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Lisa White of WGSN: “Technology”

There is a huge focus on low-impact living and materials that allow for this. We will see a massive shift towards recycled and reused durable materials. Timber is a great example and we are seeing it used in large-scale constructions, like the Gare Maritime shopping centre in Brussels. Timber can be disassembled and reused, is […]

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There is a huge focus on low-impact living and materials that allow for this. We will see a massive shift towards recycled and reused durable materials. Timber is a great example and we are seeing it used in large-scale constructions, like the Gare Maritime shopping centre in Brussels. Timber can be disassembled and reused, is carbon-sequestering and allows public spaces to “breathe” in ways that permit healthier interior environments.

In a more radical reaction to climate changes, in the US we are seeing 3D-printed homes like Haus that have self-managed water, sewer and energy systems. They are antiviral and include walls and windows that are virtually unbreakable. For consumers highly concerned about protection, these houses are touted as being “zombie proof.”


As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa White.

A future thinker with over 25 years of experience, Lisa is an expert in lifestyle and design and has predicted key long-term trends such as experience design and the home hub. Her industry knowledge, creativity and cutting-edge eye drive WGSN’s future innovation and macro trends as well as product development forecasts. In international demand as a speaker, Lisa also curated the 2019 International Design Biennale in Saint-Étienne, France.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

As a child, I always wanted to be an archaeologist, to find traces of the past in the present. As a teenager in the American suburbs, I wanted to discover what made humans tick, to understand the lived experience of people around the world, through the words they speak, the systems they create and the things they make. I ended up studying political science at Georgetown University, learning Chinese in Taipei, then French in Paris. Looking for a job in Paris, I answered a want ad in the Herald-Tribune for Trend Union, Li Edelkoort’s bureau de style, and have been working in trend forecasting ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There have been so many! One of the things I loved about Trend Union was that we were creating our own designs and images to express future trends in colour, lifestyle, fashion and even flowers and plants. These were published in the magazines I edited: View on Colour, Interior View and Bloom. We would be working 24/7 on pure creation: making props, clothes, photos, texts, fonts. As editor in chief I always had an idea of where things were going with each issue, but it was a very free-wheeling, open, creative process and there would be so many fascinating twists and turns. I was fortunate enough to have interviewed and worked with luminaries like Rei Kawakubo, Helmut Lang, Paolo Roversi, Nobuyoshi Araki, Hella Jongerius, Kiki Van Eijk, Felice Varini…

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

My idea of success has always been making things happen despite challenging situations. At the end of the 90s we wanted to create a trend magazine on the subject of flowers and plants and how they relate to design. We were trying to get financial support — we did not accept advertising and no one would invest in the idea, so we made Bloom magazine happen on our savings. When I heard that Christian Lacroix and Dries van Noten and luminaries from the fashion industry used it as their inspiration, I felt that we were definitely on to something… and so thrilled that our vision, one that no one would bank on, had come to life. I think my takeaway from that is: trust your vision, your gut feeling. If you can see it, even if no-one else believes in it, you can make it happen.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Ingo Maurer was the first well-known designer who accepted to be interviewed by me as a 20-something for our design magazine, Interior View. I did not know much about design at the time, had never been to the Salone del Mobile in Milan. I spent the afternoon with him in Munich and he blew me away with his humility, generosity and insight. He said that, when designing the light for a space “The important thing is for people to feel well when they are there, even without knowing why.” It is not about designing an object. This is still for me the epitome of good design, and why I still work in design and lifestyle today.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I am a voracious consumer of the written word, and read as much as I can. News, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, essays, research, analysis, business reviews, speculative studies. It’s difficult to pick just one thing, but the words

“The air is raining messages” from Richard Powers’ The Overstory really spoke to me. There are so many signals out there that we can’t (or won’t) perceive, so we pretend they don’t exist. But these signals, whether they are spores or frequencies or emotions or something else entirely, are just as important and informative as those we do perceive. We are missing out. We need to learn to listen better. Everything is data.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The past and the future are present.” Everyone agrees that we can find the seeds of the past in our world today, but we can also find the seeds of the future; we just need to search better.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.

At the end of last year WGSN relaunched their Lifestyle and Iinteriors vertical with the release of the Future of the Home 2030 report, in which we predict the major trends used to build the homes of the future will be centred around four major themes:

-Protection: responding to rising concerns around hygiene, health, safety and security.

-A Sense of Place: Housing design begins to prioritise flexibility, community and connectivity.

-Environmental Sustainability: We begin to build homes that can be self-sufficient and even regenerative..

-Technology: Strides in AI, Immersive Technology and Digital Connectivity will allow for a full digitization of the home.

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

Already we are seeing evidence of the major role that environmental and societal sustainability plays on consumer behaviour. There is a mass acceptance of recycled and reused materials, as well as a shift to materials that last longer. We are now in a position where we have to look towards these solutions, and consumers will begin to look towards improving the environment, rather than simply neutralizing their impact on it.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

Smart homes are homes that are connected to wider technology systems, taking some of the hassle out of everyday life, whether it is controlling the heat and music inside the home from your voice or smartphone or connecting the home to the world outside. The goal of smart homes is to automate certain tasks and be resource efficient, like turning lights on and off as you enter or leave a room. Smart, immersive technology will also be able to deliver awe-inspiring entertainment experiences to living rooms and even furniture such as beds, as we just saw at CES.. Immersive technology will also deliver new levels of virtual communication with family, friends and work.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

Yes, here it is important to separate the term “smart” from “home.” They are not mutually exclusive. Advances in the IoT will be able to connect local areas and neighbourhoods so that objects and people can communicate. This is being innovated by Amazon’s Sidewalk, an upcoming location tracking mesh network which will make things like finding a lost pet much easier — though this opens up many more questions about privacy.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

Chamberlain’s Pet Portal, launched at CES, is a new door with a seamless lower panel that slides open when your pet approaches it with the sensor on their collar, or when you activate the door from your smartphone. In addition to adapting the home to become more pet-friendly, we predict a rise in the acquisition of robotic pets, like those being developed by Boston Dynamics or furrier, more approachable ones like Purrble or the AI-driven Moflin that are designed to help the very young and the very old manage emotions. These types of robots will bring significant comfort to consumers.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

There is a huge focus on low-impact living and materials that allow for this. We will see a massive shift towards recycled and reused durable materials. Timber is a great example and we are seeing it used in large-scale constructions, like the Gare Maritime shopping centre in Brussels. Timber can be disassembled and reused, is carbon-sequestering and allows public spaces to “breathe” in ways that permit healthier interior environments.

In a more radical reaction to climate changes, in the US we are seeing 3D-printed homes like Haus that have self-managed water, sewer and energy systems. They are antiviral and include walls and windows that are virtually unbreakable. For consumers highly concerned about protection, these houses are touted as being “zombie proof.”

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

Transparency and data concerns will only grow as the physical world becomes more intertwined with the digital. If investing in the real estate industry one should look out for any advances in technology that will potentially increase property value, as well as the firms behind them.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

This comes from decades of poor urban planning — and it is not just a problem in the USA. The most successful type of city is one that is mixed-use, where neighborhoods support a variety of housing types and businesses, allowing for people at different life stages and with different levels of income to co-exist, to foster empathy and understanding. This is also crucial from an economic level — we see what is happening now during the pandemic in parts of cities that were purely office buildings — the restaurants, take-outs, shoe repairs and other small businesses that catered to the office culture may never recover. I am most-excited about Carlos Moreno’s concept of the 15-minute city, which is being pioneered in my home city of Paris and which is intended to allow people to access everything they need within a 15-minute walking radius of their homes.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

Create sustainable, well-designed mixed-use housing neighborhoods with green spaces and schools that allow people of different ages and economic levels to coexist comfortably, to literally find common ground and “feel good” about where they live, without necessarily understanding how their neighbourhood was designed.

*You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you. We need to get back to long-term thinking, and to taking into consideration the “greater good” whether it is about designing like “good ancestors” using sustainable building materials that will weather the test of time, or designing for, and especially with, those different from ourselves. At WGSN we hope to be part of the call to action towards more sustainable, inclusive lifestyles.

How can our readers follow you online?

Website — https://www.wgsn.com/

Facebook — @WGSNofficial

Instagram — @wgsn

Twitter — @wgsn

YouTube — WGSN

Linkedin — WGSN

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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