by Michael LeFevre
FAIA Emeritus Managing Editor, DesignIntelligence
January 5, 2022
This year DesignIntelligence Quarterly will reach across the planet in search of voices who not only care about these topics, but who have something to say - and do - about them.
Many across the globe would be inclined to characterize the past few years as unsettling, discombobulating, unpredictable, even disturbing. Why so? One likely answer is that predictable past patterns seem to no longer present themselves as reliable narrators. Conditions we have come to rely upon over our lifetimes have become inverted. Truth has become fiction and vice versa. A mutually interdependent set of concurrent crises have converged to upset the certainty and predictability we have come to know and expect over years. In the global built environment community – those who plan, design, build, own and operate buildings - these crises now converge to set a stage larger and more complex than ever before.
The optimists remind us that such events are cyclical: for centuries we have faced environmental and economic crises and recurring political unrest. Mis and dis-information in the form of propaganda has been weaponized since humankind’s earliest political and wartime confrontations. Social injustice and unrest have their roots in the U.S. since this country’s founding, via the Revolutionary War, peaked again during the Civil War, resurfaced in the 1960’s and sadly, continues in the form of movements such as Black Lives Matter and a host of others. Viewed in perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as a 100-year recurrence of the pandemic of 1918. All who might consider these events of the past few years as worse than ever or apocalyptic would be well advised to read Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, a data rich analysis of multiple metrics over centuries that measure and demonstrate the assertions above. In so many ways, we are not worse off than ever, we are better off, Pinker explains.
Still, these challenges remain. The question is: What can we - as practitioners in the built environment industry - do about all this? The answer is clear: as trained professionals entrusted to curate, create and care for the built environment and its connectedness to these other systems – environment, economy, social equity, health, and politics - we can use our skills and influence to make a difference. And, if we haven’t yet, we must start now. With this as prologue, we share our editorial theme for 2022: Influence: as supported by Stewardship, Responsibility, World building and Impact.
Under an annual umbrella theme of Influence, we challenge all members of the built environment community to exert force – via actions – to influence the state of things for the better. How, exactly? you might ask. Simply this: whatever your scale, sphere of influence, market breadth or range, do what you can. If you are a global organization of hundreds of thousands of experts, work at that scale. If you are a mid-size firm working regionally in the US or in any country, leverage your impact accordingly. If you are a small boutique entity or sole practitioner, ply your influence across your closely held continuum.
Guided by our annual vision of Influence, in Q1 we will explore Stewardship – our duty to conserve the resources and values we hold closely that connect us all. In Q2, we ground Stewardship under the tenets of Responsibility, our duty and commitment to own and solve these problems. Q3 will investigate how we can apply those principles to our short and longer-term efforts at worldbuilding. Can we deploy our influence and capabilities in practical ways to change the systems under which we practice? Finally, in Q4 we investigate Impact. That is, the use of our complete set of resources to exert power, leverage and force multipliers to recognize, measure and achieve true impact at all scales.
Our situation is clear. How will we shape our story in response? How will react? Can we learn to “proact”?
This year DesignIntelligence Quarterly will reach across the planet in search of voices who not only care about these topics, but who have something to say - and do - about them. In this issue of DI Q1, we offer a first slate for your consideration. Join us. For consideration and contribution for future DI Quarterly issues - and to shape this conversation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael LeFevre, FAIA emeritus
Managing Editor, DesignIntelligence Media Publications
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