A rant on the economy and creativity

2010/11/08 § Leave a comment

It’s been in the news a lot lately:  The dreaded economy. It’s been a rough go the past two years working within fields that partake in building our environments.

As the high-end of the economy begins to show momentum due to large corporate maneuvering overseas, the ever-expanding gap between the high and middle classes, and wall street bailouts, local economies continue to suffer.  My interest in this lies in the historical connection between good ideas and economic strife.   Arte povera, for example flourished when,  “Artists began attacking the values of established institutions of government, industry, and culture, and even questioning whether art as the private expression of the individual still had an ethical reason to exist.”  Russian Constructivism began in a down-turn with aspirations towards moving on from art for its own sake and instead sought to  practice with social purposes.  In contemporary life,  The Rural Studio of Auburn University has shown us what collectivity and creativity can accomplish with little money to help fund it.

Realizing that the above are major movements, it can’t hurt to think about different forms of architecture and design-related endeavors that could flourish in the shit-mess of a country we’re living in right now.  It can’t hurt to position the cultural creatives as decision makers and problem solvers, able to help out the middle class that just kicked the democrats’ ass.

1.  The real estate industry is down, so why not team public and private interests together to utilize vacant lots and street fronts?  An owner of a particular infill lot, while not having any chance in hell to sell in the economic climate, goes into a partnership with a design collective.  That design collective gets a city grant to pay for a foundation to be constructed in the lot, to be used down the line.  In the meantime, a public space, or market, or garden, or plaza emerges in the short-term.  Perhaps ephemeral food vendors could set up shop, all with the charge that there is money to inject in to the locale while the economy-at-large heals.

2.  Recycling.  What happened to the shipping container craze of the last decade?  It seems like now is as good as time as any to develop ideas that take into account the recycling of trade-related or consumer-driven flotsam.  It’s strange how there were so many ideas floating around when the economy was roaring, and little to none now that the economy sucks.  We need to think about micro-architecture, the small-scale, ephemeral, “biological” component of the built environment that changes constantly, and how it relates to markets, economies, and its slow-moving, more permanent “geological” cities..  Perhaps we could make bike towers out of shipping containers or cement mixers, or perhaps we could create small-scale water collection parasites out of old fuel tanks.

3. Get out of the city.  With all the this-that-and-the-other of branded and marketed consumer driven city living, we’ve lost a little touch with the edge.  Suburbs are hell, we all know that, so why haven’t we seen more Rural studios in suburbia?  The Suburban or Exurban studio, practicing how to increase density, how to get around without cars, or how to change our notion of extended families?

4.  Towns.  There are a lot of wonderful little towns in this country.  What with telecommuting, we can live anywhere.  Look at the real estate.  I can guarantee you’ll get a killer deal on a beautiful little century old house for a fraction of the price in the city you live in.  We need to reinvest in those towns, find something they’re good at, and foster it locally. Grow community colleges, run for office.  If indeed everyone is moving to the city, why the hell not move to a wonderful, self sustaining town with proximity to the city?  Have a great quality of life, telecommute, and organize locally.


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