Designing environments for life : policy and practice

Ingold, Tim and Anusas, Mike and Vergunst, Jo, Lee and Wade, Rebecca (2010) Designing environments for life : policy and practice. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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This joint paper will present some of the thinking that arose from the four workshops on ‘Designing Environments for Life’ (DEFL), held at IAS during autumn 2009. The DEFL programme aimed to close the gap between everyday understandings of ‘environment’ and those adduced in the discourses of techno-science and policy-making, and in so doing, to challenge conventional thinking regarding the nature of design and creativity in a way that acknowledges the improvisatory skills and perceptual acuity of ordinary people. The results of our discussions can be summarised in the following three propositions: •Environments are inherently variable. Design should enhance the flexibility of inhabitants to respond to these variations with foresight and imagination. •The impulse of life is to keep on going. Design unfolds within constantly transforming life conditions, and should open up pathways for creative improvisation. •There is always a tension between hopes and dreams for the future and the material constraints of the present. Design should invite people from all walks of life to join in conversation around this tension. We will elaborate on these three propositions, and illustrate them by means of ‘real-life’ examples. The joint-paper will be introduced by Gill Clark (Office of Chief Research, The Scottish Government), and the speakers: Tim Ingold (Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Aberdeen), Mike Anusas (Lecturer, Design, Manufacture & Engineering Management, University of Strathclyde), and Jo Vergunst (RCUK Academic Fellow in Anthropology, University of Aberdeen). Throughout the DEFL programme, we have sought to ground our discussions in the everyday experience of the environments in which we live. In order to highlight this aspect of the programme, the presentation will be followed by a guided walk of one hour’s duration, in the vicinity of the venue, to explore themes arising from the discussion in a practical context. In the course of the walk, we will reflect on the objects and things, and the flows of energy and materials, that make up the environments in which we live.