The future of green design

Green. It has physical, spiritual and metaphysical associations.


Green. It has physical, spiritual and metaphysical associations. The heart meridian, governing the immune and endocrine systems, is associated with this colour, explaining why it is linked with healing. For the eco revolution, it is both symbol and synecdoche. And thanks to that revolution, going green is no longer an isolated concept but an everyday necessity that is essential to the healing of our greater physical body, our planet. Here, we look to the future of green.


Energy self-sufficient and greened to the max - 362 hectares of planted surfaces will play home to 120 000 plants from 350 different species - the new Smart Forest City in Cancun, Mexico sets a precedent for environmentally-conscious urban planning.

An “ecotropolis”, Smart Forest City is a sustainable mini city. Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti.


An urban attraction with more enviro cred than the London Eye, the Dubai Wheel or the Cape Wheel in the V&A Waterfront, the proposed Spiral Tower will create an immersive city experience using green tech. This next-gen observation tower renews its own energy, has integrated solar panels, vertical gardens and an urban windmill. It’s a fun ride, too.

The Spiral Tower takes city rides and sights to new heights, literally and metaphorically, as it aims to meet its own climate-neutral targets. Image: Northern Light.


Ebois. The word may sound alien now, but is likely to become more commonplace. It is in fact an acronym that stands for Experimental Bioregenerative Station. An Ebois is a closed-loop controlled environment – the kind you might see colonising Mars – that is built on earth using space technologies. A company called Interstellar Lab has been pioneering these controlled life support solutions in anticipation of life on other planets. But perhaps their model can help us solve for Earth, first?

Interstellar Lab’s Ebois has been designed as a prototype for life on Mars and functions as a scientific research and astronaut training centre. Image: Interstellar Lab.


If you find climate change hard to visualize, then you’ll resonate with the work of Polish architect Iwo Borkowicz and designer Alicja Biała, who have created a series of 6 sculptural totems known as Totemy, that are physical data visualisations. Each totem communicates statistics about environmental issues.

The climate change-signifying Totemy are installed beneath the striking Baltyk office tower in Poznań, Poland. Image: Alicja Biała, Iwo Borkowicz and Dominik Pazdzior.
Borkowicz is a Design Indaba Alumnus, and when he presented on our stage, he shared his model for new social housing in Cuba that addresses the housing crisis there.

His latest project in Portugal is yet another set of large sculptural objects, this time taking the form of giant seed bombs. Long Live The Palm was completed in 2020 in collaboration with designer Ola Korbańska and the project transforms biomass from dead palm trees into a statement about the enduring, regenerative cycle of nature.


An artist, designer and writer, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is a Design Indaba Alumnus who researches the future with a focus on how design can shape the coming days for the good. Her research encompasses synthetic biology – a new field of science – and looks at how genetic and biological engineering will become tools for tomorrow’s designers.