The following post was written by 5th Term Transportation Design student Tom Harezlak for the Designmatters blog.
Who needs an alarm clock when you can wake to the sound of a choir of monks?
NikolausKloster, a 600 year-old monastery in Germany, has an atmosphere that I would describe as a charming castle mixed with frat house. This special place was home to me and 23 others for a week as we learned about key issues of sustainability and attempted to tackle some of them. This was the second Sustainable Summer School, and I was grateful to be sponsored as attendee by Designmatters, the social impact design department at my school, Art Center College of Design.
“Summer” is a loose term, however, because September in Duesseldorf can get quite cold as I discovered. The warmth of my company was tremendous; a point that illustrated the value of bio-diversity. Our culturally diverse group hailed from nine different countries and this added richness to the experience. All the workshop participants were either design students or practicing designers, but we were in the company of a philosopher, sociologist, artists, a CEO and ecological researchers. The program was born out of collaboration between faculty from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy and Ecosign, an ecologically focused design academy.
For the week we stayed in this sanctuary with little internet and poor cell reception; it was great. The brothers of the order made our food and much of it was grown on site. We left the countryside for one day to visit Cologne and hear expert speakers at Ecosign.
Biologists and a sociologist presented two points of view on swarms and swarm intelligence. Their research was fascinating and their debate heated. Experiments illustrated the dynamic probability of humans to behave like a swarm. All this while psychological factors would indicate that this behavior would never be predictable when applied to humans.
Another point communicated was that a group may be able to solve a problem that no one individual in the group is able to. Then it was up to our teams of designers to present the relevance we believed it had to design. Throughout the week I was elected to present as a native English speaker and because I was “the easiest to understand,” though there was a proper Brit on call. I suppose I have Hollywood to thank for that.