BY VICKI GILHULA
The day after George W. Bush was re-elected president of the United States, visionary Bruce Mau, a Canadian, spoke to a group of depressed New Yorkers.
His upbeat message that the world is not on the eve of destruction cheered his audience.
A lot of people are listening to what Mau, the son of an Inco miner, has to say about the future.
The 45-year-old, who grew up on a farm in Wahnapitae, is the curator of Massive Change: The Future of Global Design, an exhibit at the Art Gallery of Vancouver. It looks at design solutions to 21st century challenges such as health, hunger, pollution, mass transportation and non-renewable resources.
The largest show ever mounted in the galleryÂ?s 73-year history opened in October. It moves to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in March.
Massive Change will also be mounted in Chicago, New York City and cities in Europe and Asia.
In the past few months, Mau has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Time Magazine.
Newsweek magazine calls Mau a Â?design revolutionary.Â? He has been described by some as Â?the most famous designer on the planet.Â?
Pol Oxygen, the art and architecture magazine, named Mau Â?one of the 10 people who are changing your world.Â?
Scott Kirsner wrote a profile of Mau for the October 2000 issue of American business magazine Fast Company. He says MauÂ?s first visit to a big city was in 1978 when he came to Toronto for his admissions interview at the Ontario College of Art.
Two years later Mau dropped out of college and began his career as a graphic artist. His work with Rem Koolhaas on the design book S,M,L,XL put him on the radar screen. In 2000 Mau published his own design book, Lifestyles.
Mau has become a big picture man who heads a company of problem solvers. Bruce Mau Design employs 35 people including architects, city planners and product developers.
Their work is all around us. Bruce Mau Design is responsible for developing visual identity programs for Indigo Books, and Roots. Clients include Swatch, Sony Music and Concordia University.
In one area of the 10,000-foot fifth floor loft on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, a group is discussing how to rebrand Guatemala.
In another area, a group of thirtysomethings are studying a model of Frank GehryÂ?s $194-million transformation of AGO. They are figuring out appropriate signage for its glass-and-titanium facade.
Mau has worked previously with Gehry, the world renowned architect, another Canadian, on a biodiversity museum in Panama, and the signage for the Museum of Modern Art, which reopened recently in New York City.
Not science fiction
The Massive Change exhibition is divided into key areas: urbanization, energy, materials, the military, wealth and politics and life itself.
Michael Scott, writing in The Vancouver Sun, predicts Massive Change Â?is going to be a massive success. Younger audiences will find its hurly burly
stimulating and older audiences might actually enjoy the sensation of being knocked around a bit by ideas.Â?
Massive Change Â?is not optimistic in the sense that it is hopingÂ?it is actually factual,Â? Mau says.
Â?WhatÂ?s in the show is staggering. It is staggering what is being developedÂ?what is already developed,Â? says Mau. Â?Things that will provide water
for villages using solar power. (You) take polluted water, solar power and you get an endless source of clean water.Â?
The exhibit celebrates fuel efficient cars, electric vehicles, the Segway Human Transporter, car seats made from coconut shells, biodegradable food packaging, and the iBot wheelchair which allows the occupant to climb stairs or to Â?standÂ? at a companionÂ?s eye level.
Massive Change was mounted with the support of 15 postgraduate students who are enrolled in the Institute Without Boundaries, a joint project of Bruce Mau Design and George Brown College in Toronto.
Early in the planning stages, MauÂ?s disciples were inspired by the speech Lester P. Pearson gave when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.
Pearson quoted British historian Arnold Toynbee.
Â?The 20th century will be chiefly remembered by future generations not as an era of political conflicts or technical inventions, but as an age in which human society dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective.Â?
Media own message
Despite his positive outlook, Mau is not blind to the troubles in the world. However, he says he thinks the news media concentrates on bad news.
If there was a Â?newspaper called RealityÂ?It would be a mile thick,Â? he says. Â?The first quarter would be the New York Times and everything else would be how we are solving problems.
Â?The rest of the paper would be Massive ChangeÂ?about collaborations, problem solving, designing solutions, new forms of wealth, new production.Â?
Mau recalls a conversation with a journalist who did not share his optimistic outlook.
Â?He asked me, Â?What about the disappearing middle class?Â? (I said) Â?Well, last year 150 million people in Asia entered in the middle class. So they donÂ?t think it is disappearingÂ?Â?
Â?Overall the middle class grew a lot. And it is bigger than it has ever been in the history of the world. We are richer, we are more mobile, society is more open. There is more democracyÂ?there is more justice.Â?
In New York on Nov. 3, Mau told the audience who had wanted massive change in Washington, D.C., to think about the long term rather than the
next four years.
Â?There are so many positive things. When you see all the stuff, you realize we can change things,Â? he says.
Massive Change, the book, will be published by Phaidon later this month, and the National Film Board is planning a documentary.
More information about Massive Change is available at www.massivechange.com. MauÂ?s website address is www.brucemaudesign.com.
Friday: Bruce Mau talks about the Sudbury teacher who changed his life. Read this article>>
Sunday: Mau has some thoughts about rebranding Sudbury. Read this article>>