Traces of evolution

Looking back at Stewart Brand's 'How Buildings Learn'

David GunnMay 2020

Back in the 80s, Stewart Brand (author of The Whole Earth Catalog and general SF maven) wrote a beautiful tome called How Buildings Learn, exploring the value of traditional architecture - the “minimum viable product” approach to buildings on the eastern seaboard in the 1800s.

It's a great book and worth digging out, but we love it most of all for its preface quote from Brian Eno – a gem that we find ourselves continually coming back to:

"We are convinced by things that show internal complexity, that show the traces of an interesting evolution... An important aspect of a design is the degree to which the object involves you in its own completion. Some work invites you into itself by not offering a finished, glossy one-reading-only surface. I think that humans have a taste for things that not only show that they have been through a process of evolution, but which also show they are still a part of evolution. They are not dead yet."

In the context of the kind of changework that we pursue at Something More Near, this is an idea we hold tightly to. Where traditional consultancy focuses on those “finished surfaces” – the polish of completed campaigns or products, or brands, we find the things that get under the skin, things that people return to – either employees of a company or audiences outside – are exactly those things that still feel like they are evolving. Maybe we can summarise it like this: if you’re in a position where you want to step into a different future, don’t just build things designed to provoke change, build things that are explicitly designed to change and grow as you do.

David Gunn

David Gunn

Participation specialist. Major projects for Tate, World Health Organisation, Museum of London and Franco Manca. Co-founder of Something More Near.

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