The New Black: Ryerson University Interior Design Goes Sustainable


" Environmentally conscious design is more than just a trend. It is the future of the design industry. It can be stylish and current without rejecting the principles of sustainable design." Thus begins the brief for The New Black, the theme for the Ryerson School of Interior Design's year end exhibition. We were previously impressed with them with their work at the Interior Design Show and thus were honoured to be invited to be on a panel discussion on sustainability and design. Also on the panel was Patty Johnson, designer and founder of the North South Project, "a model of design and craft collaborations in the developing world" and Barbara Ciesla, senior interior designer for HOK Toronto, whose award winning offices we will be covering shortly. It was capably moderated by Michael Prokopow, Phd Harvard, teacher at Ryerson and Prof at University of Toronto.


It was an enjoyable discussion about sustainability and design education. Patty Johnson complained that students are getting a euro-centric education and have no idea what is happening in the rest of the world, how design must be be "ecologically, economically, culturally and aesthetically sustainable for the long term benefit of each participating community, producer and craftsperson".

Barbara Ciesla described the problems of educating clients in the world of green, but how it is now attracting clients who are coming to them because of their green credentials, and how everyone is getting into it at the most basic levels, questioning why they have sugar packets in the office instead of a bowl.

I did my usual rants about compact fluorescents and taking little steps, but also mentioned Franke James and the need to start taking big hard steps. Light bulbs are immediate, but we are designing buildings now that will outlive all of us, so designers have to lead the way and ensure that we do it right, that we educate clients who are, after all, coming to us because we know something that they don't.

I usually hate question periods after talks, where one gets longwinded statements rather than questions, but not here- the students asked short, intelligent questions that we were all happy to attack.

Congratulations to Michael Prokopow for his skillful questioning and organizers Morgan Granese,Grant Hill, Jessica McConnell, Jaymie Cooper, Sabrina Ash, and Renee Maarse for an interesting evening; we look forward to the year end show ::the new black

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