Thursday, July 18, 2013

Communities and Design Pride

I was one of two members of the BuildSense team that attended the 2013 AIA Convention in Denver. The event was packed with educational sessions and fantastic speakers but there was a whole lot to Denver outside of the Colorado Convention Center worth talking about.

During my stay, a close family friend played tour guide. A graduate of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, he moved to Denver for three reasons: relatively affordable land, a growing urban condition, and a nationally renowned appreciation for architecture. These ingredients make a recipe for paradise in the eyes of modern architects, and relocating to the “Mile-High City” is mighty tempting to young designers.

I’m staying put. The first two reasons I listed are apparent right here in Durham. The third is evident in pockets and I see tremendous potential for growth. An appreciation for designed spaces doesn’t develop overnight. It demands an intimate relationship between the population and designers. The population must observe and feel an increase in standard of living or quality of life due to the sophistication of successful planning and designing. To produce truly successful work, designers must live and breathe the needs of the population. This is by no means a call for everyone to hug their local design folk. This is a call to be critical--critical of the new as well as critical of the old. The most common criticism of a new project I hear is that it doesn’t look like everything else around it. I encourage far deeper considerations. Does it serve the population by bringing new life and a greater pride to one’s community? Does it make responsible use of materials that are less harmful and longer lasting? Will it require less fuel consumption? Will it require less maintenance? The list goes on and I encourage you to dig deep.

We must let go of an asphalt-shingle mindset where fifteen years is the required foresight. Don’t accept work designed and built to the minimum standard. Don’t permit negative contributions to the built environment. Live for the long haul. We must take pride in who we are, how we live together, and what we are making. A client last week told me, “If I’m going to invest in a new home, I’m going to make it something special-- something I can get excited about.” Fan that flame. Stoke that fire. Let it spread. Take pride in design and the designed.

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