Singapore School of the Arts (SOTA) which features a living facade. Credit Paul McMullin.

+ When we contemplate the future, we may find ourselves wondering what we should be designing.

Our world is changing; it always has and it always will. Our greatest challenge is often not how to recognize change, but what to do about it. What responsibility does it place upon designers? I believe that a big part of our responsibility is to look openly and honestly at change, understand the implications and then consider what can/should/could be done about the evolving context.

There is no singularity of normal on our planet today. The needs and desires of each of the world’s seven billion citizens are widely varying, often seeming to be on an insatiable or incompatible path. Providing for global needs is a monumental task that will take all of the creative power and prowess of firms like Arup all over the world to co-create the new normal.

Each of us should be asking questions of ourselves as we work:

  • Do we have a duty, perhaps even a professional responsibility, to design to broader parameters than current frameworks, like local building regulations, demand?

  • Should we ensure that our clients understand the implications of the Drivers of Change on their projects, even if they do not want to hear about them?

  • Does anyone really know what fit-for-purpose for 2030 or 2050 really means?

  • Should we be suggesting, or even insisting, that the infrastructure we design takes a 100 year scenario rather than the often asked 20?

These are really tough questions for a firm of consultants who compete in a global marketplace. At Arup, we have a fiscal responsibility to our clients. But we also have a stated responsibility to shape a better world. Although there is often an artificial tension between finance and design, its resolution is a challenge I believe we have the capability and desire to meet. It is a challenge we should relish.

When we contemplate the future, we may find ourselves wondering what we should be designing. Instead, we really need to be thinking of how we can proactively co-create new normals all over the world that we will be proud to have been a part of.