Monday, May 31, 2010

AG Ideas Inspiration - Theo Jansen

At the recent AG Ideas conference held in Melbourne, I was lucky enough to listen to sculptor Theo Jansen, who creates "new forms of life" from electrical tubing.

These objects, powered by wind, are smart enough to be able to sense when they are about to be swallowed by a wave or if they are heading into soft, unwalkable sand. No high tech computer gadgets or electronics, only bits of electrical tubing and the weather.

The key quote from Theo's presentation? "The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds"

I guess this just reinforced for me that design is everywhere - physics can become art and vice versa. This also tied in to a conversation we had here at THG about the difference between urban design in Australia and internationally. THG's head Urban Designer, Craig Baynham believes that internationally, space is what drives design whereas in Australia, design is driven by process and box ticking. It's a bit philosophical, but if Theo Jansen's work is anything to go by, it is possible to create a living, breathing creature out of nothing more than a pile of sticks - which means there is hope for us yet.

If you would like to see some examples of Theo's work, check him out on youtube here, here and here.


  1. I concur with Craig's comments, design is often compromised by the thoughts of those who must see the correct boxes ticked. Surely the overarching box of 'is it a great outcome' must prevail?

  2. Definately. We discuss this topic frequently in our Urban Design unit. I personally believe that designs within our cities should be 'performance' based, rather than as 'prescriptive' as they are currently.

    Enforcers of the latter might argue 'if there are reduced regulations and developers can propose anything they want - then where will it end?!'. But I believe that the answer to this question could be 'does it matter?'.

    If we can propose and justify a design based on economic factors and sustainability in mind with a focus on people... we could possibly have a much more vibrant, exciting and forward-thinking places and spaces!