Design and the limitation of language.

For me, it has always been about design. Well I suppose not always, but for a long while. Even today as I cut away the brambles, trudged through the marsh and dragged dead branches away from the driveway, it is about design.

My career has been about design.

Pebblespring is about design.

I have learned from clever people that words point to a truth, but they are in themselves not the truth, so when I say I believe in “design” I may mean something different to a fashion designer friend or a structural engineer friend saying these words. Because, in truth, I have come to see that there is some magic dimension to design. (and I suppose by “magic” I really mean something that is very difficult to put into words) I will talk a little more about “magic” later, but let me explain what I call “design”:

  • To me, Design is more than problem solving
  • To me, Design takes stock of what we have and reconfigures it into something much more
  • To me, Design finds beauty in the re-configuration.
  • To me, Design finds its order and its harmony in the relationship between the parts that make up the whole.(the parts “speak” to each other and inform their nature, their form and their position.)
  • To me, Design is always about the configuring of the whole, it can never just be the part.

The “magic” though is that in any loose arrangement of parts there already exists a higher harmony and a higher order. There exists beauty!

Beauty is beyond science. There is no mechanism to quantify the amount of beauty that exists in a rose or a sunset. Beuaty is qualitative not quantitative. But, beauty exits. When you sit by yourself overwhelmed by the beauty of a sunset, you are not bullshitting yourself, you really are experiencing the beauty of the sunset. It exists. It is true. It just cant be measured.

So, it seems to me as if though the design,…. the beauty, exists before I sit down with the fragmented parts. It requires a still and receptive mind on my part to spend time with these parts to give each of them the “voice” they need to find their role in the new whole. As the designer, I am facilitating the parts toward their higher self in the new whole.

I know its sounds a little spacey, but its difficult to put into words a process that goes on in my head when the design process is going as I like it to go. And by the way it very seldom goes the way I would like it to go. In the work I do in the office as an Architect everyday, there are so many perfectly normal businesses reasons that make it impossible for the design process to go as I would like it to. But still, from time to time we are able to step beyond even these limitations and get some good work done.

At Pebblespring right now I am getting to know and understand the parts that make up the whole. I am getting to understand what their existing relationships are and what they could be. I am in a stage of observation, yes I have done some work, sometimes subtracting parts, like the poison Inkberry trees that kill the cattle, and sometimes adding parts, like a roof over the old cottage to stop the rain from melting away the sun dried bricks.

Every system is a living system. Pebblespring Farm is a living system. So if I change something, by addition or subtraction, it reacts, it adapts. I, as the designer, must be there to observe the reaction learn from it and correct my design and approach if necessary. I must remain concious and aware.

I cannot see that it is useful in this project, or in any project, to arrive with a pre-conceived notion plucked from Top Billing or Cosmo or the latest trip to the Seychelles. That, to me, is a different process and needs a different word to describe it. Not “design”. But I suppose this is the limitation of language!

Author: Tim Hewitt-Coleman

The World can be a better place.... But how? Taking the debate beyond the political, beyond the theoretical into the real economy, into the physical and spatial dimension where cities, landscapes and livelihoods take form.

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