The perception of value in design and architecture changed unexpectedly, when the downturn in the global economy started in 2008. The debate became less about style and the designed object, more about the economic and societal value design adds. We need new design values just as we need new designs. These new values of design look cheap, fast and adaptable – so hundreds of iterations can be designed, sorted, and discarded. They also look big, bold, and dumb – so clients, stakeholders and other designers can discuss better solutions. And finally, if design is to adapt to changing conditions, it must do it with minimal effort and cost.
Right now change is a necessity. Advances in building and information technology are driving the change, which was accelerated by the restructuring in the global economy. In the near future, architecture will be valued on economic, cultural and environmental performance. If architecture is to thrive, it needs to adapt to these shifts, where quick and dirty has eclipsed slow and polished, cheap and simple has taken over expensive and complicated. Today, disruptive technologies like building information modeling enables all firms to design better buildings and deliver them more efficiently. In the fiercely competitive marketplace, the real differentiator will be design. Design is one of the most powerful engines of innovation, and therefore among the most productive forces of economic value creation.
“I am most intrigued by the relationship between thinking and doing in design. I am fascinated by the most recent paradigm shift, enabled by digital design, in which doing is no longer dependent on a theory or philosophical construct, but rather a form of material thinking. In my view, this shift entails moving from ideology to intelligence – from an obsession with the discipline of architecture and what it is (Eisenman, Kipnis, Lynn, Lavin) to the necessity of fluid design practice.”
Michael Speaks, Ph.D., is Dean of the College of Design and Professor of Architecture at the University of Kentucky. Former Director of the Graduate Program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles, Speaks has also taught in the graphic design department at the Yale School of Art, and in the architecture schools at Harvard University, Columbia University, The University of Michigan, UCLA, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and the Berlage Institute and TU Delft, in the Netherlands.
An avid writer and lecturer on contemporary art, architecture, urban design, and scenario planning, Speaks’ essays and exhibitions were among the first to introduce a new generation of Dutch architects to a broader audience in the U.S. in the 1990s. In recent debates, he has played an important role in offering alternative models of city branding and planning. Speaks actively argues for the importance of “design intelligence” that is generated during design but often overlooked in favor of “the design.” In a knowledge-based economy, such intelligence offers an important area for design research, Speaks argues.