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Not a Manifesto

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

In light of my recent ‘Design Manifesto’ interview with Modelo, I’ve returned to the manifestos I studied as a college student, and I remember the excitement it generated in me as a young architect. The writings were brimming with possibility, and the future that lie ahead only need be forged. I recall the certainty I felt about how I would change the world; it’s easy to feel this way as an academic, particularly as a young student. When the realities of entering the workforce hit, attitudes change quickly. Barriers to ideals surround you, from an employer, to a client, to neighbors, planners, contractors, engineers and consultants, as well as matters of constructability, budgets and schedules. Each seems to exist to sap your hope.

Further complicating matters is an ever shifting landscape of culture and technology. Social beliefs and norms can make it difficult to trust your own path, as so many around you choose to stick to the current. It is as easy to fall out of touch as it is to intellectually stagnate when not following the ever shifting crowd. But simply adopting the latest trends can result in a lack of comprehensive exploration. A varied path lacks conviction and a singular path lacks creativity.

A manifesto is suggestive of a singular ideology, which is coveted in architectural circles. It is frequently represented in a unified expression, a signature. This is the penultimate goal of many architects; the step that precedes imposition of their expressive will upon the world, without input. And yet to forgo a manifesto suggests an architect adrift. Unmoored and adopting whatever may come.

However, there is an alternative: to be intentionally open to influence. To allow the design problem to inform the process. And in this, each solution must be as unique as each problem. In the spirit of such an effort, and at the risk of exposing a complete contradiction, I’ve dusted off this anti-manifesto that I wrote some time ago:

Not a Manifesto:

The time for manifestos has passed. Fixed methodologies are no longer viable.

Technology is changing at a pace that requires constant reinvention.

A manifesto calls for rejecting history for the “completely new”. In the past this meant that the completely new would in turn become obsolete over a period of years, even decades. Today obsolescence occurs in months, or even days.

We embrace the future but do we do not reject the past.

A manifesto judges, and determines ‘correct’ procedures and methods for the present, and attempts to set a course the future.

We have made no such determinations.

The future comes to us, and we embrace it as it unfolds. We have no temporal bias.

We grow.

We seek methods from all avenues.

We seek opportunities in the usual, and make them more than usual.

We will try anything.

We will find interest.

We will wander.

We will improvise.

We will adapt.

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