The phenomenon of timelessness has important connotations beyond its popular meaning. Although philosophical, timelessness is frequently applied to objects: there are various suggestions concerning the properties of a timeless object in literature and popular publications, but there is no apparent unanimity on how to realise these characteristics. The approach to sustainable development has broadened, but the impact of immaterial properties of objects needs to be further explored.
This thesis addresses these issues through cross-disciplinary research, which is located in industrial and product design and embraces the subject areas of history of design and art, philosophy, cultural studies, cognitive science and sustainable development. The research question is: what makes some objects retain their significance over time and in a changing human context?
Although the analyses of literature presented in this thesis have made it evident that the discourse on sustainability, including system thinking, has an apparent focus on material characteristics, there is nothing implicating opposition to an expanded view comprising immateriality. On the other hand, there are indications that the ambiguity of timelessness and related notions, including how the judgment is formed, causes confusion for designers pursuing longevity in objects.
The aim for this thesis is hence to address this ambiguity and introduce directions, which would allow designers to consider the immaterial qualities of objects when designing and thereby promote a more profound holistic approach to sustainability and sustainable design.
The thesis embarks on a deconstruction of timelessness, resulting in the phenomenon being conceptualised: affective sustainability, and subsequently explored through three applications. These initiate new lines of inquiry and allow for the thesis to conclude the key findings of the research.
The study concludes that affective sustainability is considered to be a lived experience. Re-considering sustainability and rethinking time, tradition, aesthetics and perception facilitate comprehension of affectively sustainable objects: a designer has to use intuitive judgements and to reach beyond the personal these have to be balanced by the verbal visualisation of thoughts and the study of un-reflected human behaviour outside laboratory settings.