My book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective is available now, and I will discuss it in a couple of panels at the American Society for Environmental History meeting in Chicago on March 30. The conference is at Chicago’s Drake Hotel.
At 8:30am, Thursday March 30, I will be part of a panel on “Histories of Design and the Environment” with Kjetil Fallan, Rachel S. Gross, and Eun-Joo Ahn. We will all present individual papers, and then Steven Corey will comment. Adam Rome moderates.
Immediately thereafter at 10:30am, I will be part of a Critical Discard Studies and Environmental History roundtable organized by Martin Melosi. I will discuss aspects of the book in both sessions, with a focus on Herman Miller’s furniture design in the first and a broader discussion of where the book fits in the literature in the second. You can get a preview of what I will focus on from Johns Hopkins University Press’s summary of the book:
Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015.
By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire, Upcycling Aluminum is for anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.