April 29, 2015
Reflecting back on our Living Future(s)
As is frequently the case at the annual Living Future unConference, we arrived with the directive to present (and to educate) but ended up learning more than we could have imagined ourselves. In particular, the BKSK LAB found that their workshop, “Community, Culture and Place: Empathy + Mindful Design in Practice,” provided a meaningful space to reflect on our own processes for communication, collaboration, and the overall process of design.
Throughout the workshop, the presenters and participants were able to expand their capacity for effective engagement, a skill that is important in the act of design but also in the practice of exchanging ideas about design (or other topics). Of course, a major aspect of effective engagement is having empathy for those with whom you are engaging – including speaking their language. To paraphrase Bill Reed, we must consider the unique “vocabularies” that are more relevant to our many stakeholders. By starting from a place of flexibility and generosity, we create greater opportunity for effective engagement.
“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future,
hovering on the edges of the present state of things,
a map of all the ways in which the present can
reinvent itself.” – Steven Johnson, author
Since our empathic abilities have some limitations based on our past experiences, there is enormous value in having different people take on a variety of roles in a workshop-style learning atmosphere. Moderators, ideators, investigators, builders, and destroyers all have unique contributions to make, and allowing each to take on new identities throughout a workshop can catalyze additional contributions. Similarly, the bringing together of diverse minds tends to illuminate the “adjacent possible.” As interpreted by author Steven Johnson, the adjacent possible is “a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” The juxtaposition of differing perspectives inherently creates the circumstances needed to glimpse at the futures connected to our original presentation, study, or project.
Ultimately, reflections such as these bring us back to a central question within architectural practice today: how can we work toward a more collaborative, integrative design approach? And by extension, how would this type of approach impact the people involved, from the project team to the users of the project?