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An Ode to the Homo Faber

In the Design Special of Lounge, we look at the future of design and the directions in which our creative spirit is taking us

Photo: iStockphoto.
Photo: iStockphoto.

Latin for “man the maker", Homo faber stands for the idea that creativity is an inherent human trait that leads us to make tools, and that we use these to control our environment. In the early 20th century, evolutionary philosopher Henri Bergson associated the Homo faber with “the faculty of making artificial objects". In the 1950s, radical political theorist Hannah Arendt, in her book The Human Condition, described the Homo faber as “the fabricator of the world" whose ideals lie in creating “permanence, stability, and durability".

In this Design Special edition of Lounge, we were keen to deal with the “fabricators" of our world. These are the people who embody the same creative spirit, and wholeheartedly exploit it to try and solve the commonplace everyday problems as well as those deeply-impactful ones that determine our long-term life choices. We hope to bring alive the role of the Homo faber not as a theoretical concept, but as a thinking, living person of the modern world.

However old the idea of the Homo faber may be, we decided to look to the future. Under the overarching theme of design, we bring you essays and features on architecture, interiors, textiles, technology, fashion and beyond—the creative yet functional aspects of our lives. Each essay asks a question, and the ensuing answer—often riddled with dualities—gives us an impression of what the future might look like. Do architects need to adopt a more political voice? How will the textiles industry resolve the tug-of-war between handmade and machine-made processes? Is androgyny in fashion an expression of identity that is becoming increasingly relevant to changing gender roles? How will smart technology change the way we live and communicate? We dwell on what we lose as we gain the wonderfully sleek and unobtrusive conveniences that technology offers.

We also bring the best of the contemporary design world into your homes and offices with our picks from the latest edition of the Salone del Mobile (4-9 April) and the Milan Design Week. The world’s biggest annual interior design trade fair- cum-exhibition is both the global design fraternity’s biggest party and its most critical year-end exam. This year alone, over 343,600 visitors, largely comprising design professionals and media, descended on Milan to study collections that will set the stage for what’s trending and cutting-edge over the next year. We pick 12 stand-out designers from this year’s edition.

Closer home, we visit the Godrej DesignLab in Mumbai, a small outfit that runs like an open-source, mentor-led start-up under the Godrej & Boyce company. Talking to the people who lead the Godrej DesignLab, it becomes clear why it is important for established, traditional companies to look outside their business empires for fresh talent and to stay in touch with the changing world.

Design, as the concept of the Homo faber exemplifies, is not outside of us, or apart from us. It’s an innate human tendency. The future of design, then, is also the future of how we live, the spaces we inhabit, the objects we surround ourselves with, the materials we choose to express ourselves with, and the values we fight for and aspire towards. The future of design is pretty much the future of us.

—Komal Sharma, issue editor

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