MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

Filtering by Tag: vision

Fuller ideas

I realize now, however, that the evening was a "shaping" event, where extraordinary consideration and thought about the way in which access to resources affects peace or causes war, and the way in which architects and planners affect that competition with every decision to build.

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Chair versus chair: Design and its value genetics

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I am so pleased with the debate engaged (not necessarily initially) by Cannell and picked up by Moss (and so many others) about the origins of design and the economy's impact on innovation.

Embedded in the discussion is a sense of authenticity, almost morality, associated with original explorations. In its advancement/resolution, I'd be very interested in a genetic chart---great designs, their origins, their briefs (given or authored), the money that was invested in the path to launch, the size of the particles of the market that supported them, and the relevance and authenticity of design measured by both economic (how many use and benefit from use) and non-economic factors (influence, impact, enrichment, enhancement, etc.), and their ultimate durability, sustainability and value.

We, of course, do not usually make a choice of approaches, but does the Moss patronage trump the Cannell ethic? Is the discipline of modernism a virtue in any economy or a mask for limited opportunity (and privileged position) in a down economy. Is Eames a recession product or a recovery product? Does the economic context provide Moss an opportunity to present process/maquette/model as special/unique/valuable, but the economy demand finish?mosscannell-sub-600

Cartable culture

As New York real estate dynamics create new social dynamics in neighborhoods, Glenn Collins, writing in the NYT today, asks, "Is charisma cartable?" Bar 6, Buenos Aires

from Argentina's Travel Guide

"But if drinking and dining have always been a movable feast in New York, is charisma cartable? Can the character of everything from venerable pubs to palatial eateries migrate with their names and owners? This portability issue has gained new urgency in a season of economic disarray, when property owners are less willing to extend the leases of even the most beloved old-timers."

Favorite neighborhood bars, losing leases, relocate and hope that the vestiges of place, transported and reinstalled, will draw familiar customers and the character and culture of their original locations. He writes that, "Loyalists can be fickle, and geography perilous."

He references a consultant who says, “you want to transfer a core set of values, so people will make an emotional connection and keep coming. But there’s a need for reinvention as well — new people must sense that this is the place to be.”

In the more barren urban landscape of Detroit, I often wonder if culture is cartable. Or maybe my question and challenge is, can form create culture?

In a recent trip to Argentina, we found a host of great places in Buenos Aires. Bar 6 was one of them.

The interior was a delight. Under an arching wooden canopy with an angular slice of sunlight  were a variety of settings supporting a variety of social opportunities. Much more than a bar, Bar 6 seemed to embody the dynamics of the entire neighborhood.

At mid-day, it was lunch that brought the people. In the early afternoon, the place seemed to catch a diverse clientele, both local and global, enjoying a break from the shopping in the Palermo neighborhood, or just stopping by because it was the local place to be. In the late afternoon, the moms took over the place, strollering in the infants, meeting the schoolkids, chatting with the current generation of young mothers.  By early evening, the commuting dads seemed to arrive to join their wives and kids for a cocktail to end the day and set a stage for dinner. Late in the evening, the hipsters arrived, and the place took on an extraordinarily different dynamic. Throughout it all there was a great sound track, and each of the formal settings--bar stool, couch, club chair, cafe table--supported each constituency.

Was this urban culture at work? Or was this form at work?

I yearn for the replication of this form in Detroit. I yearn for the places and spaces that support a diversity of generations, lifestyles, purposes and activities. I live, instead, in a place of social zoning---coffee places, family places, dinner places, places to explicitly articulate membership in a specific economic class/strata, cruising places, etc.

No place (I know of)  in Detroit is lit except from the narrow, frontal dimension. No place in Detroit offers anything than dark. No place in Detroit offers a diversity of settings. No place in Detroit offers appropriateness for every time of day and every generation. No place in Detroit accommodates more than one race, one generation, one lifestyle, one class, one. Nothing about Detroit is about community, only about conflict.

Does the embedded culture support the design of the place? Can design of place transform a culture? Can design, regardless of place, support community? Who designs Detoit, anyway? Who pays them, and for what? (Sorry!)

Thoroughly modern

From the Detroit Free Press In an excellent post on his blog, Landscape + Urbanism, Jason King recalls his work with an AIA SDAT recently addressing this recurring theme in these posts on the "Detroit dilemma."

The initial report of the team, continuing themes from the 1994 Mayor's Land Use Task Force, is worth a review. It's available on the AIA web site.

"We hope for better will arise from the ashes"

Utopian visions--building in cornfields

Recently there has been this and this about the disappearing reality of the city. One of the more exquisite programs to come to television, only to die for its quality, was “EZ Streets.” (1996)

Among the most compelling images on the program was in its opening credits (as I remember them). A helicopter shot…circling over a city, one sees a closer and closer vision of devastation as the camera descends to the scene of the core action. At first you see a recognizable urban pattern, but then the camera reveals block after block of urban decay, focusing eventually on blocks of six, or three, or one standing house or building.

This place—the never-recovered city of Detroit after the 1967 riots—featured prominently in this very dark program about civic corruption. Among the most memorable scenes in the series took place in an abandoned (aren’t they all now) Albert Kahn designed factory. A newly-elected, young, first black mayor of the city, standing among the cadence of concrete-capitaled columns, has his family threatened unless he votes for the casino initiative in the city.

I remember, as then-president of Detroit’s AIA chapter, calling Dennis Archer, a new, but not the first, black mayor of the city, to offer the organization’s site-selection and zoning assistance after he threw his support behind a new casino initiative. This was about three years after this scene appeared on “EZ Streets.”

Now, more than ten years later, Detroit’s latest mayor is in jail, one of the three licensed casinos is in bankruptcy, Congress has denied funds for the sustainability of the city-sustaining automobile industry, and the city lacks the funds to demolish the abandoned and progressively collapsing houses I have seen on my drive to work every day for the past decade, that represent the move of more than a million—more than a million!—people from this city in the past generation.

When I was working on the design of the Chrysler Technical Center —the move of the auto maker from Detroit’s Highland Park neighborhood to the suburbs beginning a decade earlier in 1988—we often talked about planning for that which was left behind in the city. One of the more startling images was offered by a Chrysler exec, “We should turn Highland Park into a cornfield,” he said. “Everybody wants to build in a cornfield.”

I think I’ll start planting.

TED announces TED Prize winners

Just last week I heard a replay of a Fresh Air interview with Michael Weiskopf on NPR. He was talking about the injuries he received on picking up a grenade tossed into the back of a Humvee where he and photojournalist James Nachtwey were riding in a tour of Baghdad. Both were injured and recovered, but Maass talked of the photograph he has in his workstation--the photo that Nachtwey took immediately after the grenade exploded and before he blacked out.

Nachtwey is one of three honored today with the TED Prize (the others are Bill Clinton and biologist E.O. Wilson). The prize seems singular. It is an award of $100,000 to use on a project--One Worldchanging Wish--yet to be dreamed up by each of the people awarded it. TED has also arranged commitments of finding from it "community" and other supporters.

Our winners are likely to have exceptional abilities in at least one of the following areas:

Perhaps they have created a new device or system or process capable of impacting millions of people for the better. They may be brilliant scientists, or the inspired designers of simple, cheap technologies.

They may be artists, uniting people through shared emotion. They may be film-makers, potters, painters, poets, dancers, sculptors, story-tellers, beauty-makers.

They can perhaps unlock the power of possibility. They can help us understand, through inspired insight, our personal and universal potential and predicament. They are today's prophets.

They may attract loyalty and respect. They may inspire the support of talented colleagues and employees. They may build powerful teams, capable of dramatically leveraging the impact of their efforts.

They may be powerful communicators, whether face-to-face, or via the Internet, the classroom, the newspaper or the screen. They connect hemispheres and households. They may be teachers or catalysts, troubadours or town criers, campaigners or nay-sayers. When they write and speak, they change people's minds.

They are likely to be relentless in pursuing their goals. They never give up.