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Gretchen Bakke: Lucas J. Daniel Perspective in Sustainable Systems

January 27, 2021
12:00-1:00pm CST
Gretchen Bakke, author of The Grid, discusses this complex systems design and sustainability challenge.

In this third annual lecture, IIT Institute of Design (ID) invites cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke, author of The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, to discuss this complex systems design and sustainability challenge. More than ever, electricity is a critical means for connection in our lives, as we all plug in for Zoom conversations (like this one) that have come to replace in-person activities amidst the pandemic. In conversation with ID faculty Weslynne Ashton and Carlos Teixeira and IIT professor Mohammad Shahidehpour, director of the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation, Bakke will reveal the social aspects of infrastructure and technological management, Chicago’s own relationship with ‘the grid’ and microgrids (including Illinois Tech’s own microgrid), and design’s critical and urgent role in reimagining this deeply important civic infrastructure. How do we incorporate renewables and principles of the circular economy to produce a preferred future for the grid—one that is both sustainable and equitable?

Gretchen Bakke is currently a visiting professor of anthropology at the Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems, Humboldt University, Berlin Germany, and holds a PhD from the University of Chicago in cultural anthropology. Her work focuses on the chaos and creativity that emerge during social, cultural, and technological transitions.What unites her work is an abiding concern for both the inventive creativity and the normative impulses that systemic collapse begets. For the past decade she has been researching and writing about the changing culture of electricity in the United States. Her book The Grid was selected by Bill Gates as one of his top five reads of 2016.

About the Lucas J. Daniel Series in Sustainable Systems

The focus of ID’s annual event in memory of ID alum Lucas J. Daniel (1974–2017) is to drive discourse in sustainability and systems design, areas Lucas was passionate about. Lucas was a 2005 IIT Institute of Design (ID) graduate who spent 11 years at Chicago design and innovation consultancy gravitytank. There he applied holistic, systems-level thinking to food innovation. At the time of his passing, Lucas was senior director, strategic innovation at Salesforce, Inc., where he managed innovation teams and advised customers within the Ignite Business Unit Group.

About IIT Institute of Design (ID)

IIT Institute of Design (ID) builds responsible, cooperative, intelligent futures. Founded by László Moholy-Nagy as The New Bauhaus in 1937, ID is known for pioneering human-centered design and systems design. Today ID is home to the only US design school devoted completely to graduate students. But ID is more than a graduate school. ID is an international community of learners and practitioners who are addressing the biggest issues of our time by eliciting a power unique to humans: creativity. Learn more about ID at