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Potential Futures for Deisign Practice

Potential Futures for Deisign Practice

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Published by Gregory Crawford
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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Gregory Crawford on Feb 16, 2011
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02/16/2011

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 rory hyde projects > www.roryhyde.com/blog/?p=614
Potential Futures for DesignPractice 
The 21st century has ushered in a radically different world than that facedby our predecessors. The rise of globalisation and the information society,the seemingly unassailable dominance of market thinking, the impendingthreat of environmental degradation and the erosion of social sustainabilityand tolerance, are just a few of the challenges we face. In addition, each of these issues have been further compounded by the ongoing financial crisisof 2008, burdening governments and individuals with spiralling debt andunemployment, limiting our capacity to act.All of this conspires to produce a design landscape of unprecedentedcomplexity, one that cannot be adequately addressed by the traditional toolsof the design professions.Calls for a new kind of designer stretch back to the middle of the 20thcentury, most famously in Buckminster Fuller’s description of a “synthesisof artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionarystrategist.” [1] A role that Bruce Mau has more recently embraced in theestablishment of his Institute Without Boundaries, acknowledging that thecomplexity of today’s problems would necessitate these roles to be takenup by the “collective intelligence of a team”. [2] MOMA curator of designPaola Antonelli calls for designers to adopt the role of “society’s newpragmatic intellectuals … changing from form giver to fundamentalinterpreter of an extraordinarily dynamic reality.” [3] John Thackarasimilarly calls for designers to “evolve from being the individual authors of objects or buildings, to being the facilitators of change among large groupsof people.” [4]But with all of this demand for change, where are the results? While themainstream may be slow to adapt, there are designers around the worldeagerly carving out opportunities for new kinds of engagement, new kindsof collaboration, new kinds of practice and new kinds of design outcomes;overturning the inherited assumptions of the design professions.Here follows a brief survey of these new roles for designers, eachrepresenting potential futures for design practice.
The Community Enabler
 The healthy boom of the past two decades has led the architect to become
 
accustomed to producing boutique solutions for private clients; acomfortable scenario that has distracted us from our responsibility forsociety at large. By reconceiving the role of the architect not as a designerof buildings, but as a custodian of the built environment, the space of opportunity and tools at our disposal are vastly expanded.
 Hunter Street Mall Newcastle in full swing during the Red Lantern Night Market, December 2009, following Renew Newcastle’s initiatives. Photo: Marni Jackson.
 TheRenew Newcastleproject, established and led byMarcus Westbury, illustrates the value of people in the improvement of a public space. Whilemillions had been spent by local government on rebuilding the physicalaspects of Newcastle’s rundown and largely deserted Hunter St mall, thesimple gesture of opening up vacant spaces for use by creative practitionersand businesses has kick-started its revival. [5]
The Visionary Pragmatist
 The stereotype of the architect as an obsessive, black skivvy-wearingaesthete who produces detailed artefacts of beauty is a pervasive one thatmay sometimes live up to the truth. This is a potentially dangerousperception however, as it promotes our interest in form over our value asstrategic thinkers. By promoting our capacity to challenge the underlyingassumptions of a problem and to develop responses informed by a largercontext, we can hope to be invited into projects at an earlier, more decisivestage, and not as mere cake-decorators.
 Elemental, community housing, Iquique, Chile.
 Chilean practiceElemental, led by Alejandro Aravena, views the largercontexts of policy, financing and social mobility as equally importantterritories for the architect to understand and engage. The multi-unithousing project in Iquique proposed a unique solution to the issue of thelimited funding allocated per unit of social housing. By providing ‘half of agood house’ [6], and configuring it in a way that enabled future expansion,the residents can create housing of real personal value and utility.
The Trans-Disciplinary Integrator
 The complex, manifold and integrated issues of today cannot be solved byarchitecture alone. To be truly instrumental, we need to open ourselves tonew constructive alliances with thinkers and makers from beyond ourdiscipline.
 Design Research Institute studio session. Photo:Stuart Harrison.
 RMIT’sDesign Research Institute, established in 2008 by Professor Mark Burry, is a research centre directed toward collaboration and information
 
sharing between students and professionals from over 30 disciplinarybackgrounds. By harnessing collective expertise, the DRI is able to addressmajor social and environmental dilemmas that do not conform to thetraditional boundaries of design training. [7]By transcending our own expectations and limits, we can in turn recastsociety’s expectations of what we are capable of addressing.
The Social Entrepreneur
 The economic crisis has been heralded as the end of architecture’s‘obsession with the image’. What this hope overlooks however, is thepowerful narrative potential of architectural communication in catalysingcomplex visions for the future. Deploying this power to address social aimsallows architects to contribute meaningfully to the future of the city byposing the critical question: ‘what if?’
PLOT’s Clover Block proposed for Kløvermarken park, Copenhagen, 2006. Imagethanks to Felix at JDS.
 PLOT’s (nowBIGandJDS) scheme for the Kløvermarken park was developed in response to Copenhagen’s acute housing shortage. Through amedia campaign which promoted their solution to provide 3000 unitswithin in a perimeter block without sacrificing a single sporting field,PLOT were able to generate significant public interest in the project, whichled to the government holding a competition for the site. Although PLOTdid not win the commission, the project is proceeding nonetheless,providing much-needed housing to the inner city, and demonstrating thevalue of practical vision. [8] (I’ve discussed this project before in an earlierpost onUnsolicited Architecture.)
The Practicing Researcher
 Architecture’s current model of charging as a percentage of theconstruction cost does little to justify the thinking and intelligence that isembedded in the process. The inability to distinguish our conceptual valuefrom our production-focused value that this model implies also means weare not natural candidates for projects that require the approach of anarchitect, but that may not result in a building.
OMA/AMO, image from the report ‘Roadmap 2050
 , 2010. Thanks to Laura Baird.
 AMO, the think tank of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, wasestablished precisely to focus on this type of work, by applying‘architectural thinking in its pure form to questions of organisation,identity, culture and program’. [9] The projectRoadmap 2050: A PracticalGuide to a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Europe, commissioned by theEuropean Climate Foundation, delivers on its title with a radical scheme of 

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