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the Netherlands with counter-
parts in Jakarta to work on what
it considers to be the major chal-
lenges defining Indonesia today:
‘sustainable education, clean air,
bio-based materials and resilient
neighbourhoods.’ The exchange
is also concerned with solutions
for socially complex issues
plaguing humanity, such as ‘how
to build a respectful environment
in which future generations will
thrive and prosper’. The resulting
projects have been exhibited
in both Eindhoven and Java
with testing happening across
These are just a few exam-
ples of what can happen when
talented individuals with differ-
ent knowledge bases put their
heads together. It’s time to stop
designing in a vacuum, to start
combining ancient techniques
with future technologies, and to
take advantage of globalization
by creating an open-source system
of exchange in the physical realm.
Our Earth depends on it.•

Karen Day asks why there isn’t more cross-
cultural exchange between Western innovators
and Indonesian designers to solve some of the
world’s socioecological problems.

Day is a Bali-based freelance
journalist who covers the creative
industry. In her previous home of
New York, she was a long-time editor
of Cool Hunting and contributed
to design-led publications such as
Kinfolk, Mold and Nataal.

boron, a chemical element found
in nature, to render it inedible
for insects and protect it for
hundreds of years of use. Ibuku’s
approach is becoming more
widely recognized and, last year,
it brought the natural elements of
Bali to a restaurant in Hong Kong.
Helping to solve a depend-
ency on oil and the resulting
pollution it generates is American
entrepreneur Tony Fadell, inven-
tor of the iPod. With Edde, his
new Bali-based concept, he’s on
a mission to replace traditional
scooters with electric bikes. And
because its bicycle frames will be
manufactured with plastic ocean
waste, Edde will help to clean
up local beaches in the process.
Fadell believes individual electric
transportation is the most energy-
efficient mode for the future, but
by living in Bali he also began to
understand that the problem was
bigger than fuel: the steep interest
rate on purchasing a new scooter
means the average person pays
twice the amount of the sticker
price. Fadell aims to change that
by working with local banks to
lessen the financial burden that
comes with purchasing a set of
wheels here and encouraging
people to make the switch.
Proving there can truly be
a lot to learn from cross-cultural
collaboration is Dutch Design
Foundation offshoot What if Lab,
which has paired designers from



Indonesia’s design leaders, their
diverse backgrounds could create
the perfect symbiotic relationship
in which to tackle many of our
socioecological predicaments.
The Balinese have been
cleverly using the land they dwell
on for thousands of years, from
something as simple as using
banana leaves to wrap up food
to more complex ideas like their
intricate subak irrigation network.
As explained by Harvard profes-
sor of urban design, Julia Watson,
in her new book Lo-TEK: Design
by Radical Indigenism, the subak is
a successful model of productive
ecological design ‘for today’s
cities that are facing water short-
ages and realising the negative
implications of agrochemicals’.
From Cape Town to Los Angeles,
this ancient aquatic system could
be used to manage the flow of
water trickling down from higher
Designer Elora Hardy
shows what can be done with the
fruits of this labour. Her archi-
tecture studio, Ibuku, creates
incredible bamboo structures
that have the tensile strength of
steel but the ability to be removed
in the future without damaging
the ground upon which they rest.
The renewable tree-like grass was
previously deemed an unsuitable
construction material because
of its susceptibility to termites,
but Hardy’s team bathes it in

I often wonder why Indonesia
isn’t leading the way in sustain-
able design. I think about this
as I wear a face mask to protect
myself from the thick black
smoke spewing out of scooters,
cars and buses, as I pass a load of
rubbish dumped into the island’s
irrigative waterways, or when I
pick up takeaway food contained
in plastic packaging. Bali – and
the extensive archipelago it
belongs to – is rife with opportuni-
ties for improving tomorrow,
both for its own residents and the
global population. But in an era
of vocational nomads, serious
design professionals seem to be
overlooking the chance to leave
their desks behind for a first-hand
lesson in what are all too mistak-
enly shrugged off as third-world
There are plenty of eco-
activists to be found in Indonesia,
from teenagers who successfully
managed a governmental ban
on single-use shopping bags to
cutting-edge hospitality compa-
nies reducing the impact tourism
has on the island. However, the
current roster of trained problem
solvers is far too small for a
region that has two major factors
working in its favour: a long
history of using raw materials and
its proximity to the issues almost
every country is now facing. If
more of the Western world’s
innovators joined forces with

8 Reporting From

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