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Looking for Solutions in a World of Innovations

Current trends in the design community require a pointed question: "When everything is characterized as 'world-changing,' is anything?"
July 12, 2016, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Slavoljub Pantelic

Allison Arieff takes the occasion of a book review to write a critique of the design ethos of the disrupters and tech innovators of the contemporary economy. Arieff writes:

In this way, innovation is very much mirroring the larger public discourse: a distrust of institutions combined with unabashed confidence in one’s own judgment shifts solutions away from fixing, repairing or improving and shoves them toward destruction for its own sake. 

Those words inspired by a recently published book by Jessica Helfand, titled Design: The Invention of Desire. Although the book's themes apply to more technological innovations than the Airbnbs and Ubers of the world (i.e., new technology directly related to planning, land use, and transportation), a book calling for a renewed attention to the humanist disciplines of design does apply to the world of planning—which more and more often adopts the moniker "urban design" before anything else.

And the questions Arieff asks certainly apply to the examples of urban design, rural design, architecture, landscape architecture, or all these other possible manifestations of the design works confronting planners every day: "Are we fixing the right things? Are we breaking the wrong ones? Is it necessary to start from scratch every time?"

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Published on Saturday, July 9, 2016 in The New York Times
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