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Vacuum king urges public to make clean sweep on design

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Famed industrial designer and entrepreneur James Dyson has urged the public to consider how design might improve lives in four key areas in the immediate future - the home, waste management, offices and transport.

Fronting a series of Radio 4 programmes called Living by Design, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner said anger and frustration are 'good stimuli for change and improvement', but we 'must be prepared to take on good ideas despite being told they won't catch on'. This, he argued, was the key issue for designers, 'who must be in tune with change'.

In the first programme, AA chairman Mohsen Mostafavi suggested that the pervasive 'dream-house' ideal of today owes much to a period when the city was moulded to reflect the landscape of the countryside, representing a form of purity. Despite Modernism and the visionary ideals of architects such as Buckminster Fuller who, as Dyson put it, saw 'houses as dynamic, not solid', house design is still fundamentally traditional.New ideas, said Dyson, such as Cartwright Pickard's prefabricated 'pods', or Pierre d'Avoine's concept ofbuilding down, not up, are 'unattractive to low-cost house-builders', but 'the wait-and-see tactic leaves consumers short-changed'.

Closely linked to the shape of the home in the future are the issues of waste and working practices. Paul Jowett, director of the Scottish Institute for Sustainable Technology, underlined the fact that 'we don't really want to take responsibility for rubbish'. Dyson revealed that there are 'a host of 'new systems about, such as John Mortimer's watercleansing system, and John Acton's compact power incinerator, which would allow individuals to assume responsibility for their own waste management - were it not for the lack of legislation allowing the installation of such systems within the home. But 'to truly recycle', largescale disassembly plants are necessary.

In the third programme, Jeremy Myerson described the emergence of the new office culture of 'experience', as opposed to one of 'supervision'. According to Dyson, 'we want to work in interiors like designer homes to stimulate our creativity'; but, if so, why go to offices at all to work? For Frank Duffy, the contemporary office is 'all about communication'.With 10 per cent of people now working from home, the offices of the future will be the places to go for 'a rest', says bicycle guru Mike Cotton, and to meet your colleagues for discussion and socialising.

This significant social change would have a knock-on effect on current transport problems, in which the typical five-mile journey is much to blame. Jonathan Epsom's 'Millennium Taxi', driven by a 70kw electric motor powered by batteries, is designed primarily as a replacement for delivery vans making such journeys all day, and would 'make a very big change to the environment of cities'.But it requires political will and 'a leap of faith' to invest in new technology that will initially be more expensive to produce.

For Dyson, 'personal empowerment has to be involved' as well, such as that embodied in the concept of the driverless Ultra, which replicates the environment of the car, but runs on electronic guides embedded in the ground. For Cotton, the bicycle still represents the ideal solution; but planners have got to look to the village as the model for future communities.

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