I start school on Monday at the School of Architecture @ University of Illinois Chicago. It has been two long years since I was last in school. In that time I spent one year in the least scholastic place perhaps on earth, Afghanistan.
Many people ask me what Afghanistan was like, and I often have trouble explaining in few words the experience. It is not often easy to describe a year of ones life, let alone one so trying. The best I can do is vocalize some of the emotions that I felt. Many come to mind when I think about that year, anger, boredom, and most often loneliness. Not loneliness in the way that I was alone physically (you are never alone physically in the army). More so I was alone Mentally. I had very close friends and we had lots of long and sometimes deep conversations, but it was it was rare to never that I could discuss that which I love the most. Over the whole year I had no one that had a true interest in the arts, design or the creative world. I found it hard to keep my mind occupied sometimes. I would lay and bed and have debates with myself over the virtues of Gesamtkunstwerk in design. If nothing this time let me explore my own views on design without the interference of others. I time to see where I was at in my thinking. A Meditation on Metacognition.
So here I am now. I have been back for about six months. I have been around my friends, who are all creative types. I have worked on my own art and settled into the lifestyle that I hope to continue until perhaps marriage or children someday. Life is very good.
With the start of school begins a new adventure! I am beyond excited to meet new ideas and learn new people. As I understand the situation, SOA@UIC is a heavy theory based program with emphasis on technology and urbanism, things I love. Chicago being the home of Modernism in the US and the Sky Scrapper in the world, I feel there is no better place to be for the start of what I believe to be a new Era in design. What will define this Era? I am not sure yet. That is what I hope to explore in school.
For the sake of conjecture though, here is my stab at what will define this next Era.
It is easy, and I dare say lazy, to just say that "Sustainability" will be the basis for design for the foreseeable future. To me the "green" movement, so far, is little more then what "style" has been in the past to design. Very little to do with the culture of those that us and experience it, and a lot to do with attempting to affix "decoration" to the same crap. People still work and, for the most part, live in the same way that they have lived since perhaps the 1950's. For design to truly change, the populous lifestyle will have to change. It is not my hope or intention that design will be the catalyst for this change. That never seems to work. Instead, I believe it is the designers task to provide for those that are looking to live in a certain way, a better way. We can present options and solutions that most would never have thought possible. Imagine office buildings and class rooms with Operable Windows! Network server heat harvesting! Live/work/transportation/recreation lifestyles! All things that are starting to happen!
My contribution to this? My interest in the future of design is based in the idea that we have gotten a lot of things right already. Often these things have been forgotten or ignored in the interest of "style" or economy. My goal is to present elegant solutions for a healthy, contradiction free, lifestyle through simple straight forward design. I am pretty sure Glenn Murcutt has my back on this ideology.
My plan in graduate school is to explore how I can refine these ideas with the help of computer modeling and technological tools. So often in the past it seems that technology is used to "advance" design instead of using it to refine what works and figure out what does not. Never before have we been able to truly study how light and air will work in spaces before they are built. Native peoples of hot and cold climates can tell you how these things will work in their homes because the design of their spaces is an evolved concept based purely on what has worked for them in the past. People lived in the Middle East before central air, and people lived in the Midwest before space heaters. I foresee figuring out exactly how they did this will be a large part of my journey to a New Design. Do not expect to see me designing wigwams, longhouses, or Qalats any time soon, but do anticipate a distillation of what worked about these spaces.
wow, rant over...
long story short. I start school next week.