Designing for quality S P A C E

Lots to say about the why of making our mini-mag S P A C E. This Autumn, our theme is ‘Trust the Process.’ Which means it’s time to review all the big important questions surrounding that. Like, ‘What does it mean to be creative? Who does this work? Why does it matter? How can one bring more creative thinking into her or his every day to day?’

Lots like I said.

For me, it goes back in time to the nice cafe that used to be Bauhaus, in Capitol Hill, Seattle. It was down the street from my office, at the time, when Design Kompany had a brick-and-mortar on Olive Way. I was with a client of mine, an architect, who, like me, was curious about relational art. And contextualization of buildings that she was designing. She told me about how dialogues happen between buildings and the things right around them. She talked about the Situationists, Guy DeBord, the society of the Spectacle, and how we have to look around and drift a bit if we want to hit on good ideas. I ingested all this, with careful, curious expression, I’m certain. Quietly absorbing, listening for the next. She was helpful and educational and I learned so much from that engagement. Like most of our projects in Seattle, I got quite a lot out of working with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Living on the road these days and not really working on many client gigs, I’m missing those days, and wishing for more of the kind of stimulating back-and-forth that I so adored about having my own studio in that city, when it was ‘home.’

Now, I make S P A C E. To invite people to join me in these ad hoc, popup versions of what we used to do, in Seattle, at my office. I just kind of make up moments, on the spot, based on themes, and get together with the people whose paths I am just happening to be crossing in that shared space of time and overlap in geolocation. Given my weird gift for getting to know  people quite quickly and discovering things together in a short time, a gift I probably picked up from my father as well as a couple of years gabbing in Ireland at pubs whilst the pubgoing was good, it works. Just a handful of people are all I think I can deal with, at any given moment, learning as I did from the overwhelming crowds that came to, say #makedurham when we did that, or #durhamtweetup, when that happened, and before that, giant parties like Pop!, Sugar, and Dazzle, which I loved hosting, but you know what? They were too big, and I couldn’t carry on a quality conversation. So small. Small and focused. Is what I make now. In S P C. Mini-parties, mostly. No more than six.


‘The Great Good Place’

Architects and DK really get along. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that I used to work for some of them. A firm in Tokyo, one in Raleigh. Many people surrounding me who were just as invested in the idealism of architecture, inspiring us to be the best we can as a species. Overly hopeful? Maybe. But I think the architects that I most enjoyed jamming with, creatively, and conversationally, were the ones who, like me, wanted things to be more cool and more improved and socially exciting and good for people than just ho-hum and ‘value engineered’ and stuff that didn’t move us, idealistically.

When I worked in architecture (late 1990s), I found out about ‘The Great Good Place,’ a book and idea of Ray Oldenburg‘s, who called one’s “first place” the home and the “second place” the workplace. Wikipedia says his ‘third places,’ ‘are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.’

(‘Does this have anything to do with me,’ you ask? Well, if you are feeling like there ought to be more to life than home and work, then yeah. It does.) A third place, the article goes on to spell out, welcomes you, is comfy, and is highly accessible. Old and new people are there. There’s no agenda (social, legal political, etc), and you can come and go as you like.

‘Third places put no importance on an individual’s status in a society. Someone’s economic or social status do not matter in a third place, allowing for a sense of commonality.’


‘Conversation is the main activity’

No prerequisites, no obligations. And my favorite part is this: ‘Conversation is main activity. Happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places… The tone of conversation is usually light… and humorous; wit and good natured playfulness are valued… Regulars to third places attract newcomers, and are there to help someone new to the space feel welcome and accommodated… Occupants of third places often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.’


The invitation

Join me in my online version of this, S P C. I’m keen to gather the new and the different, for conversations and co-creations ahead. Who wants to be part of this journey of making, together, improvising and seeing what happens, as we go? It’s a conversation, and I’m the host. I’m kind of into it, already. People meeting each other, near and far, thanks to this small initiative to invite, connect, and discover. Together. In S P C. I’m asking people to subscribe so I can focus on just those who opt-in, one of the very important features of Open Space is that those who elect to take part are truly engaged, and interested, of their own accord. No need to join for being polite, and no need for me to host, by the same turn, for that same reason, either. Let’s focus on what conversations develop, with those who subscribe to take part. Participation fees apply. More at the crowdfunding page about the whole project…  learn more, and subscribe to Make | S P C.

Architects are especially welcome, this round. Thanks!