– Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy
“It’s a really quiet place. When you look at it from far away, it’s sort of like a thick fur for the Earth. It’s just a very beautiful place, very soft.”
That is how Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma described The Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands Preserve after seeing a prairie for the first time. Christien was one of 10 designers who immersed themselves in the beauty and benefits of nature while creating products for the Design for a Living World exhibition.
The Nature Conservancy created the Design for a Living World exhibition to encourage people to think about the products they use−where they come from, how they are made and the impacts they have on our planet. The Conservancy invited designers from the worlds of fashion, industry and furniture to create new objects from sustainable materials sourced from around the world.
The exhibition came to The Field Museum in Chicago this past spring, along with a complementary photo essay at the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. These newly created products are meant to be beautiful and useful, to promote ethically grown and harvested materials and to show the benefits these materials can have for the communities in which they’re harvested. Conservancy sites in Alaska, Australia, Bolivia, China’s Yunnan Province, Costa Rica, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Mexico and Micronesia are represented in the exhibition.
The Lurie Garden photos, by award-winning photographer Ami Vitale, are behind-the-scenes Design for a Living World images showcasing the people and landscapes in Alaska, China, Mexico and Illinois. Both exhibits are on display in Chicago through fall 2011 and will then move on to Phoenix.
Along with her “Flock” rug made from organic wool harvested in Idaho, Christien created a piece from Illinois’ prairie grasses especially for the Chicago exhibition. “49 Prairie Plants” is a book that consists of 49 sheets of paper, each made of a different kind of prairie plant from Nachusa Grasslands.
“I hope people take away an understanding of what the prairie is after seeing the exhibition. I would like people to understand the richness of the ecosystem there,” Christien said. “I like to design things that tell something about where they came from and how they were made. Design for a Living World fits perfectly with my philosophy.”