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Practice : Winter 2009
between Design “biomes”: visiting Ifla, Oxford and Sciarc Those who understand the synergy of changing boundaries will be in demand. My summer 2009 travel s to the Netherlands, Oxford and Los A ngeles with BAC faculty Philip Loheed AIA and BAC volunteer faculty member Sam Hammer, Ph.D., Botany for Designers, generated a series of epiphanies which precipitated some lengthy cogitation and reflection. I sensed I had se en a nd learned some va luable de sign insights, perhaps so global and nonlinear in nature that it has taken time to coherently gather them. Pattern recognition and the design precepts of Christopher Alexander, the keynote speaker at The O xford Conference 2008: 50 Years On — Res etting the Agenda for Architectural Education, were more u seful in toting up an overall view. On return, I was initially hardpressed to explain the profound design changes that one sensed or composited. These were striking in terms of the change in design scale of current and future project s. Project s are getting much, much bigger — whole i slands and portions of countries! Similarly, the diversity, range or interdis- ciplinary nature of teams is ratcheting up. This complexity generates the need for nimble, fle xible, les s hierarchica l structures a nd communications to address design issues. The need for better use of quantifiable method s a s a cre ative design tool is essential. Presenters demon strated the ne ed to de velop persua sive, viable priorities for task s a nd ac tion pla ns with the incre a sing complexity of de sign context, sustainable materia ls sourcing and global processes. This article resulted from President Ted Landsma rk’s question about what this meant for the BAC. We must prepa re students to deal with design at a scale two times larger than our urban design scale in our advanced studio problems. A s General George Post s aid at an ACSA event at Taliesin West two years a go, we need to prepare our design students to: “move 300 million people out of harm’s way in the next 30 years.” Metaphors for what this me ans in the concurrent educ ation model of the BAC are sparse. I remembered University of Georgia’s ecologist Dr. Eugene Odum’s press for design thinking on a systems level. He posited that our silo-like thinking, geared to singular ac ademic bodies of knowledge, inherently handicaps our ability to address large-sca le natural systems and parallel design issues. He traced this limitation back to cla ssic al Greek culture, where the naming and separation of disciplines was first initiated. Our BAC contingent travels may have uncovered some important indicators. Direction and priorities in the ch anging design profession s and markets of the future will require much more integrated thinking. The richest markets and talent pools may be at the boundaries bet ween key contribut- ing resources and spheres of influence, rather than at the heart of a particular skill set, ma rket, profe ssion or piece of geography. Those who understand the synergy of changing boundaries and the appropriate and effective teaming to address fluid changes in needs will be in demand. Odum’s systems thinking in studying ecological biome s ca n offer a useful framework for thinking and pulling diverse topics into focus. Wikipedia defines biome a s follows: “A biome is a climatically and geographically defined area of ecologically similar climatic conditions such a s c ommunities of pla nts, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to a s ecosystems. Biome s are defined based on factors such as plant structures (such as trees, shrubs, and grasses), leaf types (such as broadleaf a nd needleleaf ), plant spa cing (fore st, wood land, sava nn a), a nd climate...Unlike ecoz one s, biome s a re not defined by genetic , ta xonomic , or historica l similarities. Biomes are often identified with particul ar patterns of ec ologica l succ es sion a nd clima x vegetation. The biodiversity characteristic of each biome, e specially the diversity of f auna , durina and subdomina nt Pat Loheed, Head , School of Landscape Architecture Royal horticultural Society Wisley gardens, Surrey Uk pRacTIcE 10