"I am not interested in erecting a building, but in [...] presenting to myself the foundations of all possible buildings."
Most of the people alive in America now, have lived their whole lives with the constant barrage of messages about proper consumer behavior on television. Since the 1950's this has grown to a multi-media monsoon. We are all surrounded by images of products in a constant stream of self referencing communication that has revealed the somewhat subliminal appeals of advertisers to be the obvious manipulations of a consumer society. We have come a long way in our understanding of media from the hijinks of Antfarm (http://www.antfarm.org/) in the 1960 and 70’s. And yet the lessons from their seminal investigations into exploiting the media are now practiced widely. This saturation of the message of a consumer society has brought about an undercurrent of rebellion that grew covertly and steadily through the go-go naughties (a term for the first decade of our new century suggested by David Bowie) and is now quickly becoming the norm. We are moving into an era similar to the 60’s of questioning everything. But unlike the 60’s where the attempt to remake society ran to the extremes of withdrawing “turn on, tune in, drop out” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turn_on,_tune_in,_drop_out) or destroying “burn, baby, burn” (http://www.magnificentmontague.com/) there is a new strategy of what I call parallel revolution that relies not on destruction or retreat but creation. Some examples from the world of technology are creating a parallel organization (Craigslist) that runs concurrently and overtakes or reshapes an existing corporate system (newspaper classifieds). Or a parallel corporation (Google) operating within the seeming confines of a Microsoft monopoly (MSDOS/Windows) growing and finally bursting out like Alien to overtake a market.
Seemingly overnight a green approach is everywhere, but actually has been slowly building inside creative industries. In the field of architecture, a L.E.E.D. certification (http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19) has been at the top of a conversation about a project for several years now. Also, leading companies in design adopted and promoted the “cradle to cradle” (http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm) approach in making, distributing, using and disposing of products.
People coming out of schools today with undergraduate and graduate degrees grew up in a world that they knew they could not change by fighting, but they can create what they believe in. That, today is the most effective access to a true revolution. A ‘parallel revolution’ that does not fight the power structure but stealthily creates a new structure that perhaps functions better or provides a new benefit on a small, immediate scale that may operate alongside an existing institution, overthrow it or just make it obsolete.
What I see happening in the creative industries is a questioning of the necessity and consequences of bringing a particular object into the world. Many young design and architecture firms devote time to theoretical and conceptual investigations. This approach is not just altruistic but is now seen to be essential to keeping a creative focus and purpose. These are people who want to be successful with their designs in the marketplace and at the same time have the work of their lives be about something more than flooding society with consumables.
I will be writing more on this site about specific designers and architects who question ‘what is design?’ and ‘what is architecture?’ and attempt to answer these questions in their practice.