I am honoured to be asked by the American Institute of Architects in London to give this lecture. I was asked if I would explain to you my approach to design research and how this has produced innovative ideas and artefacts.
In effect, this is the same as my thoughts about design and what design ideas I am contemplating at the moment, and how I am trying to bring them to realisation.
There are perhaps two fundamental areas of research for an architect. Spatial form and materials. Our relationship with industry is through the latter.
Research is nearly always project led. Without a project there is little or no motivation to develop material improvements or new materials. However there are exceptions.
For example my vision to reduce crack propagation in glass through molecular engineering.
This is not project specific, but a recognition over the years that we have continually struggled to overcome this particular characteristic of glass.
As architects and glass engineering designers for the new Leipzig International Exhibition Central Glass Hall, which opened in April 1996, I recall attending, in February 1993, a crucial meeting in Germany with the glass suppliers, processors & steel structure contractors.
The purpose was to review concerns emanating from the results of a series of load & impact tests, and suspension fixing design of large laminated glass panels. With nearly 30,000m2 of glass required to create the suspended glass barrel vault, the consequences of failing to deal with both safety and the technical issues involved would be too dramatic for all concerned with the project. On the flight home after the meeting, I picked up a copy of Lufthansa’s in-flight magazine and came across an article on nano-composites and research work being undertaken on “ormocers” (organically modified ceramics). This reminded me of previous articles I had read about nanotechnology and a thought crossed my mind. Would it be possible to dope glass at the molecular level to overcome the inherent inability of glass to resist crack propogation, while retaining the optical properties and essential surface qualities which we associate with glass?
To develop such a new material would inevitably require research either directly with a glass manufacturer, or at a research institution, or collaboratively between both. In 1983, at the request of the French Government, I managed to find and bring together three manufacturers ( two French & one Belgian ) to produce a 50% light transmitting permanent structural fabric.
It also had to avoid the world-wide patents of OCF/DuPont teflon-coated fibreglass. Again, in 1986, I had been instrumental in bringing together academia ( a physicist) with industry (Electricité de France) to successfully realise a vision of controlling the 3-D form of visible light. I remember well the reactions to this idea when it was discussed with the EdF. (cf Culham).
Exploratory discussions with different glass industries about the dream of a new glass material, and the need to develop it, have so far yielded nothing. Yet one is sure that this industry should be interested, and maybe some are secretly researching it as I talk. As an architect, it is too often the case that one’s credentials and ideas are not those that industry will accept. The alternative is academia, and the specialist research institutes. Here, there are several involved in new materials, but collaborating with them is constrained either by budgets and existing programme commitment, or by secrecy, a quite reasonable precondition of the research contract when they are being financed by a particular industry.
Convincing people to finance new scientific/industrial ideas, is a very difficult one to crack for an architect – but it can happen.
Now you might expect me to continue in this vein. But alas no. Perhaps I have been influenced by this venue, perhaps by my own desire not to entertain you but to ask you to think. I am not known for following the ideas of others, and so it will come as no surprise that I shall now talk about matters which are perhaps beyond that which our hosts have in mind, but which I believe are fundamental to architecture.
I am going to talk about the future and the meaning of aesthetics today, and try to synthesise them into a coherent idea which underpins my design thinking. I do not ask that you judge my conclusions, but that you reflect upon them in the context of how you think and act.
We are in age where we recognise that the only certainty about certainty is uncertainty.
However, one can be sure that a future is certain. But what future?
I would like to suggest that for most people today the notion of progress lies behind the meaning of the word future.
Was it the notion that there is a particular type of future – (one before death) which created the idea of progress? Did Copernicus create this “future time before death” when he decentred the earth (and man) in the universe? i.e. man continues, although men die?
What does progress mean today? I think this is a fundamentally important question.
Why do I think progress should be considered so important?
Is it because individuals can measure their own idea of it – achievement, success?
Is it because companies within which the individual works can also measure it – growth, profit & dividend?
Is it because nations can measure it – GNP growth and lower unemployment?
Is progress a measure of the quality of life, or rather a quality of life compared to that in another society or country?
Does society limit the criteria of progress to scientific knowledge, technological and economic achievements; and as individuals to material well-being?
Is the idea of progress “more gain than loss”, and is it associated with power?
But what happens when there is “more loss than gain” – distress, poverty, unemployment?
Robert Kennedy, in 1967 in a text entitled “The American Environment” said:
“And let us be clear at the outset that we will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of technical progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow-Jones average or national achievement by the gross national product.
For the gross national product includes our pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for people who break them. The gross national product includes the destruction of redwoods, and the death of Lake [Erie]. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads, and it even includes research on the improved dissemination of bubonic plague. The gross national product swells with equipment for the police to put down riots in our cities; and though it is not diminished by the damage these riots do, still it goes up as slums are rebuilt on their ashes. It includes Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.”
The very notion of progress is open ended. This open-endedness should not concern us, provided that human energy can be directed towards a consensus of what constitutes improvement.
Rousseau wrote that :
“the faculty of self-improvement is one distinction between man and brute”. But he followed this with the question, “If man as an individual is capable of self-improvement does it follow that as a society the same will be true?”
One idea of progress could be the improvement in the behaviour of man. But behaviour is measured differently in different cultures and within apparently single cultures.
Another idea is that man’s nature will improve, suggesting a future resulting, not from evolution of man as a higher form of animal into an even higher form, but on a progressive development through cultural evolution.
Robert Kennedy indicated real concerns of how progress is measured in and by most western societies. His commentary was on the idea of scientific progress and of political progress.
One feels that the latter has, for the last few centuries, been measured more and more by economic growth, rather than any measurable quality of life – e.g. freedom and justice .
This economic growth has been dependent on the politics of hijacking scientific investigation and the industrial exploitation of science. And industrial growth on the exploitation of the individual. The individual economic effort is now so divorced from life that it is not surprising that so many people long for recognition within a group outside of the workplace.
In this century, the idea of modernity attempted to distribute the wealth from economic growth. The type of government may have differed from society to society, but in each there was a notion of a better future for man.
Without an idea of a future, political activity would have no defined direction or aim. This idea of future gives the modern age a characteristic which is essentially optimistic.
Today, the results of technical innovation and industrial activity on our environment has become much more tangible to many more people. The belief that we can control this activity is still essentially an optimistic idea; i.e. towards a better future. The controlling aspect concerns the nature of government. Freedom of information and the dissemination of better information of the damage we are doing to the environment would create a wider awareness and knowledge, which could enable more people to act morally and intelligently within a wider context (definition) of society and government.
We are all aware that scientific progress has, in the last two centuries, become more and more central to society, (commerce in particular) and today, funding for science research programmes is dependent upon the potential of that research to provide opportunities for economic growth through industrial activity. Internal industrial research funding so often depends upon the rate of patent growth and on a percentage of those patents producing economic success. However, we should not forget that science’s “own” progress is measured by developments in finding “better descriptions” of the world and things in and beyond it. It is not measured by economics.
In his “Sketch of a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind”, published in 1793, (at the birth of the civil engineering profession as we know it today, and at the height of the flowering of European Cities – the one’s we all delight in visiting as tourists, even if they are now small cores at the heart of much bigger connurbations ) – The Marquis de Condorcet asked, “what happened to man’s moral and ethical development as a measure of progress?”
Did moral or ethical development ever exist within modern society’s understanding of the meaning of progress?
Were they ever considered “measurable”?
Was progress a western notion? If it was, then it has certainly spread around the globe.
Is there any evidence of the idea of progress in existing so-called primitive societies?
The idea of progress is bound up with polarization between optimist and pessimist – those who can embrace the future, and deal with uncertainty, as opposed to those whose insecurity drives them to cling to what they think they know; a comfortable and often illusory historical image or fantasy. Was it always so?
We often have the impression of earlier twentieth century attitudes to progress and the future as being characterized by optimism, and above all, certainty. There is seldom reference to doubt about the essential goodness of the direction in which the developed world was “progressing”.
Whether progress is a substitute for religion, and therefore worshipped, or was first worshipped and thence became a religion, does not alter the fact. But it may unlock a philosophical conundrum – the re-evaluation of the idea of progress. Hence my belief that this fundamental question – what is the meaning of progress today? – is so important.
The tendency to use the criterion of material gain to evaluate progress is only symptomatic of the debasement of ethical values in general. Language has, in this context, been hijacked for political and economic ends. Progress is a loaded word.
Progress,Technology, and Anxiety
Today, most countries place an emphasis on education and training a highly skilled workforce to exploit technological developments. Is this workforce becoming, or, is it already seen as the natural resource (or capital?) to sustain progress (cf. colonial slave labour), replacing our more recent perception of fossil fuels, mineral and organic wealth?
The rate of technological progress towards the (apparent) mastery of nature bears no relation to the rate at which human social evolution can keep pace with the consequences. Our mental structures were honed over millions of years of living in small tribal groups, and we bring the same structures to bear on an existence that has changed materially, however we measure it, by several orders of magnitude. We are all riding the same planetery roller coaster. Some of us are trying to hold on and keep an eye on where we are going, but constantly face the prospect of losing our grip. We are not sure who is at the controls; and when we think we do know, there seems to be disagreement between the navigator, the pilot, and the rest of the crew. The passengers don’t know who to ask about the destination, and feel they would not be listened to if they did.
This anxiety is due to the reality that technological developments underlie and affect all factors ofour lives. The change in the rate of change of technological development is such as to destabalise not only individual citizens and companies, but governments. All citizens are now part of the global production line, made possible by technology – global telecommunications and computers which record and manage complex transactions. The global barons, who are concentrated, for the moment, in the financial capitals of the world and who master an ever increasing percentage of manufacturing all over the world, are no longer concerned with local workforces or where or how people live. More and more jobs in the evolving markets, particularly financial, are either at the top or the bottom – there are fewer and fewer middle income jobs.
This may, in part, explain why these cities, which house the global barons controlling distant businesses, are increasingly recognised by the polarisation of rich and poor, and the increase in non-urban spaces in them.
Economics & Sustainability
We can consider the tripod of the world’s financial system as the markets in London, New York and Tokyo. Not only are these cities some of the most profligate in their use of resources, but these financial structures are based upon investing huge sums of money into emerging markets, (London-UK some £ 107 billion over the last few years ) funding, in the process, the cutting down of forests and the mining of huge tracts of land. This investment led directly to the presence of many of our American colleagues in London. These emerging markets benefit but not in a way that is sustainable. Many of the nightmares that investors (names) in Lloyds of London have had, originate from the environmental consequences of these investments – toxic waste, asbestos, nuclear waste disposals. The risks were not understood. Today it underwrites risks that will only become evident in ten to fifteen years. This makes sustainable development directly relevant to the financial markets and economic strategy, and should make short-termism and anathema to investors and economists.
London as a city was also constructed on a tripod – manufacturing, services and finance. It has managed to cut one of its legs extremely short – manufacturing – which now accounts for less than 13% of the city’s income. Couple this with investors demanding 5 year high-rate returns of industry and we have a spiral which cannot entertain the idea of constructing a sustainable city within a sustainable economy, nor allow an intelligent framework within which industry can invest in research.
The economic model needs rethinking. I am no economist, and perhaps it is utopian to consider a sustainable economic model beginning with the idea that economics is about improving the management of society for the welfare of all.
Either the notion of progress is replaced by something else, or it must be redefined.
A notion of progress not measured solely in terms of GNP and the still limited framework of economic theory and appraisal, but in the wider more holistic sense of mankind’s welfare and behaviour on this planet.
It appears to me that this redefinition is at present focussed upon redeeming the ill which man has, and is, doing to the Earth, and upon society’s new “goals” being achieved democratically and more justly. It is within this framework that design should now be taking place.
Environmental Aesthetics and Architecture as symbol of renewal
Underlying architecture and the physical environment of our cities is the question of quality.
Performance, economy and aesthetics constitute the ingredients of quality, of which we can all probably agree on what performs well and what is economic (at least in the short term).
But can we agree on aesthetics?
We are now at the beginning of another aesthetic paradigm. Under the generic name of “pos-modern” we have witnessed the first visual manouevres which have indicated our teleconnected societies’ capacity to visualise this paradigm – through its designers.
A pluralist arena within which “art is art is art” – where anything goes if the artist says it is art; and of post-modern, neo-constructivist, de-constructivist, neo-modern, neo-neo classical… architectures which compete for the attention of multi-national clients and their advertising agencies.
These veneers conceal the real paradigm – the nature of “progress” today. As I have indicated, it no longer has a clear meaning or definition, which can be recognised by the majority.
Science in the service of commerce is still the predominant power, expressed through technological change, whose rate of change is increasing. But technology (applied science) is increasingly being questioned (pollution etc), and yet technology has been and still is providing symbols of progress for many people. (Pylons yesterday, satellites and Internet today).
How and to what extent technology is perceived through design depends upon the position from which progress is perceived – individual, local, national or global progress. Those designers who adopt “technics” as a style are liable to be pursuing an ephemeral goal – it will pass as fashion. So, can the science (or technology) be a dispassionate basis for design?
It may be an ideal worth striving for, with an objective sensitivity to the process.
What constitutes the grammar of aesthetics today?
It is composed not only of the visual, but also of the political, economic, and moral language. It needs to be made evident and show intelligence with humanity. Goethe described good architecture as frozen music, but in reality it is also frozen politics, economics and power.
Part of the changing vision of our culture is how we spend our resources.
We must distinguish the syntax of fashion from more enduring fundamentals of this grammar.
Design education from a young age may help to overcome some of the reactionary characteristics which have become so prevalent.
One can think of the NIMBYs: Not In My Back Yard; and the BANANAs
Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.
Much of the city environment and its artefacts within them can be described as visually poor, and this makes it important to ask ourselves: what does aesthetic poverty communicate to the general public?
I suggest that it is something which lacks morality – it hurts the viewer’s sensibilities and in so doing can becomes a symbol of harm. It has the effect a bit like Chinese drip water torture to slowly wear you down. There is a general lowering of aspiration and expectation that creates a climate of acceptance, or, more dangerous, of ignoring. Acceptance and ignoring translate through the social, cultural, psychological and physical environments. A numbing.
As architects we have a moral obligation to question the motives behind our involvement.
But does every society have common measures of aesthetic poverty and /or aesthetic values? I doubt it. And even more important is evidence that these values shift within societies as societies evolve. (cf the Eiffel Tower: 1889 and now as a Parisian symbol and its protection against terrorist attack, or indeed electricity pylons – a key symbol of the march of pre-war progress, and now).
I can illustrate this with two of our projects. Terrasson and The Tower Bridge Theatre both question prevailing aesthetics and have challenged us to bridge a credibility gap.
For many of the major architectural projects with which we have been involved we have had to address the grammar of aesthetics in a context where we have been agents of ministries who have not fully engaged citizens in the process from the beginning.
Often the public’s preconception is a politico-economic imposition or ‘necessity’ despite any manner of public consultation.
Many architectural masterpieces have been realised, as renovations, recycled buildings, extensions or whole new ones. Often cultural, these have been imagined as the Kings, Queens and sometimes Aces in each city’s hand as these cities vie with each other across the western world for attention. They have become barometers of a city’s, and in some cases, of a country’s cultural virility.
Even now, at the end of the twentieth century we listen to architects and their clients arguing that the financial virility of a city must find symbolic expression – always the same – an ever taller and bigger tower. Is this really where our intelligence is at the end of the twentieth century?
Do we not feel insulted by such banal arguments or have we become numb to our own potential to be creative and slavishly adhere to some preconceived formula?
Meredith Tax wrote :
“In most cultures prior to that of industrial capitalism, artists have had a well-defined and clearly understood relation to some part of their society, some group of consumers. In a primitive tribe or collective, art is the expression of the whole tribe – later, some people may be specially good at it, or hereditarily trained to it, and take on the production of artifacts as their work, but they work surrounded by the community, and work for the community’s immediate and obvious benefit. In other periods of history, the artist has produced for a court, for a personal patron, for a religious sect, or for a political party. It is only with the dominance of the capitalist system that the artist has been put in the position of producing for a market, for strangers far away, whose life styles and beliefs and needs are completely unknown to him, and who will either buy his works or ignore them for reasons that are equally inscrutible and out of his control.”
The non-Western objects which so captivated the early modernist artists such as Gaugin, Picasso and Lé ger became recognised as masterpieces in the west only because of the esteem in which these were held by these artists. Gaugin opted for the peace and quiet away from the subsequent value system of the west, which he began to recognise as a distortion of art. His 1897 painting, “D’où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous, Où allons-nous?” expressed both his inner concerns and and his concerns of the art world, as well, I believe, of the more obvious question of the meaning of progress. Meanwhile, the power base of the western art market – where one part of humanity exerts its power through the purchase and choice of exhibit – carries on. It could be suggested that a similar process has and is happening in architecture. One recalls the seminal work of Bernard Rudofsky (Architecture Without Architects:exhibition11/1964-02/65 at MOMA), but have our attitudes evolved sufficiently to the extent that we can learn from and work with indigenous cultures in a way which recognises that architecture has boundaries far wider than the narrow definition of Western architecture?
We need to both recognise fully, and be astutely critical of, our own cultutral heritage and also to relax the boundaries of our preconconceptions of the work of other cultures. These “other” cultures now exist within our metropolitan culture and should be an integrated part of it.
We have seen the art scene decentralise – no longer Paris or New York – becoming more cosmopolitan and electronic on the Internet, yet the power brokers of the art market still appear the same across the globe – they haven’t yet worked out “how to hijack art on the net”.
Today, people have enough freedom which allows them to express their own interpretation of design, and as such there will be both consensus and contradiction in any proposal. This is natural and should be accepted as part of a complex world.
Today, mankind needs intellectual force and responsibility that reaches beyond optimism. By that I mean – frees itself from any kind of post-modern apocalyptic pessimism. It also means, as designers addressing the question of what, if anything, we can do to alleviate anxiety.
More people today accept that their own lives and society is full of contradictions, that science does not offer solutions or indeed explain everything. In western society, there is a sense that the private life of the individual is now far more important than their public responsibility. This is a reversal of general attitudes held only a few decades ago. Individuals seek other individuals with whom they have some empathy. In a wider context, political pluralism, for example in Italy, appears to express this basic change in society. Both at the individual level and the management level of society. Diversity will inevitably increase. We still consider our society democratic, but our political structures have yet to adapt to this fundamental shift in individuality, indeed no democracy has yet embraced men and women as genuine equals.
Architecture now has to address these issues and in particular, through challenging an urbanism of fear, begin to describe spaces which have a meaning in the sense of linking private and public domains, in ways not solely dictated by divisive economic and urban preconceptions and consumerism.
“Our minds, which even now are only just awakening after years of materialism, are infected with the despair of unbelief, of lack of purpose and ideal. The nightmare of materialism, which has turned the life of the universe into an evil, useless game, is not yet past; it holds the awakening soul still in its grip. Only a feeble light glimmers like a tiny star in a vast gulf of darkness”. Kandinsky wrote this more than 80 years ago, in his book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Pippo Lioni, in 1993, summarised the present designers diemma in an article entitled, Up Against A Well Designed Wall.
“In the present society the quantative and qualitative criteria for judging design can be summed up as : does it attract the consumer?. Designers have always had more noble standards of appreciating their creations, but in practise the question of functionalility, as in doing the job set out for it, of originality of design, of cultural sensitivity or of environmental impact are in this society predicated on the ultimate determining factors – does it in a direct or indirect manner generate financial wealth and or serve to perpetuate the political and econonomic status quo?”
Exchange through discussion and openness of information is essential for understanding, and when this engages cultural exchange a major prerequisite for creativity is in place. This in turn makes creativity more accessible and maybe more democratic in a less competitive environment.
Through investigating the edges surrounding the multitude of design disciplines, the diversity of our clients, projects, sites and cultures within which we work, new and relevant ideas should emerge that will release the intellectual and social energies which have been trapped for so long. This entrapment has not only alienated people from each other, but sustains the present methodologies and priorities in our cities.
Psychological barriers occur only in the minds of men, and like any theory constructed by man these barriers can be deconstructed and replaced. To begin removing the barriers between different disciplines and between professionals requires a way of thinking and attitude which is no longer territorial – and it is based upon trust and respect. This encourages confidence with humility between people. Professionals should be as capable of realising this as anyone else, and in terms of their influence on society and the physical environment should have a moral obligation to do so. I know from my experience working with Peter Rice (who I believe was Ireland’s greatest engineer) and Martin Francis (yacht and industrial designer) in our Paris based design engineering firm, and in the way our architecture studio in London functions, that territories do not have boundaries. They are simply different landscapes which require different skills in order to negotiate them well. This is where collaborative effort is so valuable. It allows one to support and be supported at different times while crossing these landscapes.
To illustrate this openness of cross-cultural & cross-discipline thinking, I recall a wonderful senior French official explain to me that, in the late 50’s, General de Gaulle had requested a concise philosophy for Paris. An economist, poet, scientist and geographer were key contributors to a statement prepared over six months, and finally contained on one side of an A4 sheet of paper. The statement began along the lines of ” Paris risks falling into the Atlantic Ocean”. This phrase crystallised the need for Paris to avoid being marginilised in the new emerging Europe. They had recognised that, what we now know as the “banana belt megalopolis” through middle Europe, would centralise Europe further east. Strategic industrial, urban,economic and social policies emerged from this philosophy. But it took thirty years for this major urban renewal to be achieved – and it is still going on. Notably this philosophy precipitated national as well as Parisien policies. Physical examples are the supersonic airliner Concorde & Airbus Industrie & Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport (still expanding), the TGV at the national level to ensure that Paris remained well connected. Within Paris, the RER, the phased growth west-east (La Defense to Bercy), then north-south (La Villette – Porte d’Italie) and the peripheral towns such as Marne La Vallé e. Within this was the cultural programme of the Grand Projets.
Similarly, the architecture and urbanism of inner city developments, can only be informed by the quality of the brief, derived from an understanding of the local and city context, and realised by the quality of the client. I would suggest its success is dependent on the client’s moral power, whether the client is a developer, a local authority, a community group or a partnership between any or all three, and the recognition that they are all “clients” in some way.
I have learnt, through experiences in Limehouse and Poplar in East London, that neither a top down, nor a bottom up approach is a satisfactory way of implementing regeneration in the inner city. An alternative – a third way – can exist, one which recognises a reality in which we are all citizens within a city, [developer,financier,elected councillor, council officer, local resident, business person ] and that successful environmental, social, economic development and regeneration can be genuinely based on participation and interdependence.
The Essence of a New Methodology
Where do we as architects begin in order to develop new methodologies for design thinking?
There are examples which depend upon the strategic use of the complexity of decision-making processes in order to improve the effectiveness of design policies. By complexity, I mean the opposite of current methodologies which seek efficiency by reducing what is inherently complex to ‘simple policy and policy networks’. These are characterised by an authoritative, some would say arrogant style, and exclusion of others from helping to both define the problem and to help find the solution. Confrontation characterises the simple policy approach and often paralyses the process; and participation is reluctantly accepted, offering an arena for political battle rather than one in which to tackle and genuinely help solve problems. Reducing complexity to simplicity, in the belief that it represents the main condition for successful design progress is a failed assumption – this policy has brought about a great deal of professional alienation and much of the degradation of the quality of the built environment we see all around us.
The alternative way, which I mentioned as a result of my own experiences and which have been for many years now been actively pursued by many people, requires a great deal of thinking in each situation. I do not believe that there is a single model for success, but I do think that there are some basic ingredients which inform this new strategy.
Openness – of the process to all genuinely involved and affected by the issue at stake
Equality – through management techniques which allow all participants to collaborate as equals
The Rules – defining the rules of engagement to avoid manipulation of some by others
The Policy – will emerge from a collaborative process of design
The Issues – have to be defined together as the first part of the process
The Solution – will be owned by all participants
Today, in a true democratic sense, architecture and urbanism has essentially to be design by people for people to enable them individually and collectively to improve their quality of life.
Too many of those who believe they have that extra knowledge or position of power, whether that power is felt to be economic or cultural, rarely admit that others can genuinely contribute. As an architect I know it to be very different – poets, artists, clients, tenants, engineers and many others, including other architects, directly concerned by the project have all made invaluable inputs to defining and finding solutions.
We are all aware of the Brixton, Toxteth & L A riots, the proliferation of video surveillance in city centres, of protected neighbourhoods, of the mushrooming security industry whose personnel, up until now, can only, in the end, call the police. So many of our larger cities have gone wrong and appear to lack direction.
In the quality of our urban environment we are evidently not making much progress.
Real progress in urban regeneration involves people feeling part of the process.
Competition has been and remains the conceptual trigger of our present economy and society. We do not believe that this is inevitable as is often argued. Collaboration, cooperation and indeed altruism is as common a natural inheritance as ‘survival of the fittest’.
This is a clue to redefining economic ethics, where the economy is seen not only to serve people in a material sense but to place it in a wider, more holistic context, where non-material issues are as important as material ones.
My conclusions are as follows:-
Real progress for mankind, a real future for the earth and design are becoming really the same.
The cultural richness of mankind lies in its metaphorical intelligence – source of anthropological energy and inspiration.
The democratic value of progress can only have a long-term life when it grafts itself onto the strong metaphorical stem of the human spirit.
To quote Benjamin De Casseres
“Progress is nothing but the victory of laughter over dogma”
I hope that my talk has been able to cast some half-light on immediate and, perhaps, some distant horizons, as well as seek to identify intelligent strategies to this difficult, but significant aspect of contemporary architectural life.
I believe that architects must think beyond the immediacy of the particular project they happen to be involved with; that is, beyond architecture, if they are to have a real influence upon architecture itself, and architecture to have an influence on the future.
Is not the art of living the ultimate art?
© 3rd December 1996, Ian Ritchie, Royal Society of Arts