What Happens When An Urban Farmer Meets An Industrial Designer?

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June 21, 2018 | BY Chong Seow Wei and Terence Lim

Driven by the story of the Cartier Santos de Cartier, Generation T listers Bjorn Low and Olivia Lee joined hands to develop a daring solution to address a local problem

It was about two months ago when a pair of Generation T listers began work on a collaborative project co-organised by Cartier and Singapore Tatler's Generation T for the launch of the redesigned Santos de Cartier timepiece. Olivia Lee, an industrial designer who runs her own practice, and Bjorn Lee, the urban farmer behind Edible Garden City, were tasked to address a current issue in Singapore. Their solution had to encapsulate not only their individual expertises, but the gutsiness of Louis Cartier—the creator of the revolutionary Santos de Cartier. 

(Related: Cartier x Generation T: A Bold And Fearless Collaboration)

Olivia and Bjorn's collaboration culminated in an intellectual discourse on June 7 at Cartier's Ngee Ann City boutique, where they presented their idea of a seed bomb—a portable seedling that can be cast into the wind or dropped into the soil, guerilla gardening-style—to help bring back disappearing plants from our local landscape.

See below for a video of what went down at the event, and Olivia and Bjorn's thoughts on the collaboration and their definitions of being bold and fearless.  

 

How do you define being bold and fearless?
Olivia Lee (OL) It is to be so compelled by your convictions that you must take action, even if the odds appear against you. The impetus of creative professionals is to push boundaries, challenge convention and advance new ideas. As innovators, we have to get used to the idea that fear and doubt is ever present—it is human to feel uncertain, but it can also be needlessly limiting. So in spite of this, we have to summon the willpower to work rigorously and press on so that we can give new ideas a chance to materialise.

Bjorn Low (BL) To me, the phrase means taking the risk to pursue your passions. For a social entrepreneur in an emerging industry like urban agriculture, this is an important attribute to have because you don't neceessarily have a tried-and-tested business model to follow or learn from. In that sense, you have to boldly take the leap into the unknown. 

(Related: Fortune Favours The Bold, Says M+S's Kemmy Tan)

How did you both feel about collaborating with each other?
BL I had a good experience working with Olivia and seeing how she managed her thought process as an industrial designer. I learned a more methodical way of thinking through an initial idea to execution. Though it was a brief collaboration, it allowed us to talk about future collaborations between urban farming and industrial design, how we can build on increasing accessibility to urban farming with the use of design.

OL I really enjoyed working with Bjorn and his team. He's someone who walks the path less taken—into the wild literally. I felt we immediately understood each other from the start because we were both passionate about solving problems, improving lives and changing the way people look at things. There is a nice synergy between farming and design; they are both about being resourceful and finding a balance between being systematic and allowing nature to take it's course. 

You both mentioned that you might continue working together. Are there any ideas in mind already? 
OL We are looking broadly at making urban farming a more inclusive activity. This is where industrial design—paying special attention to user experience, prototyping and hacking—could be most relevant for uncovering potential. The seed bomb idea we came up with for the Cartier x Generation T project was a fantastic exercise in taking a simple concept and illustrating how we can learn from nature (ie. biodesign) to design better and thus enhance effectiveness.

BL We are thinking of developing a gardening tool that will allow the elderly to have better control and use of it. We are also looking at further developing the seed bomb idea and testing our formulation to see how it holds up in Singapore's tropical climate. 

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