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Design for a Living World

The Design for a Living World Exhibition

Following successful runs in New York, Chicago, Phoenix and Miami, the exhibition is no longer traveling.


Design for a Living World
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Design for a Living World asks us to think about the products we use — where they come from, how they are made and the impacts they have on our planet. The Nature Conservancy invited ten designers to create new objects from sustainable materials sourced from around the world. Wood, plants, wool and other organic materials were transformed into intriguing objects, revealing extraordinary stories about regeneration and the human connection to the Earth’s lands and waters. Together, designers and consumers can reshape our materials economy and help advance a global conservation ethic by choosing sustainable materials that support, rather than deplete, endangered places.

The featured designers are Yves Behar, Stephen Burks, Hella Jongerius, Maya Lin, Christien Meindersma, Isaac Mizrahi, Abbott Miller, Ted Muehling, Paulina Reyes and Ezri Tarazi.

The Commissions
  • Yves Béhar worked with a women’s chocolate cooperative in Costa Rica to develop packaging for the raw cocoa they use to make a traditional hot drink and a grating tool that evokes the sensual nature of chocolate, delivering an intense experience through taste, form and narrative.
  • Stephen Burks traveled to Australia’s Gondwana Link to design the “Totem” — a tool made from reclaimed native jamwood that the local Noongar people can use to make and package a line of organic herb and sandalwood-based cosmetics that they are developing for export.
  • Dutch designer Hella Jongerius traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula to observe traditional chicle latex harvesting and explore the possibilities of chicle beyond its use in chewing gum production, resulting in more than 20 embellished vessels and plates.
  • Using wood harvested from a Forest Stewardship Council-certified Nature Conservancy property in Maine, Maya Lin crafted a striking piece of furniture that highlights the beauty of an individual tree.
  • Christien Meindertsma used wool sourced from a sustainable sheep ranch in Idaho to create a large-scale knit rug — a “flock” of smaller components, each one made from 3.5 pounds of wool, the yield of a single sheep.
  • Famed fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi turned Alaskan salmon skin—typically a waste product of the salmon industry — into a dress that references the scales of the fish from which it was made.
  • Using FSC-certified plywood from Bolivia, Abbott Miller designed a chair whose components can be shipped flat and dry-assembled with a rubber mallet. The chair design highlights the beauty of Bolivian wood, while also yielding three chairs per sheet of plywood, with a minimal amount of waste.
  • Acclaimed jewelry designer Ted Muehling transformed Micronesian vegetable ivory and ocean-harvested black and keishi pearls into a series of bracelets, necklaces and other items, spotlighting the beauty of these natural materials.
  • Paulina Reyes, for kate spade new york, traveled to Bolivia’s forests to work with local craftspeople to design a series of handbags made of sustainable wood, cotton and jipijapa, a fiber made of palm leaves.
  • Industrial designer Ezri Tarazi designed a series of adjustable components that connect to mature bamboo stalks from China’s Yunnan Province, creating a domestic forest that supports a range of living arrangements.


Design for a Living World opened at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in May 2009 and traveled the United States through October 2012.

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