For me, the biggest noticeable difference was that this young generation of designers no longer designs for the product, but the achievement of a goal. They are committed to the society and no longer just make chairs, tables, and vases. Almost all the projects I've seen from these Design Academy Eindhoven students were socially engaged. If you google for "engaged architects", then you get few results. Could the next generation of architects take an example from the reversal of these young designers, who focus more on a future social problems? Or are young architects ultimately only asked for housing or for 'rigid' architecture to create more and more iconic designs; ever higher, more spectacular and more extroverted?
There are two different ways of designing: The design way (creative thinking) in which importance has arisen for the awareness of contemporary problems. And the architectural way in which the need for design comes from the question of functionality. Can these disciplines reinforce and influence each other to design in a more abstract way and thus break patterns in order to get a new movement within architecture? To get a clearer picture, I entered into a dialogue with Gigi Altman, Design student active in The Hague.
Inez: After the Dutch Design Week I got the impression that functional design has been pushed into the background by designers. Is this the case?
Gigi: Within a design study, the focus is less on functional design, but more on problem-solving. We are looking at a problem that may occur in the future, which even the user may not be working on yet. In the first year, we don't learn to build a box, but we learn to code a website. The study is now being done much more from a technical point of view.
A nice case is the future of the train. How will people travel in 20 years? As a designer, we will not be designing the product, but we will come up with a proposal on how people will travel in the future and what kind of changes this will require of a train. Nine out of ten projects are about future design. We first examine the question and who asks the question, who are the users, what are their needs now and, in the future, what is changing around us, what are the trends, etc. For example, after thorough analysis we arrive at three strong points of change. We work this out in a business model and provide a visual image of the future, which does not have to be a concrete product. It is challenging to design problem-solving and we hope that we will give clients a trigger that the design process can also be put differently, by giving more freedom than by determining the process in advance. So, what we learn is that you need innovation to look ahead and this is not achieved with frameworks or requirements that influence the design process.
The bachelor's degree in architecture is mainly focused on functional design. We certainly also do research, but no research into how society is going to change. Whether the house we are currently building will still be suitable for these people in 20 years. How do people want to live, what is the family composition, will people become more social towards other family members, what form of living together is desirable? These questions are not asked within architecture. Our assignment is to make a floor plan with windows and doors for a certain target group with specific wishes that are now there. How nice it would be if we took these questions into account. And take on a different, social role from an architectural point of view.
What I experience is that it is a big step for many companies and governments to already tackle a problem that could arise in the future. Unfortunately, it's always about money. The great thing is that we do sit down with our clients at the table for problem-solving design. As in the case of HTM. We have sketched a picture of tram stops taking on a multifunctional role. Instead of only using the space for waiting for the tram, we also suggested charging and parking bicycles and a green roof to purify the air in cities or being used as a vegetable garden for the residents. With this vision of the future, HTM can now respond to the new use of tram stops.
How wonderful would it be if architect students were now being asked by clients to research future developments in society. Architects are no longer always used to design a building, but also to think along, to anticipate possible social developments and problems. This means that not every design needs to be built. And eventually, the money will be spent more sustainably.
It would certainly be nice from the perspective of the (Industrial) Design and Architectural studies if we were to make the business community and governments realise that creative thinking is necessary for innovation, to anticipate the future; that not everything is about money, but mainly about society and the well-being of the people.
To include the bachelor of architecture in this line of thought, there will have to be some changes concerning creative thinking. It could be very interesting if there is a creative hub between designers and architects. Designers already have experience in creative thinking. To involve architects in creative thinking would create a change in ideas about sustainable places in society. Not only the functional design of products and buildings but an added value for society.
Whether or not this article can achieve something is the question. Do you also see these design differences between the disciplines? If you do, please respond to have a dialogue with me. And perhaps a dialogue leads to interesting conclusions.