I will be traveling to Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region this week to carry out preparation work for the Global Design Studio initiative of the School of Design at Singapore Polytechnic. The studio is conceived to expose students to different social and cultural practices in Asia as part of their design education experience. Centered around the notion of urban artifacts, the studio is scheduled to take place in January 2012 and will focus on urban artifacts across different scales and uses. Their appropriation, adaptation, privatization and obsolescence offer fascinating mirrors to how cities in Asia are radically transformed presently. Hong Kong, SAR was chosen as a city laboratory for the inaugural studio for several reasons; its high-density living environment, the presence of a robust civic society, lingering traditional customs and belief systems, and a service-centric economy. The intermingling of, and tension between old and new, tradition and progress, social advocacy and a market-driven economy will give the studio a great impetus as we move forward with this ambitious project.
A lot has been published and spoken about creativity and innovation, with business schools jumping onto the bandwagon proclaiming design thinking as the next big savior that will bring about innovation in the business world. Some even claim they teach design, and travel the world peddling their one-liners and design workshops. It is good, on the one hand, that the popularization of design has given the field a wider audience and expanded the scope of design services. However, it has also greatly undermined the deeper value of a good design education. The current trend tends to create the perception that it can be reduced to a method and repeated with success regardless if one is in Chicago or Hong Kong.
Therefore, Robert Grudin’s book, The Grace of Great Things is a breath of fresh air for me as an educator and a lifelong student of architecture and design. Grudin situates creativity and innovation within a larger social context that demands the persistent renewal and questioning of self and the world. To be creative requires the development of character, an enduring human values of imagination, integrity, courage and surprisingly, the value of pain as well. Grudin argues that pain in the creative process, which he identifies four types; perception, expression, closure and self-expression, is vital if one were to overcome psychological barriers of stepping into the unknown, of persisting, completing and accepting criticism. For Grudin, modern society’s desire to remove pain, to avoid unpleasant moments, to be overly accommodating, and to have excuses for failure to the point of blaming the system has evolved into what he termed as a ‘rhetoric of failure’.
I read Migropolis a few weeks after returning from Singapore. Smacked right underneath the atrium of the ultra modern shopping mall in the downtown were the iconic Venetian canal and gondolas, albeit more streamlined to complement the sleek modern interior. The mall is part of the brand new Marina Bay Sands “integrated resort” aka casino developed by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which also owns the Venetian in Las Vegas and the Venetian Macao in the Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, among other casinos. The malleability of spaces and meanings, besides the fluid mobility of goods, capital, information and human beings across porous national boundaries in an age of globalization render a sense of familiarity yet alienation for me when confronted with the replica of the shallow canal and empty gondolas in an hermetically sealed interior environment in Singapore. Scheppe’s work in Migropolis therefore calls to our urgent attention with clarity and force what the perceptive among us sense and recognize with great disconcert as we live our lives in this milieu.
Borges began his story in the Book of Sand by stating that "The line is made up of infinite points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes."
Neither his book or sand has any beginning, middle or end. Like sand, the surface of the earth has no beginning or end; only the artificially imposed lines of the meridians. The earth is a continuous, endless surface constantly in motion.
Kobe Abe wrote that scientist have determined the size of a single grain of sand is 0.25mm. What is 0.25?
The idea of measure is about setting limits, delineating boundaries. Imagine standing in the middle of the desert and someone asked you to give him 50 pound of sand.