Thinking outside the box. Win-Win. Let’s blue-sky this for a while.
The business community has a great habit of inventing catchy titles for everyday ways of being. There was already language in place for each of those three opening examples (creativity, mutual benefit, and suspending constraints), but you can’t sell self-help books that way,
In recent years, a new term has entered the architectural lexicon: evidence-based design. This, for me, is one of those ultimate WTF moments. What other kind of architecture could we possibly practice in any responsible way? But my students tell me regularly that evidence is in short supply in the profession and in their coursework. Design decisions are made on the flimsiest of suppositions — as the architect Herb McLaughlin said thirty years ago, we work structurally and mechanically down to three decimal points, but design for social outcomes by hunch.
The fact that we had to invent the term means that evidence-based design must stand outside the norm (just as creativity isn’t a regular feature of commerce, and hasn’t become any more so now that we call it thinking outside the box). Evidence exists — there is a body of research we could draw upon. But we don’t seek it.
And even more evidence is latent in all of the post-occupancy evaluation that has never been done. I was at an architectural conference at which one of the keynote speakers was the leader of a nanotechnology company, making objects measured in microns. One of the things he told us was that this technology was making sensors (for temperature, particulates, water flow, and all kinds of stuff) dirt-cheap. His challenge to us was “If you could install ten million sensors in your building, what would you measure?” To which one of the audience members, bless her heart, replied, “We already do. They’re called people. And we never collect their data.”
Evidence-based design. I mean, that’s just embarrassing. One would hope, for instance, that there’s no news flashes about evidence-based medicine. Or evidence-based plumbing. The antonyms of “evidence-based” in almost every other field would be “unemployed” or “disbarred” or “imprisoned.”