BUILDING ON THE COMMON EDGE
by Steven Bingler
Understanding and respecting the imaginative and aesthetic needs of everyday people are some of the most formidable challenges facing architects and community planners today. Many professionals are unwilling to embrace a design ethic that resonates with the broad population. Their tenacity is often defended with the argument that planners and designers are specially trained to understand the esoteric qualities of the building arts, and that their well-educated aesthetic sensitivity is essential to the design of a good building. Concordia would like to embrace both of these perspectives at once and craft from them a new proposition.
Any honest review of history will reveal that designers of the built environment have been most successful when the aesthetic sensitivities of the broad population are a part of the creative equation. These types of planners and designers make rigorous efforts to research and apply aesthetic principles that address the universal and intuitive aspects of building as well as the qualities that are more esoteric and academic. Mastering these principles is enhanced by knowledge of aesthetic languages that are universal, like mathematical proportion, musical harmony and other intrinsic attributes of grace and style. Over the centuries, the world’s most accomplished designers have been those who are able to see in their own artistic sensibilities a commonality with others. Therefore, the relationship between the designer and the larger world is not combative, but collaborative. Unfortunately, over the many recent decades, the inclusive and universal aspects of design have often lost out to a system in which the architect makes design decisions according to his or her own singular beliefs. It is time to revive the common language of architecture and community planning in a way that is unified with the creative edge of contemporary artistic achievement. At Concordia, we call this place the common edge.
To get to the common edge, we will need to consider some primary orders of change. The first of these changes will require that we work towards a more harmonious balance between linear and systemic thinking. In modern times we have often chosen to solve problems by dividing them into disconnected silos. In order to embrace more healthy and systemic ways of thinking, we will need to find more “out of silo” models that can express the elegance of well-balanced parts and harmonious relationships. Connectivity must be the new mantra, with the goal of realigning the contemporary structure of planning and design with the natural harmonies that are inherent in elegantly complex systems. The second order of change will require the design of new tools for change. One of these tools is one that we call the nexus, which is a network of components that comprise the physical, cultural, social, economic, organizational and educational domains of the community’s most vital assets and needs. The third order of change that will support planning and building on the common edge is an authentic and respectful dialogue with the many constituent stakeholders who wish to be involved in the planning or design process.
Our contemporary culture has encouraged the pursuit of individual beliefs over universal truth. A new common edge of community planning and architectural design can help to close the gap between these two perspectives by establishing professional practices that encourage a more systemic and collaborative approach to logic and problem solving. New planning and design tools will be needed to support these more inclusive and democratic planning and design practices. The change will require improved communication between diverse voices, but the results can be rewarding for everyone. Over the past twenty-five years, Concordia has been working towards these goals. To this end, we have established the principles of concord as our axiom and one word mission statement. Contained within this website are a portfolio of projects and ideas that have been derived from our experiences. We present them here as a collective work in progress with the hope that they will be useful in facilitating additional dialogue and debate.