The Whole HOG: March/April 2013

“I think when we really see each other, we want to help each other.”
– Amanda Palmer, musician

In his book Imagine: How Creativity Works Jonah Lehrer examines the intricacies of how the human mind creates, from ‘a ha’ moments of epiphany to the way centralized bathrooms help foster innovation in the business environment. Starting with the neural pathways of the brain, and ranging from cultural and historical moments of genius to the benefits of urban friction in modern cities, Lehrer is a nimble guide down the oft-divergent path of creativity.

ImagineImagine has circulated the headquarters of our small green business, where we know from experience that creativity is fostered by hard work, outsider thinking and social exchange. We found Lehrer’s book to be useful, immensely readable, and even inspirational.  (Yep, we heard about the debacle of the fake Bob Dylan quote. We still recommend the book. )

In a footnote, Lehrer remarks, “Architecture has real cognitive consequence.” We think Thomas Hardwick’s Seed Cathedral is an example of consciousness-shifting architecture worth seeing.

Speaking of, this month we’re substituting a B.U.G. Design feature – our monthly creative sustenance – for a timely Ask Dr. HOG feature. Earthquake-prone California and large steel water tanks don’t mix, especially on the playground. Find out why from architect Sally Dominguez, HOG inventor who moonlights as our resident Dr. HOG.

Sally has recently been named ambassador to the humanitarian nonprofit Engineers Without Borders Australia. If you’re in California the first weekend of June, you can catch her making a case for rainwater harvesting – “Good for the plants, good for the planet,” she says – at the Marin Home and Garden Expo.

The ever-expanding Austin musical festival that is South by Southwest (SXSW) had the web (and us too) all abuzz this March. One musician’s name kept surfacing, in part because of a recent TED talk she gave called “The Art of Asking.” Amanda Palmer and her band, Grand Theft Orchestra, raised an unprecedented amount of money through KickStarter for a new album.

Art of AskingFearless, bold, and a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of a performer, Amanda uses her outsider status – Lehrer makes the case that this is an important perspective for looking at a problem from a new angle – to reframe the music-industry question, “How do you make people pay for your music?”

Her paradigm-shifting answer: “I didn’t make them. I asked them, and through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.”

“Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing,” T.S. Eliot wrote in an introduction to Dante’s Inferno. Lehrer opens Imagine with this quote and proceeds to demonstrate with example after example that the best way of coming up with something from nothing – the definition of creative problem solving – is to make unexpected connections across diverse fields of knowledge.

It is as a connector that Amanda Palmer envisions a musician at her most successful. She says, “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of their community, connectors and openers, not untouchable stars.” To get a sense of her ability to connect in action, check out how she crowdsourced a SXSW showcase and panel in under 24 hours.

We strive to connect-the-dots in unexpected ways and bring new perspectives to you in The Whole HOG.  The Amsha Africa Foundation’s project to bring rainwater harvesting to rural Kenya makes us think about the value of water differently. Keep reading to find out more.

The Whole HOG: February 2013

Water-centric Green Design News

“The Rainwater HOG makes it easy to commit to a lifestyle of rationalized use and conservation. The system boasts negligible costs, simple technology, and immediate results.
-Beverly Maloney-Fischback, CEO, Founder and Publisher of Organic Spa Magazine

This February we’re spotlighting those who lead by example. Organic Spa Magazine’s Beverly Maloney-Fischback articulates this ambition with her green home renovation in Ohio. Among the eco-friendly features of her Rocky River Green Home are, you guessed it, Rainwater HOG tanks!

Further afield in national water news, we bring you two articles – one from the New York Times and one from the San Francisco Chronicle – about those who are asking pertinent, if difficult, questions about sea level rise. The primary question is this: How, and when, do we best respond on a national level to the effects of a changing climate on heavily inhabited coastlines? Read on for some thought-provoking answers.

In his book, Making, architect Thomas Heatherwick explains that the focus of his work is “how to use materials and forms at a human scale, the scale at which people touch, experience and live in the world.” The Seed Cathedral, designed for the UK Pavilion in the 2010 World Expo, is a breathtaking realization of that focus. It is also a stunning example of how to translate the natural world into architecture. Read more about the Seed Cathedral in the B.U.G. Design section.

And speaking of setting an example, don’t miss what RotoWorld Magazine has to say about Rainwater HOG this month.

February 2013: B.U.G. (Beautiful.Useful.Green) Design

                                                The Seed Cathedral

“Our challenge was to do one powerful thing that had clarity,” architect Thomas Heatherwick says of the Seed Cathedral, presented for the United Kingdom’s pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in China.

The theme of the Expo was the future of cities, which the Heatherwick team used as a starting point to consider the relationship of cities to nature. To create the Seed Cathedral, they worked with the England-based Kew Gardens, the world’s first major botanical institute, and its Millennium Seed Bank project, with a mission to collect and preserve 25 percent of the world’s wild plant species.seed cathedral


For a whole new
photographic perspective on seeds, check out Seeds: Time Capsules of Life, authored by an expert from the Millennium Seed Bank.

Why is it beautiful? The Seed Cathedral is a building with texture.  Sixty thousand silvery, tingling hairs protrude from every surface and raise the height of the building to six stories. At the tip of each hair (identical lengths of acrylic rod) are seeds encased in a glass-like tip.

By day, the cathedral is lit by sunlight. By night, tiny light sources within the rods illuminate the seeds inside and the tips of the hairs on the outside. “They appear as thousands of dancing points of light that sway and tingle in the breeze,” says Heatherwick. A fitting image for a building nicknamed in Chinese, simply, Dandelion.


“For this future-gazing Expo, seeds seemed to the ultimate of unfulfilled potential and future promise,” writes Heatherwick in his book, Making.

Why is it  useful? The Seed Cathedral effectively communicates what is on the inside – 250,000 seeds from the Millennium Seed Bank – from the outside. It surprises with simplicity, and with stunning ingenuity. But it also makes us consider nature in a new light by effectively elevating the humble seed to that of a precious, and rare, stone. What better way to emphasize the importance of nature in our cities of the future?

Why is it green? “Inside the Seed Cathedral, you were at the most bio-diverse point in Shanghai,” explains Heatherwick. Those thousands of seeds held, and illuminated, within the cathedral were later distributed among British and Chinese schools and botanical institutions. But truly, Heatherwick Studio succeeded in creating a magical structure that allows millions of people to be wooed, and awed, by the power of the natural world.  (He won the gold medal for Pavilion design, too).

*Check out Sally’s blog for more B.U.G. inspiration.*