NATURE AS STEPPING STONE SOLUTION TO OUR STREETS WITH LAWRENCE PARENT
Over this past year our attachment to public spaces, shared environments and nature itself has been forced to shift. ND has been reflecting on the changes which we have observed and wanted to catch up with a collection of designers which all share an affinity to or harness the powers of nature.
As we reflect on our existing and new connections to nature we looked to product designer and Runner Up of the New Designer of the Year in Association with Creative Conscience, Lawrence Parent to answer 7 of our questions and found out why this designer’s practice has been born from and developed through an attachment to the outdoors.
Can you tell us where did your attachment to nature begin and how has this influenced your design practice?
Growing up I have always enjoyed both the mountains and sea. Before graduating university, I spent my summers teaching sailing and paddle-boarding. Coming to university and living in a city I began to question why cities couldn’t be greener. Lots of cities around the world manage to feel very green and natural so I think there’s a lot more we could be doing.
It wasn’t until the first lockdown when life began to slow-down and I began noticing all the signs of spring. Plants growing out of cracks in walls and pavement. Grass and hedges in public spaces becoming slightly overgrown. This was when I began thinking how can I encourage this to happen? How can I encourage nature to reclaim the urban spaces? How might we build with nature?
Have you re-connected to outside spaces or developed a new relationship to public spaces from a year of living in a pandemic?
Spending so much time and focus on my graduation project without the usual distractions of non-pandemic life has definitely made me look at public spaces differently. For a start, walking around Brighton I begin to question how I might redesign the space to maximise greenery and provide conditions for plants and insects. I’ve also begun to really appreciate spaces that consider biodiversity and rewilding a lot more. It certainly changes my perception of a company, council, or developer involved in the design of that space.
Do you feel a responsibility to preserve the natural and botanical life that surrounds us and if so, how do you do this?
Yes, I do feel a responsibility – I think we all should.
We currently live during a climate emergency when protecting botanical and natural life is of paramount importance if we are to stop the collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity. In fact, as designers, we hold even more responsibility. Attitude changes within society happen far too slowly for us not to act now in order to prevent these issues worsening. Through my design work, my aim is to provide optimal conditions for natural and botanical life to thrive.
Do you think design influences nature or does nature influence design?
Both. As a species, our bad design choices have led us into a critical position on the edge of runaway climate change. Equally, as we begin to learn from nature, and we have the computing power, tools and knowledge to analyse how nature operates in systems, grows, and adapts, I believe we may have the ability to design our way out of this situation. In terms of my own practice, I work within the intersection of the two, meaning I look at the complex structures, textures and patterns found in nature and apply them to forms for plants and insects to live in and on.
Tell us, what are your predictions for our public spaces and the relationships we have built with them during these times of uncertainty. Do you think they will continue to hold a significant part in our lives when normality arrives or will they become of a forgotten era?
I think there’s been a definite shift in our feelings toward public space since the lockdown. Not only are we seeing the demise of the traditional high street, but I think many people have also began feeling a greater connection to outdoor spaces. Whether this be from taking up running or cycling as an excuse to leave the house or travelling that bit further into the countryside to avoid the crowds of a Sunday walk. I believe coupling these factors creates an opportunity to repurpose our highstreets and urban spaces as biodiverse hubs. Parks within cities could become interconnected through green corridors or rewilded patches that act like steppingstones.
Can you share any projects which you have been working on recently? Give us a glimpse into your future.
I recently took part in the Creative Impact course run by Creative Conscience. This really helped me build a brand and develop skills in running and collaborating on projects that have an environmental and social focus. Through this process I developed an overarching brand for my design work called Wild Structures. Under this brand I am continuing to develop the Living Blocks project but exploring alternatives to cement. Cement is awful for the environment so I’m applying circular economy principles to the project and identifying potential waste streams to utilise instead. Perhaps waste oyster shells or construction waste. This summer I hope to finally exhibit my work through an outdoor installation.
Who or what is your biggest influence and why?
There are loads of people, projects and companies that have influenced me over the last year. Discovering this niche field of work and research around bio receptivity and bio-integrated design being done at the Bartlett School of Architecture, as well as, the work being done by R&D firm Artecology on the Isle of White, have inspired me to explore this field further. However, I think my biggest influence has come from Australian artist Jamie North. Jamie uses a variety of industrial by-products and native Australian plants to create sculptural forms that blur the disjuncture of the anthropogenic and the regenerative colonisation of nature.
MORE ARTS ARTICLES FROM
on the effects these changes which have formed within society. We have been fascinated have been considering what impact this has had on designers who harness nature has their biggest influence.
We caught up with jewellery designer and Class of ND19 alumni, Florence to find some answers to our questions. The
In 2019 she founded her company, Object Cor ltd, inspired by nature and motivated by tactility. In 2020, Florence intrigued our selection panel and was chosen to be a OYI exhibitor as they were fascinated with this designer’s passion to capture the mundane interactions of the everyday and create a collection which is influenced by the sensory inputs which arise from spending time within nature.
within the nostalgic elements of the outside world, creating a collection which holds the joys and brings a mindful presence to designing with the tactility of nature in mind.