WHY have you chosen nature as central subject of your work?
Nature has always been a key source of inspiration in my life and work. Growing up our family would go on many hiking and backpacking trips. There was both a sense of peace and a dynamic vitality to the environment that made all the petty concerns of daily life fall away. Our individual isolation falls away and the connections to a larger whole is felt when experiencing nature. Creating art that fosters this sense of connection and wonder has always been my goal, both because I enjoy the experience of working in this medium and the reaction it has on others.
When I first came across airplants or ‘tillandsia’ I was struck by how the challenged our most basic assumption about plants, that they needed soil and to be in touch with the earth. To find a relatively recent evolution of nature that disconnected plants from the earth reminded me of how people have evolved and also become disconnected from our environmental roots. I find that tillandsia’s incredible forms and ability to grow suspended in air triggers something in our imagination that makes people pay attention. There is a sense that nature has created something new and unfamiliar and we should sit up and pay attention. For this reason my work with Airplantman seeks to create ways to bring this unusual genus of plants into our everyday lives that highlights their uniqueness, makes them easy to care for, and provides an opportunity for our minds to contemplate the novelty of nature and perhaps create a sense of inspiration in our own lives.
HOW do you think plants could benefit the way people live today?
There are two primary ways I see plants as offering two basic kinds of benefit to people’s lives: functional and psychological. As a landscape architect we work on many projects where plants provide a host of benefits to the physical landscape. These include creating shade, filtering stormwater, preventing erosion, reducing the heat island effect, reducing particulate airborne pollution, etc. As a designer our goal is to incorporate nature in ways that bring the built landscape into a more beneficial and efficient relationship with natural systems. However, there is another component to the benefits plants can offer that is less tangible. Humans, while highly adaptable have been shown in numerous studies to have a psychological link to nature, specially plant life. By creating the opportunity to directly interact with plants in our daily lives something wonderful happens. My work with Airplantman seeks to foster that relationship with the botanical world again, even for apartment dwellers with limited contact to the natural world.
WHAT do you think are the biggest challenges facing a sustainable approach to design our modern life style?
I see inertia as one of the biggest challenges to a sustainable approach. This inertia is based on a human tendency to repeat what has been successful in the past and only change when crisis demands. Although there are many good and bad reasons why this approach has arisen, it does inhibit large scale shifts unless absolutely necessary. There are also efficiencies associated with the scale of commonly used approaches which are not at play with emerging design solutions. This can create the impression of unsustainable practices appearing more efficient and cost effective, while not taking into account a longer time horizon or decreasing costs as sustainable technologies become more widespread.