• Robbert

Unity in Diversity


1. INTRODUCTION

Ideas origin from one's mind. A mind with its own background: experiences, believes, convictions, etc. An idea becomes a reflection of this 'blueprint'. A 'blueprint' that in most cases turn into 'an idea fixed'. 'The problem can be solved!' …… The attitude was positive, the result is never that what was supposed to be.

Is a competition to ask for ideas for the South wing of the Randstad not more than a thinktank of all these blueprints? Diverse 'solutions' for a divers area? Our starting-point will be one that is one step ahead of the thinking. A step that has the potential in it to unite all people. 'Unity' in Diversity!

2. THEORY

2.1 BLUEPRINTS

When you have to deal with the human being in your ideas/plans this human being is the most important, beautiful and interesting part…… and the most unreliable. Look around and you see different kind of people with different 'blueprints'. How to find unity in such a diversity? How to make a plan that can satisfy all these people? How to make them think they are a part of the whole? A part of their city and in this case a part of the South wing of the Randstad in all its diversity: its history, the sea, the 'Groene Hart', the cities/towns, theatres, sportfaccilities, schools, universities, houses, highways, networks, etc. , etc.

2.2 SENSING The first important question is how to describe 'unity'. You can find unity in the basic human values: integrity, respect, love. No human being can do without them. You can recognise them in daily life through communication and by sensing. Sensing is the most reliable because words and pictures can distract you from the real message (look for example at an advertising campaign). The best name you can give to this sensing is 'authenticity'. It goes beyond 'taste', the message keeps alive because its roots are in the living experience of the creator. It can't be copied. In the world of art you can find several examples: Turner, Picasso, Klimmt, Rothko. All are making it possible to experience this sensing.

2.3 EFFORTS IN THE PAST

In designing/planning there always seems to be a tention between diversity and unity. However in the past there have been made some efforts of trying to solve this problem by making a vision about the human being: what it needed, how to make it a part of a society and how to fit it in a design of a building, quarter, city. In the Netherlands there are beautiful examples of this 'trying' (and also present in the South wing of the Randstad). We name two of them (but there are more) Agnetapark (L.P. Zochers & E. Gugel, 1885, Delft) with the device: 'De fabriek voor allen, allen voor de fabriek' (The factory for all, all for the factory.) and Pendrecht (L. Stam-Beese, 1950, Rotterdam) with the device: 'De stad der toekomst, de toekomst der stad' (The city of the future, the future of the city). If you put these designs in perspective (the historical context: industralisation/ C.I.A.M.(Chart d'Athenes)) and walk through these areas you can sense the story, the intention: the vision of the human being as a social creature has been made visible.

2.4 IDEAS FIXED

You can also find a lot of examples that don't follow any kind of vision of the human being. The vision is one that is concerned with statistics, a political conviction or tied to economical figures. Examples can be found all over the world (mostly connected with an image of a large housingblock or quarters with uniform familyhousing): 'unity' and a disaffection to 'diversity'. All these 'ideas fixed' have lead to the look a like houses in every city, 'Mc Donald-ism' (the same shops in the same shoppingmalls in the same setting with other 'Mc Donalds') and a mechanical thinking of solving problems. Important to mention in these situations: all linked to a short-term thinking. Building with attention to the environmental situation have resulted in lowering the ceelings (to 2.30 meters). For the enviroment this can be positive (on the short term) but in the human perspective it has nothing to do with the human scale (human being is getting taller). On the longer term these houses won't last long as a building.

2.5 THE POWER OF COLOURS AND FORMS

How to change this direction? How to persuade people to think in the long-term? How to make humanity again the starting point? And as an important result of this new thinking, how to experience it?

The 'how to' words are mentioned. Therefore you need to inspire people to move the frase 'how to' and change the '?' in a '!'.

We use in these situations the words 'the Power of Colours and Forms' (in art, design, architecture and urban design) and our own experiences with this 'power' wich realised projects. In this setting of a contest we use the example of the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna that is becoming near to our vision. Social housing that has its unity in the human values:

the need for nature, the need for recognition, the need for colours, the need for people to express themselves. And its diversity in its authenticity: the forms and colours.

A housingblock that made a human vision visible supported by the local government and financiers. An interaction between the short-term thinking and the long-term thinking resulted in a inspiring building and public space.

3. OUR VISION

3.1 UNITY

Our 'unity' is committed with our vision of the human being. Every human being wants to be free in thinking, feeling and acting. This liberty is defined in latency! If you restrict someone by your actions this liberty will lead to constraint, suppression or oppression.

A human being wants to feel that his life is worth living it. To be appreciated, treated with respect. To be part of a whole. These 'needs' are universal. In time and with no discrimination of race or culture.

3.2 AUTHENTICITY

But how to deal with the so visible diversity of the human being? What can we do with that?

Our conviction is that, as already said, the 'unity' lays in authenticity. It can't be taught, it can't be copied, it can only be lived. No beautiful stories can cammouflage a lack of this authenticity, people will sense it and because people are the users/owners of the designers product (city, street, house, design) they are the first to let you know!

3.3 TRAP

In this perspective it is good to mention the example of the 'Hundertwasserhaus'. Because of the 'booming business' by the attention of the touristic industry (busses of tourist are visiting the site daily) the whole idea has been copied by Hundertwasser himself, in the form of a shoppingmall at the other side of the street (the Experience Shopping Centre). When you enter this shoppingmall something is missing. It isn't authentic, it is only a copy, repeating some forms and colours that he used in the 'Hundertwasserhaus'. And this is the 'trap' for a designer. It would have been better if it was done with the same attitude, not in the same way.

3.4 RIGHT ATTENTION

Designing (on every scale-level) becomes a matter of the 'right attention'. This attention depends on the place of action (there exists no 'tabula rasa'!): Every spot on a map has its history, its context, its appearances, and its authenticity (even the new made land (the 'polders') in the Netherlands). In the form as well as in the non-form (social, economical, cultural).

The result is that people can sense and most important experience the 'unity in diversity' of the design.

4. THE IDEA: A SYMPHONY!

How to put an idea into practice? How to avoid realising an 'idea fixed' on paper? How to inspire people with an idea?

4.1 INSPIRING PEOPLE

Our skill is to inspire people by our authenticity. With the language we 'speak': colours and forms. In urban design, architecture, art & design. Two, three & four dimensional. From children to adults, from directors/managers to employers, from rich to poor.

For this contest, as a first step, in words by lectures, courses/workshops and coaching. For people who are involved in making the decisions of what processes are taking place in the South wing of the Randstad. On an environmental, social, economical or cultural level. To let them experience the 'unity' in diversity in projects that they put forward themselves. To look in a different perspective to a project, for brainstorming, for innovation, for communication, for contemplation. To inspire them so they can inspire other people!

The Province of South Holland can take the innitiative to inspire in two directions: the local goverments and the central government.

4.2 TRANSFORMATION

For us is the most inspiring setting of course realising a project (building/neighbourhood) where people can experience the 'Unity in Diversity'. A project that has the blueprint 'problem' (environmental/ social/ economical/ cultural) transformed by the power of colours and forms:

- Solving problems as criminality & degradation;

- Transforming neglectance into requiring;

- Inspiring people to find their own authenticity.

A transformation that will lead to a place where people sense and experience the 'unity' by its authenticity!

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