Like DNA, design shapes our identity, which, in turn, influences design

Seeds, the central feature at IDS Vancouver, comes from Dutch eating designer Marije Vogelzang and is presented by Caesarstone (left and centre). IDS Vancouver promises to offer new perspectives, not only on the familiar act of eating, but also on design and architecture, for example in workshops for youths by architect and designer Maïa Tarassoff (right).  left, Ilja Keizer; all others supplied

Seeds, the central feature at IDS Vancouver, comes from Dutch eating designer Marije Vogelzang and is presented by Caesarstone (left and centre). IDS Vancouver promises to offer new perspectives, not only on the familiar act of eating, but also on design and architecture, for example in workshops for youths by architect and designer Maïa Tarassoff (right). left, Ilja Keizer; all others supplied

Design is all around us – from pencils to chairs to buildings – that’s what Maïa Tarassoff tells her young audiences. For Marije Vogelzang, design goes beyond mere things to include processes, such as eating. The common thread linking the work of the two women – one an architect and educator, the other an eating designer – nicely illustrates the central theme of Interior Design Show (IDS) Vancouver: Design DNA.  

Both believe that design, like DNA, shapes our identity, which, in turn, influences design. From this premise, their goal is to ensure that design makes our lives better and our environment more sustainable. 

“Design is important, because it can change our lives drastically and for the better,” says Tarassoff. She has turned her conviction – that awareness about the designed and built environment not only opens our eyes to human ingenuity but can also inspire us to affect a shift towards positive change – into a mission: to educate and engage the next generation with Petit Architect, which brings architecture and design workshops to children and youths.

“One of my main motivations is to promote design careers and teach design thinking through hands-on workshops,” she says. “We live in a very tech-oriented world, and kids don’t have much opportunity to engage with their hands – to cut and glue and create. I believe that in the future, these skills will be rare but very valuable.” 

Tarassoff’s mission is to inspire kids to become “thinkers and makers rather than just users,” she says. “I want to plant the seed for becoming citizens who engage in a more conscious and thoughtful way with their surroundings.”

Seeds, the title of Vogelzang’s feature, reflects a similar objective. “As humans in this age, we are very focused on the digital world and seem to live in our heads,” she says. “I think food is a great tool to connect with the real world and awaken our senses.”

While food and eating are deemed familiar, she has found that we behave in a “very limited, repetitive and mindless way when it comes to food. 

“Designers can turn the system upside down and find new perspectives and new tools to relate to the act of eating,” she says. When Vogelzang started working with food as a designer in the Netherlands 20 years ago, she felt drawn to something that “had a scent and taste, something that could evoke memories, bring people together and connect them to the land,” she says. “I also saw that it requires a different attitude, since you are making something that’s ephemeral and cyclic. When is your design finished? When it’s on the table? When it’s eaten?”

Rather than makers of “pretty things,” Vogelzang sees designers as generalists who can make unconventional connections. “Designers can use things we already know, like food, and change the context to make people appreciate them more,” she suggests. “Designers can present new perspectives on the future.”

A new outlook is also what Tarassoff hopes to inspire with Petit Architect, which she started in 2017 – after moving from Paris to Vancouver and specializing in passive house design. 

“Many people are scared of the future, and we need to show them what is possible,” says Tarassoff. “More than half of the world’s energy consumption is due to heating and cooling buildings, so shifting to energy-efficient buildings can have a big impact. We have a lot of great urban initiatives, like bike lanes and parks, but when it comes to buildings, we need to do much more.”  

Tarassoff, who works with children from kindergarten age to grade 12, believes that by promoting understanding of buildings and energy consumption in youths, they can change the future of cities. “We need to engage everyone,” she says. “The next generation is very important, but we also need to act as role models and empower them.”

Engaging people is also key for Vogelzang. “Food can act as a kind of glue to bring people together,” she says. “People may feel they are different from each other, but if you look underneath, everybody operates the same. That’s where I focus my work on: the human layer. Not the cultural layer. We all laugh, we all cry. And we all eat.”

In addition to designing the central feature, Marije Vogelzang will be speaking about her creative process at IDS Vancouver on Friday, September 27, at 3:30 p.m.

Maïa Tarassoff is leading two separate youth programming workshops for kids aged eight to 12 and 10 to 14 at IDS Vancouver on Saturday, September 28, and Sunday, September 29.

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