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IDCA explores `Spirit of Design’

John Colson

The 2000 International Design Conference at Aspen opens to the public today, at the Aspen Meadows campus on the northwest side of town, and continues through Saturday night.

This is the 50th annual running of the conference, which was started in 1951 by Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife, Elizabeth, who are credited with spearheading the birth of modern Aspen.

The IDCA was founded to provide a forum for bringing designers and business executives together to discuss the role of design in industry.

This also is the final conference of a three-part celebration of the “Aspen Idea” – also envisioned by the Paepckes.

The Paepckes conceived of Aspen as a place where people could come to pursue self-improvement in terms of body, mind and spirit. Starting in 1998, with the theme of “SportsDesign,” the conferences have been devoted to those three concepts, continuing with “design.digital” (the mind) in 1999 and this year’s “The Spirit of Design.”

With its subtextual question – “Does design have soul?” – this year’s conference features speakers from a wide variety of disciplines, including a neuroscientist and a mathematician; a couple of writers; designers of everything from visually oriented books to furniture; artists and a “cultural studies scholar;” a master carpenter; a Tibetan scholar; an “environmental philosopher, essayist, translator and “cultural critic;” and many more.

Although the activities surrounding the conference actually got under way Tuesday, including the start of work on a sand mandala by several visiting Buddhist monks and a talk by Tibetan scholar Robert Thurman, the main body of the event starts today.

Today’s activities will include several tea ceremonies in a “Tea House” constructed especially for the conference, an opening reception, and talks at the Benedict Music Tent by IDCA President Harry Teague, artist Alex Melamid and Thurman.

Also, spread over the weekend, will be showings of a 10-part film, “The Decalogue,” by Krzysztof Kieslowski, which is based loosely on the precepts expressed in the Ten Commandments of the Bible.

Presentations at the tent, conversations among participants at the Design Cafe, more tea ceremonies, a special Children’s Conference, and something called “What’s It? An examination of mysterious objects whose design suggests a purpose which is not readily clear,” scheduled for Friday afternoon, will be offered up to participants.

A regular pass to the weekend’s events costs $875, but there are discounts for Aspen residents interested in learning more about the world of design. A pass for a full-time local costs $250; a part-time resident can attend for $500; and there is a special, transferable “office pass” priced at $375, allowing those who work at the same business to attend selected events.

The IDCA office can be reached at 925-2257.


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