The sampling of the stories in the book, many of them authored by Kingsley Hammett, visibly articulate the importance of these community-led and community-inspired efforts. In “Disguise—Going Undercover to Experience Life as an Elder,” Kingsley quotes Patricia Moore, the industrial designer, graphic designer, gerontologist, and sociologist, when she said, “I recognized back in the 1970s that designers would become the anthropologists of our time… And in taking responsibility as that gatekeeper, designers would have to become versed in a number of different languages and disciplines. We would have to understand the lifestyles of others without making judgments. And I think architects and designers have to recognize that it’s not so much their own dreams and visions that are consequential to end users, but rather what they can do to understand the lifestyles of people in order to make a difference by design.”
This is not an argument against design or an indictment of those well-motivated folks engaged in re-awakening our collective consciousness about the failures and social, economic, and environmental disparities of our society and the abrogation of the social contract between government and its people. Indeed we should applaud their efforts. Rather, it is a call for a greater understanding of our own domestic history, which was so ably reported in DESIGNER/builder magazine and recounted and celebrated in The Architecture of Change. It is a recognition that the “designer egotist” made popular by Ayn Rand’s fabricated Howard Roark is as out of line with our times as is her destructive economic doctrine.
The Architecture of Change is a must-read. First to trigger the discourse described above, for if we do not properly utilize the foundation upon which we build, our structure is seriously compromised. Secondly, there is a need to inform generations of design students, decision makers, and community leaders about the interventions of the past 50 years—to learn from its successes, avoid its mistakes, and be inspired by its aspirations. Finally, it gives us the opportunity to debate how the design process can be applied to addressing the complex social, economic, and environmental problems facing our society as we confront the newer challenges of climate change, sea level rise, and the chronic issue of poverty and growing social and economic disparities.
Jerilou Hammett and Maggie Wrigley have given us a unique gift that is an important tribute to a significant and discerning individual—Kingsley Hammett. The ultimate tribute, however, is to keep alive the message that Kingsley sought to communicate and that is to bring our skills together with those of the people we serve to create a better, safer, and more equitable world. This point is best summarized in the chapter by Dominic Moulden entitled “One DC,” where he states “One of our theories is that we are interested in resident-led change, resident-led development. We provide people with the skills and the talent to evaluate the inequity in their neighborhood. This is not about service. This is about systematic change that’s focused on inequity around land, income, and housing.”
Reminding people about the need for systemic change and the belief that change is possible when those affected lead is the legacy that The Architecture of Change celebrates. The challenge for the next generation of designers is to find the right role to play in order to support and aid this resident-led, community-building process.