Design: a moral enterprise?

12 June 2014

The architect Michael B. Lehrer describes design as a moral enterprise, finding beauty in chaos and in places where people usually don’t look for value.  He illustrates his view of designers’ moral enterprise with examples of award-winning work:

Design–beyond visual or functional satisfaction, beyond a sense of well-being, beyond cache–asks the simple question: What is the LEAST resource needed to achieve an EXCELLENT outcome? Contradistinctive from “cheap”, it posits this challenge for an ethical, mindful life. It is about value: the value of value. The value of values.

Vitruvius, the great ancient Roman (and first) architectural theorist declares economy–the best for the least –a cardinal virtue of architecture. He elaborates this through the idea of appropriateness, using what is necessary /possible to achieve excellence.

For the architect, it suggests that there are no throwaway spaces. Find value/beauty where others don’t or can’t. In parking lots and chain link fence. Mine each situation for its inherent/usually-latent beauty. This trajectory, ultimately, is from shit to gold. It is potent, it is moral, it is magical.

Using only paint, Lehrer Architects created an enveloping entrance for this spiritual home

Using only paint, Lehrer Architects created an enveloping entrance for this spiritual home

 

Lehrer Architects took a dreary classroom building and, using minimal materials, transformed it into a joyous environment for learning

Lehrer Architects took a dreary classroom building and, using minimal materials, transformed it into a joyous environment for learning

Before: An old warehouse had good bones, which Lehrer Architects morphed into a light‐filled space for joyous work

Before: An old warehouse had good bones, which Lehrer Architects morphed into a light‐filled space for joyous work

After: Lehrer Architects found an existing warehouse and converted it into a hallowed place of making and creativity

After: Lehrer Architects found an existing warehouse and converted it into a hallowed place of making and creativity

Before: Lehrer Architects found this bleak parking lot in downtown LA and transformed it into an urban oasis

Before: Lehrer Architects found this bleak parking lot in downtown LA and transformed it into an urban oasis

After: Lehrer Architects used a bold pallet of softscape and hardscape to create an urban park from a desolate parking lot

After: Lehrer Architects used a bold pallet of softscape and hardscape to create an urban park from a desolate parking lot

Lehrer Architects willed a sense of wondrous place into existence on a previously barren, sun‐scorched plane

Lehrer Architects willed a sense of wondrous place into existence on a previously barren, sun‐scorched plane

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