Social Architecture

We Are All Designers

As humans, we are makers. We wield tools to transform our environment. We have collectively designed global systems of social, economic, and political power by our labour and participation in the ideas, work, and the processes, tools, machines, infrastructure, and architecture that enable these systems and activities.

However, after working intensively for the past century, based on a modern idea of progress that values efficiency and productivity as a means of creating continuous and limitless economic growth, we have set in motion systems that are resulting in the destruction of the biological support systems on which our lives and those of so many other creatures depend.

Slowing Down to Think

Given the unintended consequences of the social architecture that we have imagined, designed, and built, we recognize that there is a need to slow down to think about the values that are driving our work. We are finding that we have designed our lives in such a way that we are serving our corporations and our machines more than we are serving the needs of humans. We are serving abstract ideas and inanimate objects while destroying life.

The Design Process

The process of design has proven to be extremely effective in creating the modern world. We have discovered the tools to radically transform the physical environment. At the same time, we have fundamentally transformed ourselves as human beings, both for good and for ill.

Over the past century, we have focused on building our physical infrastructure, creating a social architecture that has solidified habits of thought, work, and social organization into forms that further entrench patterns of behaviour in social, economic, and political systems that are ultimately self-destructive.

This is a moment of realization and awareness that is motivating people to respond in anxiety, grief, and anger toward the grave circumstances in which we find ourselves. However, this is not the end of the story. We also have the means and ability to change the way we live. We can recognize the vast opportunities that this world affords and imagine the possibilities, research and define the challenges to be solved, design solutions to meet these needs, and build the kind of future in which we might all want to live.

Let us now focus on the metaphysical—that which is beyond the physical: the social, economic, and political. We tend to lack the language to converse about the metaphysical, since the modern approach to social communication focuses on advertising and marketing to maintain our economic system, and, as a result, tends to create a monopoly on the mode of public and civic discourse.

However, the technology of the modern world also gives us the means to shift the focus toward more democratic and equitable modes of conversation and engagement. Our ability to share ideas, resources, and efforts has been amplified by our technologies. We must begin with common values and the common good to redirect our time, energy, and resources into the work of reimagining, redesigning, and rebuilding our social architecture.