May 25, 2016

Living Future: Truth + Transparency

Transparency water image_full

Though presenting at the 2016 Living Future unConference for the third year in a row, this year’s involvement was anything but business as usual. This year, BKSK co-organized  events that sought to challenge the effectiveness of the conventional conference format.

A Willingness to Be Moved
As a way of kicking-off the conference and instigating a particular mode of presence in order to prepare ourselves for transformative thought, we collaborated with chef Matt Dillon and sommelier Marc Papineau to host a special gathering at their restaurant Upper Bar Ferdinand. Our goal was to offer our sustainable design peers an opportunity for close connection through the shared experience of a unique event. Led by Matt and Marc’s knowledge and experience of the local ecology and terroir, the participants together immersed themselves in the multi-sensory task of preparing a shared meal with locally grown and foraged ingredients and then pairing the resulting dishes with selections of locally produced wine. It was an opportunity to consider the parallel principles between the craft of cooking (providing nourishment) and the craft of building (providing shelter) – and it sparked a number of insights into the ways that food and design are central to what it means to be human.

LivingFutures_2016_herbsIngredients were locally grown and foraged from Matt’s farm on Vashon Island, including early blooms of the season – nettle and allium.

LivingFutures_2016_FireFood is cooked in an open fireplace or smoked in a passive heat masonry smoker.


Marc Papineau of Upper Bar Ferdinand shares a sample of dashi broth made collectively by participants of the session.

Among the many themes that were discussed/highlighted: the advantages/benefits of limits and restraint in creative endeavors; the enriching cycles of time; the values of heritage, ritual and tradition; the multi-sensory experience of the material world and the embodied experience of place. This engaging experience successfully dislodged us from our default modes of thought and catalyzed a ripple effect of creative insights to carry throughout the remainder of the conference.

Hygge: Designing Trust, Wellness and Stewardship
Next, we set to work on a design experiment: with a minimal number of subtle interventions, could we transform an ordinary conference room into something completely other? Presented with a common, blank space, could we create and activate a temporary sense of place – a setting intentionally crafted to host an alternative design workshop? Inspired and guided by the Danish concept of hygge  [hew-guh]  – and the related sense of presence and awareness of being affected by one’s surrounding environment – we designed an atmosphere of calm, quiet refuge.

We invited the conference attendees to appropriate the space by sharing their personal ideas and memories related to the concept of “home” and then facilitated a workshop around the related themes of memory, identity, and nourishment: Hygge: Designing Trust, Wellness and Stewardship. Together we reflected on our various processes for communication, collaboration, and the overall process of design. The participants shared openly and with trust, resulting in a session that was personal, intimate and consequential.  Ultimately, it was an exploration of how the subtle ways we care for and know ourselves can, and should, inform our work in designing for wellness and community.

LivingFutures_2016_hygge session

BKSK transformed this windowless conference room into a place of quite reflection.