The Big Question
How can we overcome apathy and division in order to truly engage with each other?
Celebrating culture, creating more inclusive, diverse places breaks down the segregation that can lead to deprivation and poverty.
The 21st Century approach is to administer prescribed solutions, bolt-on initiatives often reliant on funding from the National Lottery.
But there remains a disconnect — especially when many people still struggle through their daily lives.
As a society, how can we overcome apathy and division in order to truly engage with each other?
Find a place for craftsmanship and provenance in the 21st Century.
“Industrialisation and urban migration from the 2nd industrial revolution resulted in the loss of generations of skilled artisans and makers.
People’s lives were enriched by being able to access the process, to see and feel the benefits. The construction industry also failed to understand its value, losing much of the knowledge and skills needed to understand materials — to craft buildings and places. Now ironically, when technology is driving efficiency and mass production, we are also seeing a rise in societal values that appreciate provenance, authenticity and ethical sourcing.
Is it possible for a new workshop approach to return to the mainstream? Could we start a 21st Century arts and crafts movement?”
Return of the Motor City
Nowhere is the contrast between mass-scale manufacturing and craftsmanship more prevalent than in the city of Detroit. Built on the wave of the automotive industry — it was once one of the grandest and wealthiest cities on earth before falling into enormous decline. Lack of infrastructure, social issues and corruption meant the city fell hard, despite the many millions pumped back into the city by the car industry.
Instead it was the people and a return to the idea of making things that helped pull the city back. They adapted, bartering for services, founding their own recycling programmes. Artists returned to use the city itself as a canvas. Artisan brands like Shinola restarted to stoke the local economy. With new infrastructure like the Dequindre Cut providing safe travel and the D-Town Farm teaching children about self-empowerment and the environment, Detroit is a city well on the road to recovery.
Engineers need to become more culturally aware.
“Art and creativity fuels society but is recognised by its absence in many professions. Engineers are no different and yet they have an even greater need if they are going to be able to respond to the global challenges of tomorrow. The engineering professions need greater cultural awareness and more diverse thinking — to be creative as well as analytical, rational, objective.
We must become more artistic in everything we do and how we show it. An engineer’s role in arts and culture needs to be so much more than that ‘we just helped build a gallery’. Culturally, empathy needs to be seen at least as an equal to the might of technology. It is the only way we ill get the true societal benefit from the amazing changes taking place.
One of the great polymaths of the 20th Century was Buckminster Fuller. He was an architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist. Figures like him remind us of the incredible power of being open-minded and able to think creatively across disciplines and worlds. These are the kinds of people who have shifted and changed the world in which we live. He started early; at school he disagreed with the way geometry was being taught and by 12 he was designing propulsion systems for boats. As he got older he appreciated that design had to be validated by an understanding of materials. From this thought came a range of ideas he called ‘world-changing utopian concepts’. One of which was the geodesic dome structure. He then went on to create the extraordinary Dymaxion prototype car before focusing on energy and material efficiency in the fields of design, architecture and engineering.