Designer reimagines planes and ships as giant planters in plea to 'slow down' energy use

Published 3rd July 2020
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Designer reimagines planes and ships as giant planters in plea to 'slow down' energy use
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
With road traffic, global trade and demand for flights all drastically reduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, French designer Nicolas Abdelkader has proposed a bold new use for the world's fuel-burning vehicles: turning them into giant planters.
In his new photo project "The Urgency to Slow Down," the designer imagines a post-pandemic world where planes, ships and cars have been converted to hold plants and trees.
Creating the digitally manipulated images while confined to his home in Paris during lockdown, Abdelkader said they are a plea to slow down energy consumption. He hopes that the pictures, which he describes as a "chimerical vision of a post-productivist society," will help viewers reflect on the what sort of world we return to after the pandemic.
"I would like people to be able to question their 'current' place in the world, their relationship to nature and the impact of their decisions -- especially on consumption -- on ... biodiversity in its entirety," he said over email, adding: "Yes, planet Earth is sick. Yes, it's scary. But to heal it and heal us too, I believe that more than ever we need joyful perspectives and positive messages to help us be collectively creative."
In May, passenger demand for flights was down 91% on the previous year, according to the International Air Transport Association. Reduced vehicle use and industrial activity has also seen pollution levels drop dramatically in recent months, with satellite imagery showing sharp falls in nitrogen oxide levels in industrial areas around the world.
Abdelkader's proposed vision for unused airplanes sees verdant gardens erupting from open fuselages. The other edited images show trees and shrubs sprouting from container ships, sports cars, trucks, tanks and even a SpaceX rocket.
"I think I have stored a deep anger at lifestyles (that are) essentially based on production and consumption, which have become the main means by which we create our own sense of value," he said.
As founder of the now-defunct Paris design firm Studio NAB, Abdelkader has often come up with inventive ideas to rethink how cities operate, alongside work on furniture and architectural design. He even proposed turning the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral into a greenhouse -- complete with a beehive-filled spire -- after the church was badly damaged in a fire in 2019.
And while he is yet to work out the precise mechanics -- or even the feasibility -- of making the idea a reality, Abdelkader's recently founded company Superfarm intends to combine architecture, agriculture and agronomy to reintroduce greenery to urban spaces.
"(If we can) take the initiative to send rockets into the stratosphere with billions of dollars, which is really not the most urgent activity for humans," he said, "we can completely modify the role of our vehicles to make beautiful planters!"