Decoding Design

2012 Olympic torch wins design honors, despite poor 'green' score

2012 Olympic torch wins design honors, despite poor 'green' score

Posting in Architecture

The lightweight 2012 Olympic torch sits atop the Design of the Year 2012 podium, even though its carbon footprint is heavy.

The 2012 Summer Olympics Games are still 93 days away, but the first two winners have already been announced. The the London 2012 Olympic torch, created by the London studio Barber Osgerby, a joint venture between designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, has earned Design of the Year 2012 award, the top billing in the yearly contest, produced by London's Design Museum.  The London 2012 Velodrome, by UK's Hopkins Architects, won the architecture category.

The torch was praised for its unique design. To help reduce fatigue among the torch-bearers, the designers wanted to keep the torch as lightweight as possible. To achieve this, it is made of aluminum and heavily perforated -- with 8,000 holes, one to represent each of the 8,000 people who will be carrying it on its journey to the opening ceremony on July 27. The holes also serve to cut down on heat conductivity, so the flame's glow won't transfer into the carrier's hand.

It's a smart design, though not one that is universally loved. At best, detractors call it a glorified cheese grater. But at worst, the torch has come to symbolize the Games' failure to live up to a promise to be environmentally sustainable. In 2007, the French utility company EDF Energy, a sponsor of the Games, French utility, made a promise to create a low-carbon Olympic torch. It had suggested that biogas might be used to power the flame, or maybe even wood chips.

But that promise flamed out. When the torch was unveiled last summer, and the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 found out that propane and butane would fuel the flame, they declared the torch a loser. Worse, the Olympic organizing committee made what the watchdogs considered a very lame excuse: "We just ran out of time."

That, said Shaun McCarthy, chair of the Sustainable London 2012 commission, is a sorry excuse. “The carbon contribution of this initiative may have been relatively small, but the power of the message across the globe would have been highly significant," he said.

The other Design of the Year winners are:

Digital Award
Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 and Kinect SDK
Microsoft Games

Fashion Award
132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE
Issey Miyake Design Studio Tokyo, Japan

Furniture Award
1.3 Chair
Kihyun Kim

Graphics Award
Nokia Pure
Dalton Maag

Transport Award
Redesign for the Emergency Ambulance
Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and Vehicle Design Department Royal College of Art

Via: Reuters

Share this

Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure