Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Sense of Place

A few years ago we'd stopped at the planet Leeds to repair the Starship's main support system, a powerful computer capable of cognitive intelligence. We met a girl named Emma that day who forever altered our perceptions of beauty, compassion, heart, soul, love, humor and intellect. Technicians transplanted cells donated from Emma, into our computer. That fusion between Emma's DNA and our electronics created a brand new support system. We call her Emma.

Initial coordinates for today's mission have been downloaded and Live at Leeds is playing throughout Emma's audio network. "People try to put us down..." bellows Roger Daltrey as the Starship approaches Workit, a small satellite of Steelcase. Mark Greiner meets us at the spaceport. Mark is a Senior VP who says his company's passion is to create great work environments. He recently visited Asia and was impressed by the level of importance people place on their culture. Mark asks, "how does culture effect work process, and can ancestral cultures be seamlessly braided into the American corporate culture?

A sense of place permeates ones conscious. It melds from the land, from the history, from the environment, from the culture, from the people and the surroundings. Art, design and architecture weave throughout to support an awe and wonder. A short ride to the world of Interactive Architecture as the fellows sing, "I don't want to cause no fuss (Too much, Magic Bus)
But can I buy your Magic Bus?
" Ruairi Glynn walks us about a visual feast of kinetic sculptures, performative architectures and interactive installations...all with the ability to instill a sense of place.

"Substitute you for my mum, At least I'll get my washing done..." Emma fusses with the volume but our attention is on Jill Fehrenbacher. Jill created Inhabitat, a vehicle to document innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future. One could see how style might win over substance in design. This would seemingly deteriorate a sense of place. Jill and her crew strive to balance style and substance while keeping the user, the experience, the social context and the impact of an object on the surrounding environment at the forefront of their design intentions. Managing editor, Sarah Rich, has edited an interesting piece of work, World Changing: A user's guide for the 21st Century. We should pick up a copy for the trip to Brooklyn, New York and Treehugger.

Treehugger is a web magazine that cares. Cares about sustainability and the environment while looking for solutions, constructive developments and positive initiatives. There are a ton of interesting topics listed on a pull down box under categories. "People try to put us d-down (talkin bout my generation) Just because we get around (talkin bout my generation)" As Roger sings, we can't help but think Treehugger guides us in the right direction to enhance our sense of place.

While we visit with these interesting people, Emma amoeba-itizes the culture and sense of place of each location into her knowledge banks. Occasionally she'll conduct conversations with buildings, cars, desks and pets. It is best at these times to leave her alone and let her do her own thing.

Instead of specific coordinates, Emma lets the navigator choose random. We land in Canada at Bruce Mau Design. "Every time I call my Baby, try to get a date, my Boss says No dice, Son,you gotta work late, Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do, but there ain't no cure for the Summertime Blues." Bruce Mau Design publishes an in-progress manifesto. It tells us about the firm's culture, vision and direction. Point number forty stands out - Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

The Starship is in need of wide open space and to vaporize fences. Emma delights as she lets the engines scream. The greater the distance, and the faster she flies from status quo, the greater potential of growth we realize.

We set down on the Red planet. Hilary Cottam leads an ambitious team with the goal of confronting complex social and economic problems. A paper titled Transformation Design explains how design is used to address these problems. Emma raises her computer bank eyebrows when she hears the six characteristics of Transformational Design:

  • Defining and Redefining the brief
  • Collaborating between disciplines
  • Employing participatory design techniques
  • Building capacity, not dependency
  • Designing beyond traditional solutions
  • Creating fundamental change

She thinks, "have some of these not already existed deep within our knowledge banks?" "Quivers down my backbone, I got the shakes in the knee bones, Shivers down my thigh bones, Like I'm Shakin' all over." Was that Emma or Roger??

I've got the quivers down my backbone! What a glorious mission today! Folks out on the edge, caring for and improving our workplace and overall environment. It is because of people like this that our ancestors will one day be jolted by a sense of place.

Peace. Out.

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