Design can still learn from earlier humans who left a lighter footprint on the planet. The tenuousness of subsistence before the rise of industrial agriculture illustrates the delicate balance between human survival and ecology. In around 1275, the Anasazi people constructed dwellings in hollowed-out sandstone caves in the cliffs of the American Southwest so that the maximum amount of arable land was available to them in the fertile valleys below. Many of the sites were abandoned in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries when the ecology of the valleys changed, probably due to water shortages that made survival impossible, even for small bands of humans.14 On a small scale, the Anasazi appear to have achieved, if only for a matter of decades, the problem of maintaining a balance between population and resources – fundamentally the same problem that we need to resolve on a very large scale. While the elemental stakes of survival are no longer as evident in our modern world, they have not changed. Rather, they have become layered in more sophisticated surroundings; this makes, and has made, survival no less precarious. Supplies of food and water – our most basic necessities – may become inadequate.15 Scarcity of fresh water is a potential calamity for societies that are concentrated in urban centers or mega-
Structures. While this turn of events is not in the immediate purview of designers, we must be aware of the possibility in order to help shape the delicate equilibrium between the natural environment and modern man. With an increase in population and an ever greater range of age groups concurrent in the work force, a radical change in societal behaviors is to be anticipated (see population and life expectancy diagrams on pages 176 and 177). Achieving this change must be design’s primary goal.
Design is both a rational and an intuitive exercise, a composite form of the arts and sciences. Small space design ideas living rooms It drives human progress and must be palliative at all times, so that we may continue to honor our human roots:
The world has now become aware of the impasse to which we have been led through an overemphasis on purely rational thought. We have again become conscious of the limits of logic and rationality. We again realize that the principles of form are based on more profound and significant elements than rigid logic. We know that things are not simple, and that, even when we wish to, we are unable to cut ourselves off abruptly from the whole of our past: it continues to live on in us.16
Recognizing design as the means by which we survive and as the creative engine of human adaptation, we must now attempt to restore these “more profound” and “significant” elements to the process. Designers must endeavor to capture heightened experiences, generating trust, dignity, respect, and pride in ourselves and our world; to reinvent comfort so that it becomes a platform for successful human interaction; and to provide the responsible foundations of living upon which humanity may continue to progress. Let the initial sense of security and the exhilaration our ancestors felt when they first entered the cave begin anew. By recapturing that earliest sense of discovery, we will design the environments of the future – environments that will bring us delight, pleasure, satisfaction, and the ultimate sense of well-being: the sense of being human.
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