The definition of design as an act of change from one state to another in the hope of it being bettered inherently requires a sense of morality, of principle, of ethics. For one cannot change what is without believing in how one thinks it should instead be. Morals that define right from wrong inform the designer’s vision for what must change, and how it must change. Our economy and our industry have commoditized the act of design to the point of reducing it to a process of product manufacturing. The act of change, however, manifests itself as a purpose, and the will to realize that purpose; to realize change requires the production of an idea rather than a product.
The process of design demands that one think differently. Not for the sake of simply doing something different, but in the hope that we can achieve a better state. Because there is not a time where the present conditions are enough. New forms of thinking are born when multiple distinctive fields of knowledge intersect. The urban fabric is not composed of just a single culture, nor does it teach any single discipline. The architect must understand this reality, so that they may bring to form an environment which allows those many cultures and disciplines to interact with each other, inform one another, and grow.
The design of a building will not change the social forces that divide cultures, nor the policies created by politicians, nor the economic conditions that perpetuate inequalities. Architecture is not an agent of action. But architecture carries with it the ability to change the state of an individual’s mind. Our environment can stimulate self-reflection, it can inspire thought, and it can alter feelings. This happens everyday without our notice. It is those feelings, thoughts, and consciences that influence the decisions we make to affect the realms of society, politics, and economics. Without thinking about those impacts, the architect will never achieve the full purpose of the built world.
To deliberately shape the urban environment in which man lives requires the understanding of, and attention to, an immense range of perspectives. A structure’s inhabitants, those who live around it, those who visit it, those who construct it, those who pay for it, and those who legally allow for it, all of whom are historians, investors, technicians, engineers, politicians, artists, business owners, parents, children, etc. The design of architecture creates change that impacts a myriad of stakeholders. It becomes a permanent fixture of our environment, and in doing so, becomes responsible for innumerable more consequences than those that are compensated for.
The design of architecture is a public act rather than a private one. Yet the public never asks for purposeful design. They do not ask for the architecture that surrounds. They lack the ability and the will. Even so, the architect must design for a public’s needs and wants without them ever having to be expressed. That design will in every instance change the lives of the public, and only then will the public find what they have needed or wanted, or what they do need or want.