Designs on us

Aug 4th, 2013 | By | Category: Ireland

Did you ever wonder why things had to be as they are? Not fate and all that stuff, no, real, actual things, the objects around about, the items you encounter every day; who decides on what stuff should be like?

Sitting on a bus one day, the thought occurred that someone must have decided that road signs should be as they are, somewhere there must be an office where they decide on such things, somewhere there must be an official who decides on colours and shapes and sizes and materials, but, if there is, he seems very firmly hidden.

But it’s not just road signs, look around any ordinary house, any ordinary kitchen, how many decisions were taken on the multiplicity and the diversity of design involved in what you can see while eating your porridge in the morning?

Of course, there are design institutes and there are books and books describing the history of design, but they deal with outcomes, what about the consultative process? Maybe it is simply market forces, what sells is produced, what doesn’t sell disappears, yet someone, somewhere must have decided which products they would test on the market. Maybe it’s more the case that if we want something we must buy what is produced because there is no available alternative.

The question, “who decides on this?” seems particularly apposite in airport terminal buildings; without any consultative process, decisions are taken which affect the millions of people who use the airport. Who decided that airports around the world should conform to a particular pattern, to the extent that sometimes one hardly knows in which country the airport might be? Someone surely takes these decisions? Somewhere there must be an airport conformity committee which imposes a particular pattern on facilities.

It’s airport design that has most often caused pondering of the environment around: did airport terminals really have to turn out the way they did? Whose idea were these amalgams of concrete, plastic and metal? Who decides that the number of seats provided should be a fraction of the number of passengers waiting for the flight? Who decided upon seats that seem designed for discomfort? Who decides that passengers must pass through arcades of shops in order to reach departure gates? Who decides that the prospect of relaxing should be pushed as far as possible from people’s minds?

Maybe design is a process of evolution, things turning out as they do through a process of adaptation, if there is conscious intent, why is there no consultation? Dublin Airport is in public ownership, shouldn’t the public have some input into the way it is shaped?

 Airport queue

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