“Slow design”: the search for slowness and the risk of immobility

Security measures against the pandemic have changed our habits and this has also affected interior design. They have forced many people to spend much more time at home and value spaces and comforts  (a garden, a terrace, a patio, natural light) more than they have done before. A situation that undoubtedly had consequences in the design, reform and purchase choices.

But we already told you about this a few articles ago. However, we didn’t tell you that someone has given this trend a name or, rather, a context.
We are talking about “slow design”.

Giving a name to everything, cataloging, classifying, labeling and above all de-structuring everything is a contemporary vice. But in this case the definition is not “deconstructive” at all.
On the contrary, it is very “holistic”. It is enough to read the article written by the interior designer Susanna Cots published by Houzz to realize this.

What does “slow design” mean?

Strictu sensu, the concept of “slow design” means little or nothing. It is not exactly a style. Cots in fact points out: “The slow movement is applicable to all aspects of life: slow life, slow design, slow education, slow work, slow cities.”

Therefore, there is nothing wrong with talking about “slow design”, as long as you don’t believe you can go that far. Focusing on the particular is a risk that we highlighted a few weeks ago.

In many cases, as in this, what is relevant is the general framework, the vision of the world. Because this is what we are really talking about: the “slow” philosophy.

It is a philosophy that, at the moment, does not tell us much about “how” to design: it tries to explain the “what” but more than anything it reveals the “why”. Its visible influence on the style of drawing is going to materialize perhaps only in the long term. For now there are no specific aesthetic standards.

We can say that it is a design “especially careful with the environment in the choice of materials and the manufacturing process”, which also aims to resolve the issue of “noise pollution or visual fatigue in the city and favoring open spaces, bright and little overloaded “.

A design that prefers “local to global design, emphasizing the recovery of vernacular knowledge and local crafts in an attempt to connect with cultural roots”. A design that imagines spaces that “encourage interaction, dialogue, teamwork and good times with the family. Spaces that connect with each other, paying special attention to common areas” and that “lead to turning off the television, read a book, chat or simply reflect. A space where time stands still “.

Instead, it is a philosophy in the process of affirmation, with a thousand potential stylistic expressions and, obviously, not devoid of ideal continuity with the past. We think of the minimalist philosophy, for example.

Is there a relationship between “slow design” and minimal design?

At the “sociological” level, the interesting point is that the pandemic seems just one more occasion for the affirmation of the “slow” philosophy, which actually precedes it.
“For many years”, Cots always explains, “I have been a vegetarian and a consumer of organic products. Some time ago I discovered the slow food movement, which was born in Italy, at a time when it began to gain followers in our country”.

The pandemic and the confinement, in fact, did not create the “slow” culture, but they seem to have contributed to its affirmation as mass culture. The minimal idea indeed seems the necessary stylistic premise to arrive at “slow design” and, therefore, a good starting point.

Philosophically, we are precisely in the evolution of minimalism, which reminded us of the importance of the essential, eliminating the superfluous and excess from furniture and decoration.
The “slow” design is the next and consequent step: “Slowing down the pace in some areas of your life means living with more awareness and better. Yes, slower equals more quality of life.”
Without a doubt, it is a reaction to the criticalities of modernism, as well as minimalism (“less is more”). And, as for minimalism, it is essential to distinguish between form and substance to capture its true meaning.

Modernity that eliminates the superfluous in the name of standardization is “minimal” only in form and quantity. Substantially it is not. The small, yet efficient and functional apartment within the crowded building of a crowded city is quantitatively minimal. Substantially it is not. Minimalism is meditation but not solitude, reduction aimed at the essential and not saving, elimination of the superfluous but not of beauty or attention to detail.

In the case of slow design, the concept of slowness is at stake. Slowness finally ceases to represent a lack of productivity and is once again the ideal of reflection and depth.

“Here the word slowness”, explains Cots, “loses its pejorative meaning. In our study we understand slowness as an important stop to feel, savor, delight, appreciate the simplest emotions and enjoy the here and now”.

A restorative design: be careful not to end up immobility

However, slow is always a relative definition: its definition depends on the standard speed. Therefore, slowing down is necessarily a reaction to going too fast. It is not surprising that Cots affirms: the “slow design” is “a restorative design, that regenerates the damaged environment. That achieves an efficient recycling”.

For in order to make the necessary distinctions between form and substance, it is important in this case to underline one thing: slowness is desirable, immobility is not. We do not like the immobility of a life of only contemplation, of only idleness, devoid of action, like the whole virtual and remote life that is prospected, of a life that is reduced to a sofa, your house and a PC as well as, recently , many have been forced to do. We do not want all this exaltation of slowness to be only the justificationist weapon of those who seek to develop the economy in this sense.

Because, in this case, only a few will be able to really enjoy the authentic slowness, as well as the passage in confinement. For the others it will be immobility.

The rediscovery of slowness as a value is a beautiful achievement, but it must be defended from immobility. Let’s be minimal but not skeptical, slow but not still. Let’s not forget that our home is our refuge, but it cannot be our world.

Emmanuel Raffaele Maraziti

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