Both have a lot of platform restrictions in what can exist in these spaces (Oculus/Unity, Instagram/SparkAR). 

How is this information useful?
VR is almost out of the question in terms of getting an experience to people. Your eyes right now should be on AR.
If you’re new to augmented reality, the first thought you will have is: let me recreate something.

The best thing to do in AR right now is to take the space properties and immersion of VR, and apply that to AR.
The key is within the spacial environments and removing your surroundings which AR defaults to.

It’s possible, and it’s what I’m going to be doing for future projects. There is still the question of how to measure the monetary value of these experiences but it’s like what Kanye said: “When you get joy, do you try to calculate it?”