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Designer Spotlight: Ross Lovegrove

Like many of the great ones, Welsh designer Ross Lovegrove is something of an enigma. He has a very wide variety of tastes, and an equally wide range of skills when it comes to creating interesting, functional, thought-provoking designs that continue to inspire praise, criticism and even a little head-scratching. He once told Wired [www.wired.com], “How can I go from designing airline interiors to soap to bicycles? I fly three times a week, I use soap every night, and I need a bike, goddammit!” Still, though “sustainable design” — at least using our stock definition of a combination of materials, manufacturing, and the function and lifespan of the design itself — isn’t part of Lovegrove’s everyday milieu, he has still wowed us with some remarkable, sustainable designs.

Check out the Orbit Chair, pictured above, a stackable dining chair made of bent plywood (recall its sustainable attributes here [www.sundance.tv]) that’s about as mod as they come. The classic modern design isn’t all about looks, though: the wide top “hugs” your back, and the bend in the spine makes it flexible and comfy. The chair has been certified by Greenguard [www.greenguard.org], which tests and certifies products that have low levels of chemical and particulate emissions.

And now for something completely different: Although it unfortunately has never made it to market, this Ross Lovegrove-designed prototype razor (above) is an eminently sound idea. It uses a ceramic blade, which at the time (the mid-1990’s), was claimed to last 40 times longer carbon steel (remember, longevity [www.sundance.tv] is high on TreeHugger’s list). It’s no pipe dream though — today you can buy ceramic razors for industrial use, that last 100 times longer. The problem here, unfortunately, is that razor companies are scared to produce a non-disposable version, since they’re in the business of selling as many as possible…sigh Perhaps someday the world will catch up to Ross on this one.

Lovegrove has also done a bevy of interesting work with solar; most recent was “Solar Tree,” (above) which takes a page from its cellulose brethren, “growing” skyward to maximize solar exposure. The project, for the Museum for Angewandte Kunst (MAK) in Vienna, debuted on October 8; in a designers’ statement, Lovegrove said, “The SOLAR TREES communicate more than light… they communicate the trust of placing beautifully made, complex natural forms outside for the benefit of all of society becoming a museum that if folded inside out, the museum as an incubator of change in society… and with this the promotion of environmental science and the joy of the new aesthetics made possible by the digital process.”

On a smaller, more individually-applicable scale, there’s Solar Bud [www.surrounding.com] (below), a handy garden lamp that needs no wires. Stuck in the ground in a place that gets some sun, the lamp uses sensors to detect when darkness falls, and automatically switches on three high power red LEDs. Entirely solar powered, the Solar Bud saves both on energy and installation: no need for electricity, no need for wiring. Smart.

Not everything that Lovegrove touches turns to gold — witness this concept car [www.treehugger.com] that he designed to run exclusively on solar power, as an example — but it’s his attitude about this that is really noteworthy. He says, “This is a world where nature and technology fuse with man’s ambition to achieve ultimate performance levels,” adding that he has an “innate ability” to anticipate the future and lives by the motto “it is only the future if it can’t be made.” With Lovegrove’s and his ideas around, the good news is that the future might never really get here.