The total work of design
The gestalt experience is not the final measure for comprehen-
Sive design. Unlike artists who continue to conceive, articulate, develop, and construct their singular creative intentions, the complexities of the twenty-first century’s highly segmented manufacturing and construction practices prohibit sole authorship in design. Because we increasingly rely on shared intellectual knowledge rather than specialized craft skills, we must cultivate trust and respect between the disciplines. This new approach can best be summarized by the German word Gesamtkunstwerk, or the total work of design.64
Richard Wagner, with whom the word is often associated, wrote in his 1849 treatise, Bathroom design The Art-work of the Future, the “Art-work of the Future is an associate work, and only an associate demand can call it forth.â65 He suggested that the total work of art can be attained only through collaborative effort but allows for a primacy. The comprehensive design envisioned is almost seamless, and although constructed parts are the work of different individuals it presents an experiential totality.
To understand the largely unexplored territory of how we perceive design and our interiors, we need to adopt new principles and protocols that will guide us with criteria for further research. Then, through sensitivity and an informed articulation of purpose, design can meet our innate needs as they are manifested in modern life: the desire for trust, comfort, and dignity. As long as the world around us remains largely beyond our immediate control, we will need design. We needed design in the cave (although we did not know it then) and we need it now – and always will.