fritz haeg image © designboom

the multi-disciplinary architect and designer fritz haeg was one of the speakers at conversations in design: a world without oil. during his talk, haeg discussed a number of his projects including the edible estates project, which transforms suburban front lawns into fruit and vegetable gardens. haeg also talked about his more recent animal estates project that began with a commission from the whitney museum. for this installation haeg developed a series of habitats for different animals that once inhabited manhattan island before development and brought them back into the urban environment. designboom sat down to talk with haeg about his work and his perspective on sustainability.

conversation with fritz haeg example of an edible estates by fritz haeg

what is the biggest hurdle between us and an oil free world?

i think the projects I’m doing are not motivated by this, they are coming at it from such a different direction. I’m interested in creating projects that are demonstrative of the world that I personally want to live in. one where I’m growing my own food and there are gardens in the street and there are animals in the city and I can only imagine the implication that that would have if everyone did it. so I’m not specifically coming at it from an engineer’s or architect’s point of view that is quantifying anything. conversation with fritz haeg edible estates book by fritz haeghow have issues of sustainability altered your work or process?

sustainability has been part of my work since I was quite young. I was doing gardens and dealing with plants even when I was in college. all of the projects that were in mirko’s (mirko zardini, director of the canadian centre for architecture) book “sorry, out of gas” were kind of the foundation for my work and provided the context for it. I was obsessed with that whole period of architecture and design that wasreally ugly, but is really functional. I get really excited about that kind of work; underground houses and all of that. this has kind of been implicit in everything i’ve been doing since I was in college. so I don’t think my work has evolved, because sustainability has been a constant.

conversation with fritz haeg fritz haeg image © designboom

what is your dream project?

I’m doing my dream projects. none of my projects are dependant on people inviting me. i’m deciding on the projects I want to do. I also set parameters that my projects are things anyone could do themselves.this way they are really functioning as models or examples anyone else can pick up. I purposefully haven’t pursued larger, more civic projects that have a lot of red tape or are top down monuments or things that that are aspirational only to certain parts of the population. I am really limiting myself to a very narrow range of activity that is very modest. the animal projects and the garden projects are ongoing and i’ll do a few of them a year and I have new projects in the works, but I’m not sure what form they will take yet. I have a lot of book projects on the go too. one in particular is in the early stages. I want to do a kid’s book that is an anarchist’s book about the future. that is what I am most excited about.

conversation with fritz haeg fritz haeg’s home in california

conversation with fritz haeg fritz haeg’s home in california

what advice would you give to young designers?

  Ithink the interesting thing happening now is that the young students in school are much more open and aware of the issues than their teachers are. hopefully they are going to more equipped than theirteachers to deal with this. I always feel like I am learning a lot from my students in this regard because they are going to be the generation that is picking up the pieces to a large degree. I think there are somany ridiculous, antiquated ideas of beauty, ways that our cities operate and ways that we use land. there is just an endless list of ridiculous things that we live with day to day that we take for granted. I think we need kids of a younger generation to just one-by-one knock them all down and pick them up and deeply question all these things we have inherited. be aware that we inherited them and we didn’t decide on them.

conversation with fritz haegdome colony x in the san gabriels by fritz haeg, 2009

conversation with fritz haeganimal estates by fritz haeg, 2008

conversation with fritz haeganimal estates by fritz haeg, 2008