A poignant and timely video created by our friends at Ecomotive Limited in Bristol. Thanks to Jackson Moulding for interviewing our Mark Lakeman and featuring some familiar projects :)
Text and pictures by Mark Lakeman, January 2015
I have just returned from a journey to Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. The trip was extremely successful, and also deeply inspiring.
As many of our friends know, communitecture does a tremendous amount of outreach as part of our goal to inspire and activate people everywhere. We travel all over North America, to as many as four cities per month to share stories of how we have been able to achieve great things by working together with people to design and create sustainable and beautiful environments where communities may thrive together. These stories are always told as being in the context of Portland, Oregon where the larger culture is steadily evolving and becoming more sustainable as a whole. Our hope is that we motivate people to act where they live, to get off the couch and work to transform the spaces where they live into vital, beautiful, and sustainable places.
This recent journey took me to Frank Lloyd Wright's home in the desert, the legendary nexus of visionary design known as Taliesin West. There is so much to say about the place, and of the experience of being there, and can share a little of it now. Foremost that it is a shockingly beautiful place that embodies and expresses all that Wright espoused during his long and brilliant life. The people who remain there are a thriving community, working well to understand and further develop Wright's ideas so that they are broadly owned, diverse, applicable to contemporary culture, and timely in their ecological relevance.
Any visitor to Taliesin – and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture that still thrives there – will be blown away by the sheer power of its architectural reality and the living legacy of the culture and school that carries on more than 56 years after Wright's death. They have gone through a series of inevitable growing pains over those years, and have come through the other side still standing strong. The architecture school has an excellent, highly qualified faculty who bring a broad set of backgrounds and experiences to the design studio. They are doing an outstanding job of preparing their students for a very high rate of graduation and placement in the field, more than 90% in both categories.
The professors are doing well at interpreting an extremely strong design tradition that is the most creative of all schools in the USA, while at the same time instilling new ideas that appear to push the boundaries of what even Wright understood in his time. Urban issues, sustainability, and ephemeral projects all sparkle on the design boards of the studio, where an endless stream of brilliant ideas have been hatched before, for nearly a century.
Talk about an inspiring atmosphere: inside the design studio of Frank Lloyd Wright & now the students at Taliesin West.
The Frank Lloyd Wright School has an accredited master's degree program, and the student body is as diverse and inspired as any. The students are energized, respectful, and immensely helpful to all who pass through their home. Out in the desert beyond the amazing campus that seems to rise out of the landscape and gleam, the students have built generations of amazing experimental housing projects. Some nestle into the landscape quietly, while other designs declare themselves in the sun and harshness of the relentless heat and climate of Arizona.
Here are just a few examples of the creative, student-built structures in the Taliesin landscape; this aspect of the architectural curriculum truly embodies the “learning by doing” educational approach advocated by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The whole experience was viscerally transformative and it is difficult many days later not to continue feeling absolutely motivated. Wright proved that design could transform the world, to help people come closer to nature, to reflect the best of their character, to express solutions to vexing problems into the built world. Though he is no longer living, his ideas live on and are becoming stronger, not weaker, through designers like us who live on to carry forth the work of designing a better world.
As featured via The Permaculture Research Institute, including all photos and text.
Posted May 13, 2014 by Marcin Gerwin & filed under Building, Society, Village Development.
Marcin Gerwin: It happens quite often that when a new building is completed many people see it as unpleasant or even hostile, while at the same time the architects claim that it is a great work of art. This difference in opinion is quite striking. Why do you think it happens?
Mark Lakeman: It’s a question that every community is asking. It’s a conundrum. People have historically perceived architects as being cultural advocates — they trusted them — so it’s traumatizing for communities to feel betrayed. People even ask what is the role of the architect; why there seems to be such a divorce between our expectation of the architect, and the actual reality that the architect has become a commercial maker of building designs. I think that the answer is contextual — it’s a historical issue. You will find the answer to this divorce in the series of disruptions of history, to design and community. For instance you have a historical continuity for a long period of time and then it’s disrupted and power is reconcentrated into an elite class. In that context, the idea that the society designs itself has been aggressively obscured, and it has apparently been lost.
On the other hand, I think we should cultivate a broader understanding of the role of design in society. That’s what I intend to do for the rest of my life. I want everyone to not merely understand design, and therefore value designers, but rather I want them all to be designers in their own lives, so that we strengthen democracy. We don’t want people to be voters, we want them to be problem-solvers. The benefit that I also personally see in people broadly understanding design, is that my own office is flooded with work because people appreciate it, and me as well.
MG: I have a feeling that some architects believe this education should mean convincing people that the modernist buildings are fantastic. They believe people don’t value them only because they are ignorant. It seems to me, however, that the problem is not with people lacking education, but with the modernist architecture itself. The principles upon which it is based are mistaken.
ML: The essential philosophy that is taught to students of architecture is quite a frustrating thing. As someone who builds things, I work with people, I use my hands — like today there is a work party in my community where we are building things. I know how to build because of that. Most architects only understand buildings abstractly. They are taught incomplete theories, they draw pictures, but they usually don’t actually engage in the process of building or maintaining the things that they design. So this void of understanding is a problem, and it also plays out in other expressions of disconnection. You also notice that design students almost never draw pictures of people in their projects. They put them in at the last minute maybe to give a sense of human scale to the presentation drawing. I think that’s fascinating because in all cases we are designing environments that people live in, but architects tend instead to think perfunctorily, merely in terms of basic commercial functions. They don’t really think about people, don’t think of their actual experience. How strange, because the great identity that underpins the whole culture of design and architecture is that it is the Mother Of All Arts, made to uplift the human being.
Industrial modernism on the other hand is focused on objects — architects now want to create beautiful things to look at, and it is a huge unfortunate oversimplification but it applies. The models that they’ve been given include Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier or in some ways even Frank Lloyd Wright, and all were considered great artists who would tend to design things but not places. In contrast, that’s why this term placemaking has arisen. It’s because architects have nearly utterly failed to provide a sense of place. We’ve learned at best that the architect is a facilitator of cultural engagement and at worst just merely a designer of objects.
MG: What would be beneficial for the community then? What should be the priorities for the architects?
ML: I gave two presentations about this subject at Harvard last month. And I was asked there the same question — what do we do now? How in the world do we reorient our entire educational curriculum? But unfortunately we cannot wait for the architecture schools to generate an entirely new wave of designers that suddenly will take the reins of the profession. Nor will we change the hearts of developers all at once. It’s a long term project. But what we can do right away is to get off the couch where we live and start to design in our own realities. That’s what we’ve been doing so successfully especially on the West coast of the USA. We’ve gotten people to come out of their house and look at their neighborhood. We’ve convinced them that they have their own power. It’s an illusion that someone else can tell you that you are powerless. And we’ve asked some really good questions like: “Are you satisfied to just pay a ticket to someone else’s reality, to always be merely a consumer? Or will you in your own lifetime become a cultural generator? Because this is all the time you have. Will you create your own reality or not?”
For us in the USA it is an easy question because we can just stand in the neighborhood grid, have people look around and ask : “Where is your public square? Don’t your ancestors come from a village where there was a place where people learned how to sing and create all forms of culture?” You could point out to them that they have no village square anywhere where they live, but you don’t have to tell them what’s missing, you just ask them: “What would you like to see?” And people say: “Well, gosh, it would be nice to have a place to sit around here. There is nowhere to sit. There is no playground, and without that our children have to cross the busy streets”. Then people say: “How about a place for information? How about a place where we can have food together?” Pretty soon they put the entire village square back together, because it just comes out of their sense of need.
MG: What are the reactions that you meet with?
ML: The architects are upset. They say: “My God, what are you doing? It’s nice that you have children involved, OK, so there is no vandalism anymore. Maybe that’s good, but it looks terrible. Curves? Color? Metaphor? Are you serious?” But the architects are people too. Before they went into architecture school they were fully capable of creating beauty. But once they went through architecture school they were made to be utterly serious and they were intensely criticized. They were constricted, contained and reduced to eventually become self-serious elitists. Afterwards, they are so fundamentally worried about what everyone thinks of them that they design boxes that are gray, brown or black and have no connections to the needs of other people. They wanted to do so much more with their creative lives before they arrived in school, but their teachers were confused as well.
So what we are doing in Portland, and all over the country now, is that people are taking matters into their own hands. They are saying: “We seem to be able to do a better job”. Because when people don’t go to the architecture school they are still able to look at where they are and fuse their sense of history and local stories and address their needs like slowing traffic, engaging youth, getting people to get outside and walk, building neighborhood identity and pride. They can fuse it into a metaphor that is functional, symbolical and physical and create it. All architects used to be able to do this, but now they are contained within a set of precedence of what they think is possible. That’s what design education has done to them. Everybody else is more facile at being able to utilize their creativity then the architect commonly. I hate to say this, but it’s true, and I can say this as a second generation architect — I’ve watched this, I grew up in it, I was taught about it as a child and now I see it in my profession everywhere.
MG: Many architects claim that modern buildings cannot resemble buildings of the past. In a consequence they design boxes out of glass and concrete in the places with historical architecture. What are your thoughts about this?
ML: There is a mantra that is pervasive in the design culture: it is to make something of its time. To make something that expresses the technology of the time. It’s actually an intense, conscious emphasis on celebrating the current state of technology, because technology is taken to be the highest expression of who we are. I wish that people would gather in their communities and entertain the question — is this really the highest value that should direct how our habitat is created? Is the state of technology what we worship? Does the architecture of our places need to express what some chemist or engineer has created? We have a philosophical emphasis on technology and there can often be a near total disregard for the essence of community.
What is new and what is old can speak to each other in terms of scale, texture and practical considerations that make it so that the buildings we live in are easy to maintain. These things need to be designed in a practical way. At the same time there is a huge gap between the things that are old and are somewhat symbolic and the things that are new and which have abandoned symbolism. But if you listen to architects, they talk about their work symbolically, that it must express the technology of their time. Then the building is a technological statement and is expressing some philosophy like deconstructivism, postmodernism or modernism. The building is supposed to be a symbolic statement, but the people are going: “What? I don’t understand how you made this building”. And people look at the old style and say: “Hey, that’s comprehensible. There is a logic and there is a story of the people I should be able to read in how it was created. We can see that it was crafted by human beings, but this other stuff?” The architect is not helping society to know the story. The language that architects use can often be incomprehensible, even to themselves.
From the community point of view, the community never authorized the profession of architecture to abandon symbols and metaphors that were meaningful to the community. In commerce they say that the customer is always right. In the case of culture-making the community is the customer. I hate to even think in these terms but the people who are creating the products — the architects and developers — are absolutely arrogant about these issues. You know what Frank Lloyd Wright said? He said: “Madam, you will take what we give you”. This is another thing that they teach in architecture schools everywhere. The architect is the expert. They must always be “educating” other people. That’s taught to students coming out of school like: “You’re just a student, but you’ll come out into the reality. Start designing things and you will know more than everybody around you including 85 year old grandmothers. You’ll know more than them, so you’ll have to educate them”.
MG: So what you are saying is that it should be the other way around — architects should consult the community first. They should ask what are the values of people, what are their aesthetic preferences, so that the final outcome will be satisfying for them.
MG: But then architects might argue that ordinary people have a bad taste, so it would be better if the experts impose the aesthetics. I actually once heard applause after someone said that the style of architecture must be imposed. Do you think it’s possible to overcome this?
ML: There must be architects who are already struggling with this question. They should be part of the conversation. There must be people who are trying to bridge this gap already and their experience and their ideas should come forth. But it’s the community ultimately that needs to make it happen. Their voice, their insistence and activism has to become the strongest force in this whole equation.
The architects are not going to change voluntarily, nor will the developers who are driving this. The architects are so often just doing what they are told by developers. And developers have lots of money and they are isolated by it. They are isolated from the communities that they are exploiting. This is the biggest problem. Right now they are the driving force and their primary motive is simply to have more money or more stuff. And the more isolated they are the more stuff they think they need, because the main thing that they talk about with their developer friends is how much more stuff they will soon have. It’s like a bunch of simpletons are driving the destruction of our society. So the community needs to speak loudly. If the only people who are making proposals and doing designs are developers and architects, it’s just going to stay this way. Ultimately the people need to drive what is happening.
MG: What should be the role of architect then?
ML: The main thing is for the architect to engage deeply with the community in a conversation to elicit their intelligence. If the architect doesn’t do this, it’s such a foolishness, it’s such a lost opportunity, because the community is the mind, the heart and the memory of that place. The community is holding this gigantic repository of intelligence that the architect should tap into and support.
The architect should come in a humble way and say: “How can I support the life that is happening here?” This is the only way to be sustainable. If the architect is only coming in saying: “I want to create a monument to myself!”, then the monument that he or she creates will remind everyone of how much they don’t like that architect. That’s what usually happens. If they want to be remembered and have stories told about them, let it be a story of how they were a hero in the community by facilitating their vision. This is the thing that the architect can help with.
A lot of the time communities are just sitting there and they are not engaged, because they don’t have a creative facilitator. So, they don’t even know what their vision is, even though they all have the parts of that vision. The architect can actually come in and help them to crystallize a vision so they can say: “Aha! That is who we are”. That’s the role the architect can play. This is the way for the architect to find an entirely different depth of satisfaction, meaning and connection in their community.
Mark Lakeman is an architect and Permaculture designer. He is a co-founder of City Repair and a principal of Communitecture. He lives in Portland, USA.
This is an extended version of the interview which first appeared in Dziennik Opinii in Poland.
By Mark Lakeman
Published in Communities Magazine, Summer 2014 issue
In the first year of our design collaboration, we were already looking at world peace. Families were out walking in their own community, tending gardens bursting with food and flowers, gathering in the streets, and no cars were driving anywhere. The ink had just dried, and though it was only a lovely drawing, it was what our ordinary, grid-based neighborhood had imagined as their shared destiny with everyone else in the world.
We had taken half a day to dialogue, share a meal and spend some time to explore longest-range possibilities. It was all so simple, but then all we did was talk about the life that we were already living in our own Portland, Oregon neighborhood. The question had really become, “How do we inspire people everywhere else?” At the end of our half-day workshop called “What Would World Peace Look Like?” someone had said: “The revolution we seek is one where people will act with what they have, where they are, right now!” Another person said: “And everyone everywhere can do this!” Then we all went outside, as if into our own drawing.
For our young design-activist group, known from the start as communitecture (community + architecture), growing up in the cradle of design-activism that is Portland, Oregon, it had become ridiculous not to intend to create a better world. We were already standing upon the work of giants, in some cases our own parents. With urban growth boundaries protecting perimeter farmland all around Portland, the spectacular new public square energizing our city, multi-modal transit expanding across the region, vast wildlife sanctuaries established to provide open space for all species, and citizen power at a zenith, we had to ask ourselves, “What more is possible, and how can we inspire more to happen in the world?” We began to answer our own questions, the more we worked with communities across the city, and the answers began to multiply.
Dignity Village's Edible Neighborhood (above) & Greenhouse (below)
The first year of our activity was indeed ridiculous and joyously successful. We had no fear and we couldn’t stop ourselves. Though we didn’t yet have a name, we were well underway with a strategic knowledge of indigenous village design principles, modern development practices, planning codes, and regulations. With this knowledge, we designed and built a spectacular series of gathering place interventions that broke and changed laws left and right.
Our first community Tea House project, installed without permission in a neighborhood zone, brought thousands of people together in the summer of 1996. Then we empowered our neighborhood to transform a street intersection into a public square, and made it legal for everyone else in the city to do it too. After that, we created an ephemeral community gathering place that went across the city, facilitating relational networks everywhere until on June 21st, World Peace Day of 1997, when we created a human linkage of people holding hands around our city. Lots of people wanted to know what we called ourselves.
When we finally chose two names, we used them to describe two modes of action in our group. One was City Repair, the place-making activators who in a few years would create a nonprofit organizational structure for itself. The other name was communitecture, which even more quickly became an economically self-supporting model of collaborative design activation.
Though the two parts of one activist culture have remained involved and mutually supportive over the years since, communitecture has gone on to support larger-scale initiatives and projects that cover a much wider spectrum of communities and ideas. Many diverse communities have been attracted to work with us because we use design as a means to build community.
Our creative public advocacy for important principles and goals that communities identify with include challenging existing civic structures that have historically ensured inequity and the absence of gathering places where people live. So, for instance, by supporting the emergence of new collaborative places that provide forums for gathering and sharing ideas, we work successfully to narrow the terrible gap between what we know and how we live. In fact, each project really ends up speaking such important sustainable values in social and physical forms, and then more communities become inspired by example.
The kinds of projects that we are fortunate to help create can include radical buildings made entirely of natural and recycled materials. Most of these are urban, and they are always ideas that spring from people who are creating a setting for some new form of community. For instance, The ReBuilding Center, an 80,000 square foot facility that makes recycled materials available for low cost, is a project of and for the community of people who work in it. Each person who works there has power in their shared-power culture, they all earn a living wage, and each person has full health and dental benefits, as do their families. As design-activists, our interests shouldn’t stop with the shape of a building. It should matter most to us that people are empowered where they live and work, and that they are able to shape their own future while they benefit from what they do with their time.
The ReBuilding Center's cob-sculpture entrance (above)
Other kinds of projects that communities bring us to help with include many scales of urban infill-based cohousing models that so far range from four to 16 living units in scale, each of them informed by an enthusiasm for urban permaculture, natural building, urban agriculture, and community self-reliance principles. Because we are also deeply committed to historical preservation and revitalization, we also work to modify and update existing buildings with new roles and spaces, more open and accessible public places, as well as updated energy systems.
Our main driving choice, though, is to work with people who want to be involved in designing and also building their own community places. In this way these places become a reflection of their living culture. Our recent work with the CAPACES Leadership Institute, a youth leadership development project founded by Cesar Chavez, has resulted in an exuberant building made by that community that is now the most energy efficient and artistically expressive office building in the US.
CAPACES Leadership Institute, community-painted mural (above)
The way that we work is first to see that as citizens our task is to be part of a shared cultural fabric with other people, businesses, nonprofits and institutions. We must not merely be a business looking out for our own interest; in fact it’s vital that we act from a place of seeing that we are already a connected ecology. Another huge responsibility we see that we share is to restore and strengthen ecological feedback loops in our local community ecology. So communitecture intends local restorative effects as an outcome. This means cleaning up brownfield sites, developing stronger communication networks and relationships, engaging youth in projects, and creating urban agriculture networks.
If we are asked to help with a project, it’s not merely a job for us; it must also be a long term commitment to our community with the expectation that at the culmination of a process we will all have more friends than before. So, when we help facilitate design dialogues for local cohousing communities, we are in it to help create the kinds of places that we also want to inhabit, for the communities that we intend will surround our own lives.
In terms of our business model, it is a creative hybrid that grew out of loving our work and trusting each other. When it came time to develop official systems for payroll and accounting, we kept it simple, based on trust. As the most experienced member of the team, I was happy to be the one to who registered our name and established business accounts. At that time, our team was young and mobile, and since I was most stable, the ownership roles were established as my responsibility, to hold the systems in place while other people could come and go.
So what has emerged today is a trust-based model where the present team makes choices together, collaboratively runs itself, maintains a very strong and attractive ethic of community service, and pays itself. In fact, though the official ownership is held in my name, the team decides what I am paid. Since we are a kind of benefactor-co-op, a great depends upon my sharing of power, and the value of this aspect of our model can’t be overstated. The fact that I utterly believe in and rely on my team, and they see that I trust them, is what transcends our legal configuration. Perhaps it is a transitional form of some sort.
With this kind of trust-based approach and cultural mission, it’s possible that we could use almost any kind of official structure and still thrive. This attitude helps us stand for what we are committed to, and because of this our larger community has always embraced us with positive story-telling and advocacy for our services, donated space, recycled computer systems, all needed materials for our desks and office environment, and quite a lot more.
Sabin Green cohousing project in Portland, Oregon (above & below)
We do not like to compete against other designers for jobs, largely because it harms our intention to build common cause across the larger community. We do almost no marketing because our work has the result that many people spread positive stories of our work on our behalf. When other active people, political figures, owner-builders, homeless people, and other firms are affected by our ideas and initiatives, then we are supported by the culture that we support. Also, very importantly we reserve the right to be creative initiators in our community.
While most architects are passive, waiting for someone to pay them to use their creativity, we will often creatively engage a situation whether we are paid or not. Therefore we can also initiate strategic projects that are socially based, politically charged, ecological, celebratory, with all manner of innovations, and continue to be off the leash creative agents for a better world. This ethic is expressed in our active design support for numerous homeless village initiatives up and down the Pacific Coast. In these kinds of projects there is never a cost for design support, which creates more goodwill in the world than can be known.
It’s also important to acknowledge that our cooperative ethics and goals can come into conflict with long standing competitive structures and behaviors. The conflicts can come in various forms, both internal and external. Internally, since architecture training is usually set in a competitive context, it can be challenging for interns to learn how to collaborate without needing to have their own way, just as it can be difficult for a mentor not to be dominant. Building confidence can be a challenge in any situation, but people find it much easier to help each other, as they develop strong communication skills in a cooperative environment.
Pardee Green affordable housing in SE Portland, Oregon (above)
What we end up designing reflects our strong emphasis on a shared decision-making process. The kind of singular mentality that results in normally masculine aesthetics (common in the mainstream threads of our profession) doesn’t really get to happen in our work. Our aesthetics of inclusivity and wider emotional expression sometimes become a target for people who expect the more square forms and grayer colors of the architecture of commodity. Others may find it a problem that we overtly celebrate the interconnection of humanity with nature, which can be expressed in terms of living walls or roofs, vines growing above windows in order to shade windows, and edibles all around the site.
What can you do about such polarities except to try to learn together? In fact, our commitment to cooperate does sit strangely for a profession that has been deeply educated to compete against itself.
Our attitude towards our community is essentially this: we interact with our city as if we are villagers that share the same place. The initiatives that we support can come from anywhere in the community. As villagers our responsibility is to give each community and their ideas the support and momentum that they deserve. With all that we give to our community, our relationship with our community only deepens. In fact, as we continue to see our community as a living ecology, and as we heal broken feedback loops, we build upon the stories of sharing and constructive action. Over and over, we see the power of story bringing benefit back around to us when we release our grip on the “return” on our efforts. Some have called this being “in alignment with the economy of the universe,” the way that nature showers us with gifts.
With all of the personal and community-scale benefits that we have witnessed, with communities in Portland stabilizing, and the increasing levels of excitement and creativity all around us, it does feel as if we are in alignment with great principals and a more worthy form of economy. Something wonderful has already been happening for a long time, and now we can design in accord with it while our way of living and livelihood become the same.
At a recent to visit to Harvard University, I had the wonderful opportunity to share my experiences & insight from Intersection Repair, City Repair, and community transformation. Some interesting things are about to shift here at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), at one of the most influential design schools in the world! This is an indicator that dramatic change is on the forecast for all.
One of the Harvard professors asked me, "What should we do now?" I said, "That is a question I have been waiting my whole life to be asked!”
Mark Lakeman of communitecture, at a March 2014 speaking-visit Harvard University's Graduate School of Design
Here are just a few Really Great Ideas I have for Harvard, which make me excited and optimistic about the future of design, community, and social evolution:
Re-define scale more in terms of richness and complexity than by largeness. This has become not only appropriate in the light of resource scarcity, but has become a vital imperative in the gigantic context of climate change. We can indeed continue to grow in terms of depth, quality, and the multiplicity of relational connections, but no longer merely in terms of size-as-benefit.
TEACH BY DOING
Like their counterpart Yale, Harvard can begin "teaching by doing," with on-site, project-based learning. Harvard is known for large-scale, more abstract design projects that are based in largely academic ideas. The GSD at Harvard could help their students gain a much broader exposure to issues that are multi-faceted and contextually more complex. GSD students could instead be in the vanguard of designing environments that support stronger connections between community dynamics and ecological sustainability so that they are creatively supported to become more resilient.
Initiate place-based design projects, where students are embedded in communities that have atrophied from an utter lack of design benefit. Harvard students can become more engaged and enriched by being exposed to a broader spectrum of site-based, culturally energized design related issues. The students can gain confidence and real world experience by acting as design agents or activists that serve to problem solve in communities in and around Cambridge and beyond.
RE-EXAMINE THE THEORETICAL
Re-examine their basic theoretical cannon, shed light on numerous (until now, sacred) philosophical positions that are proving to be untenable today. These would include the Modernist view espoused by luminaries such as LeCorbusier and Kahn that nature and humanity are distinct, and human landscapes & habitat must design distinctions between the two.
SITE SPECIFIC DESIGN
Re-examine the popular Modernist premise of universal design: that design need not be site-specific; that it can generated irrespective of place. This notion has clearly established systems and buildings that are undeniably energy-intense and ill-suited to most climates outside of temperate zones.
Re-examine design practice and aesthetics in terms of a history that is founded on colonial practices. Important insights can be gained by understanding how enduring settlement patterns and infrastructures evolved. And are typically disrupted and supplanted by settlements that are extractive in nature and not necessarily intended to even last. This investigation will bear upon design and planning instruction in the sense of a long term view of sustainability.
DESIGN TO BUILD COMMUNITY
Embrace the concept "design as a means to build community," and begin to cultivate an appreciation for participatory design processes in GSD curriculum.
Top image: Gund Hall, Harvard University School of Design, photo courtesy of gsd.harvard.edu.
Bottom image: Inside the dramatic, tiered Gund Hall; photo by Mark Lakeman.
My visit to the Harvard Graduate School of Design makes me ask: Can citizen-led place making subvert the elite design culture of Ivy League Harvard?
After what I just saw, I definitely think so.
During the two presentations I gave at Harvard, the audiences were visibly inspired and shifted by the content. It’s clear to me that many Harvard students have gone to school hoping that they would somehow find this level of design engagement and creative impact in their work. They want a depth of meaning that changes the world, for designers and non-designers alike.
Of course, devotees of Peter Eisenman, a regular guest at Harvard, would disagree in the strongest terms, asserting as ever that design is only understood or appreciated after you are educated properly. This incredible, archaic point of view is useless now in the face of so many challenges that design could have resolved epochs ago, and now must face.
The experience of speaking at Harvard, at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, and then finally at the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, was especially fun and meaningful because I was able to co-present my ideas. Co-presenters included: my great friend Eli Spevak, a current Loeb Fellow at Harvard and long time collaborator from Portland; Jason Roberts from Build A Better Block out of Dallas, Texas; and Roberts’ collaborator, Andrew Howard, a very talented planner and possible future Loeb Fellow.
The project culture of Eli Spevak, Jason Roberts, and Andrew Howard is certainly a sister to what we’ve been up to in Portland: engaging ill-conceived, real-world problems through design, and using design as way to build community.
He told his wife last week he was going to start posting some of his work on Facebook and online, drawings he’d stuck in a drawer and forgotten. It’s with a tremendously heavy heart that we share he won’t be able to do this. He passed away Saturday afternoon while on a mountain bike ride with a friend; he suffered a heart attack.
Daryl was a rare person. He was funny, and sharp-witted, and an incredible designer. He had a few great buildings left in him. He loved talking about architecture, drawing, and being creative in many artistic endeavors. He’s left an indelible mark on the lives of his friends, wife, and children.
All work pictured above designed by Daryl Rantis.
We design beautiful and sustainable places that bring people together in community. We are absolutely committed to sustainability, while respecting the needs and priorities of all the individuals, families, and communities with whom we work and play.