So far I've had a go at the first bit, which I'm sharing in the hope of working through the second bit. It is framed from a career perspective; however the vision I have for my work life is a fractal of a bigger picture I believe is important to meet some of the challenges we face in our urban environment.
The picture is tri-partite - a three-legged stool of sorts - each 'leg' a theme which has typically stood alone, but which could/should be integrated for a more holistic approach to cities, and a more satisfying work life.
These three 'legs' are: Design, Education and Research.
Of these, the weakest link in the context of future cities is the one between design and education - which is where I'd like to make a professional home for myself. Both also need to be underpinned by research though, asking new questions of urban infrastructure and the built form.
I have explored many of details of the three legs in previous posts: trans-disciplinary design (here), thresholds of critical mass for urban density (here) and alternative infrastructure for African cities (here) among others.
When I look at the things that bring me the most joy in work, there can be no question that they are interactive design in a team of specialists responding to a resilience brief; and teaching people about sustainability and design. In both, the joy of telling a new story, of creating a new path and bringing people along on the journey is paramount.
I want to spend the majority of my work time either teaching or designing. Where possible, I would like to teach and design in an environment where the experience contributes to a transformation in the way we all look at the world and our place in it - experiential design.
And all of this must be partnered by strong ties into research... The challenges for our urban spaces are changing and growing at a rate that our conventional knowledge transfer mechanisms are insufficient. We must have new institutions that allow us to nimbly adapt design and education to relevant research... Eudaimonic institutions (economist and blogger Umair Haque has written extensively on institutional reform to support lives ‘lived meaningfully well’, or ‘Eudaimonic’ institutions – an excellent post is here, and I’d recommend reading his book “betterness” too).
So what do these new institutions look like?
My immediate response was to look for the cities research institutes at leading universities (UCT African Centre for Cities is my local example) and find a teaching/research post with the freedom to provide design advice too. Another might be to work within the consulting engineering sector and partner with research and education institutions. Yet another might be a start-up offering new approaches to design such as Biomimicry? I've considered all of these at one time or another, but they all seem to be locked into our existing, failing institutions...
And now I prefer to think that the answer is a combination of each of them: pulling together the best of our design consulting, research and teaching institutions, and packaging something more agile, useful, resilient... meaningful. I'd like to start some crowd-sourcing on what this institution might look like in more detail and who might want to come along for the ride.
Please share specific questions or lead-in points to the discussion in the comments.