lo-tek: design by radical indigenism


Julia Watson’s Lo-TEK is an alternative evolution. In an era with rapidly growing ‘modern’ technology, she revives the reader’s ecological consciousness by presenting organic solutions to design. “We can’t just keep reusing the high-tech and that type of thinking to solve the problems that created the problems.” says Watson. Believing that nature exists as a 3.8 billion year old designer, she uses indigenous philosophy and vernacular infrastructure to generate sustainable and resilient solutions.

Review by Julian Raxworthy for Landscape Architecture Magazine:

“Watson’s beautiful book describes natural “technologies” used by indigenous people that comprise soil, water, climate, and, most important, culture. At first glance, these categories might provide a useful division for the book, but in fact all the technologies use all these ingredients, which shows in the first instance why “indigenism,” as Watson calls it, might be a useful approach in contrast to the singularity of modern solutions. When you plop open the rough, loose cardboard cover, you may wonder whether the binding is failing, though it is soon revealed that, no, the book’s construction is deliberate.

On the inner pages you find an index of elevation in meters (a rational measure) that calibrates the organisation of the book into four sections–Mountains, Forests, Deserts, and Wetlands–with 18 sites that are a synthesis of place, culture, and what Watson calls “technologies.” This book is a clear change from the glossy, picture-based titles that one associates with Taschen–on people such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Zaha Hadid, Antoni Gaudí, et al–because it was designed by Watson with W-E Studio. The book is a careful example of what I call “propositional geography,” a mining of the real with an eye to its utility in design, and it has a number of the tropes that are familiar to this time–CAD-drawn axonometrics drawn like aircraft emergency cards, illustrative sections, etc.–that verge on but just hold back from design speculation.”


available only in india