The LDB Philosophy
The urban context is a laboratory of different forces at play – forces of movement and pace, forces of conflict between humankind and nature, forces of influence and evolution… When one thinks of a city as a living, breathing thing, you begin to understand the changes that take place over time – how it adapts to fluid conditions, puts energy into areas with vitality and growth, and hibernates where systems are shutting down and decaying. The city begins to function biologically… acting on a willingness to survive.
By contemporary standards, Baltimore has immense potential. This place that I have called home for over 40 years has evolved through several identities – once a blue-collar port city with a vital industrial capacity, now a mixture of income levels with an established healthcare base and a lot of question marks thereafter… what can it be?... why does it struggle?
I see it as the quintessential post-industrial city trying to find its footing in a world that has begun to leave ‘hand-made’ behind. The similarities with Detroit, Buffalo and other post-industrial urbanities are striking – however, Baltimore has the unique condition of wealth at its side, sponsored by the backbone of healthcare and all of its tentacles, and a state that has been, per capita, one of the strongest for the better part of a decade. And so it is here that designers and thinkers, artists and tinkerers might begin to employ experimentation to try to unfold the ways in which the man-made world works. How can a post-industrial city survive in the new millennium?
This question surfaces in my work in many ways.
Most often, there are considerations of wealth and poverty, of race and income, of past and future involved. The current class separation and the identifiable traits of a functional societal striation seemingly disappearing have led to more questions than answers. How can design transform perception? How can a detail generate meaning and influence in the human perspective? What ways are there to bring design into the lives of those who typically do not have access to it? And if access to design is granted, does it improve the condition?
This last question is one that I think a lot of designers and architects often forget about… having access to beautiful, well-crafted things isn’t a necessity for life… and if it is not considered carefully, it may not promote growth and development. It is here that I think my work has some uniqueness to it – that contemplative mode of understanding (or trying to understand) a condition before introducing design to the situation so that when something is proposed, it isn’t a one-point perspective on how things should be… Instead it is grounded in a dialogue that comes from the culture in which it is based – an open dialogue… ever-evolving… ever-changing… adaptable, and allowed to grow with the condition.
How design adapts to the constraints of its environment is a critical concern.
Materiality plays an important role. Make use of the familiar… re-use what has value. These are important things. ‘Hand-made’ has a premium beyond craft… it is about a kinship with material culture.
Form can be based on the familiar – but also needs to be questioned. Why does the form have value? Where did the familiarity come from? Can new forms be introduced without losing value? Such considerations are consistently within the realm of discourse.
Progress and change for the better are not invented. These are precise actions that need to be targeted within an existing dialogue in order to be truly beneficial. As a designer and thinker, knowing the thing one is trying to change before changing it is the most valuable commodity in the design process.