“It is impossible,” pronounced Rogers, “to divorce the building from its legal, technical, political, and economic context. At the same time, a major part of any design approach is the way constraints may be absorbed and whenever possible in- verted into positive elements.” (p 34)
As I read Rowe’s Chapter on Designers-in-Action, I could not help but notice that a key stakeholder was barely mentioned in the “protocols” mentioned: the person using/living/moving through these spaces. (Let’s call them users). Everything that we design exists in context, and in the end becomes an ultimate particular, specifically because of the context, designer background, and circumstances that led to that design to exist. Who is the user is a key component in driving a design, and I somehow felt this was not properly addressed in the text. The quote above talks about context, but fails to address the local context, who are the stakeholders apart from the commissioners.
The existence of the user is implicit, but I wonder why this is the case. “The potential function of this major exterior space was investigated further, with the result that it became cast in the role of outdoor amphitheater and storm water detention and retention device. ” (p 10) Throughout the text there are several examples of direct mentions of usages (implying usage by people). Perhaps the point where I finally felt people were addressed directly was the “Le Corbusier’s Venicll Hospital” case: “The pedestrian ways are amazingly economical, all very efficient. … I disentangled the puzzle of the houses, the networks of pedestrians.. .. ” (p 29) There are other mentions of circulation, office spaces, etc, but all of them as an artifact out of context. I find this interesting because a building, or urban space is not just about aesthetics, making a statement, or blending with the environment. Perhaps the decisions would have been different had their self-imposed constraints involved users more prominently.
When Rowe describes the design process, he mentions a framing and re-framing of the problem space by the designer: “it is apparent that the un- folding of the design process assumes a distinctly episodic structure, which we might characterize as a series of related skirmishes with various aspects of the problem at hand.” (p 34) I can see the value of focusing on one thing and doing it well, however, as designers, there is a social responsibility to always focus on the ultimate user. Who’s reality are we affecting and why. When we reframe the problem or opportunity space, we do it in the service of others in a way.