We have had the pleasure of hosting hundreds of visitors to the Digitized.House Zero Energy Living Lab home home over the past year. Selected by Fine Homebuilding Magazine as the recipient of their 2015 Best Energy-Smart Home award, this structure is among the most sustainable residences in North America. Nevertheless, the most frequently-asked question we get during tours has little to do with high-performance architecture, but much ado about New Zealand designer David Trubridge.
The innocent query usually goes something like this: “Those lighting fixtures hanging there are so cool—where did you find them?” The simplistic answer would be: “New Zealand. We got them from a guy in New Zealand.” But of course we can’t stop there, as there is so much more to tell about these art objects masquerading as lighting, and moreover, one man’s incredible odyssey they are but a small part of. That’s the story relayed in So Far, a book from David Trubridge that subscribes to the adage that life is all about the journey, not the destination.
Those fixtures, by the way, are from the Floral product line by David Trubridge—arguably among the most sustainably-produced lighting products in the world. Crafted in the David Trubridge shop from die-cut bamboo plywood, these so-called kitsets arrived on our doorstep knocked down and stacked into extremely compact, recycled cardboard boxes. Once assembled with plastic push-in clips, these piles of thin, renewable wood components blossomed into beautifully spherical fixtures, measuring 400mm and 800mm, respectively.
Back to So Far, its cover is graced with the similarly spherical Coral fixture, Trubridge’s breakout lighting product launched in 2004. That the Coral was designed in the shape of a globe was probably no accident, as it became a major port of call in what was a seagoing voyage halfway around the world for Trubridge—a trek that transformed him from a British naval architect into New Zealand’s preeminent international furniture and lighting designer.
As the soft-spoken Trubridge was on his 2014 North American tour, we were lucky enough to meet him during a casual talk he gave at Austin eco-retailer TreeHouse. At this intimate “hui,” the New Zealand term for a social gathering that originates from the Māori language, we heard Trubridge discuss the gestation of So Far and his deep appreciation for and affinity with the natural elements. Hence, the chapters in the book echo that grounding, with Trubridge’s progression as a designer articulated through his connections to Earth, Water, Fire, Fire II, Air, Ice, and Ether.
Those Earthen connections for Trubridge are strong. “Nature is always my ultimate source of inspiration,” he writes in the Air chapter, “particularly the patterns which repeat themselves at ever-increasing scales, thus revealing the structure of growth.”
And that also helps explain his posture on sustainability, and how he sees it inextricably linked to design. “There is no such thing as sustainable design. There is no such thing as eco design. There is no such thing as green design,” posits Trubridge. “There is only good design and bad design. Good design plans for the future and protects the planet and life on it. If it is not actively doing this, it is, by default, bad design.”
There is much to like in So Far, including the underlying backstory of Trubridge’s voyage from one continent to another, his front-and-center insights on building an environmentally-responsive design business, and the carefully-choreographed photographic selections. You would do well to add this to your collection of sustainable reads.
With that, we wrap up our 12 Days of Sustainable Reads series. Please do let us know what you think about our selections after you have had a chance to check them out.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.