NL Design Resource Centre
There's something oddly paradoxical about Newfoundland and Labrador. This land's small and dispersed population seems to produce a high percentage of wildly intelligent and creative individuals who, both at home and throughout the world, spend their lives accomplishing great feats and leading communities through times both fruitful and challenging. Yet for all this genius and charisma, we can't seem to get our own house in order. We seem to collectively lack a mind (or patience) for forward-looking, long-term planning and design. Because of this, we have seen the squander of our main industries; the boring and harmful sprawl of urban and rural development; and the disappointing, unnerving mismanagement of our provincial treasury and health care system. Why is this? How is it that we can't walk down a city street or visit a community around the bay without getting caught up in vibrant, intelligent conversation -- but we can't seem to agree on priorities for our young people's education?
We believe the answer is cultural. That's not to say there's something “wrong” with Newfoundland and Labrador's culture; indeed, our culture is something of which to be fiercely proud and supportive. Rather, our culture seems to lack a shared vocabulary or worldview. One that would enable us to move past petty and simplistic arguments and onto visionary and inspiring movements to develop plans and build structures and institutions that reflect our values, our strengths, and our immense wealth of opportunities. To that end, our group is proposing the creation of a Design Resource Centre. We envision a publicly accessible “storefront” where people from all walks of life can be exposed to the myriad concepts and possibilities that the term “design” presents. It will be space where courses in architecture, interior design, heritage preservation, urban planning, and design thinking are taught by experienced individuals, sometimes in partnership with our university and colleges (MUN, College of the North Atlantic, Academy Canada, etc.). It will be a resource centre, containing books, magazines, and of course real people experienced in the various fields of design. A place to simply “pop in” and learn (or share) ideas.
from the studio2of 2It will be a hangout for kids and adults who simply want to explore and discuss concepts new and old with other like-minded individuals. Where ideas are formed, debated, and then spread through op-eds, events, and real-life projects. And it will be a venue -- a focal point -- to hold the larger, province-wide discussion about how we can finally harness our ingenuity, plan a sustainable path forward, and achieve our true potential -- all through and by design. The grand vision for the Design Resource Centre is to one day enable a full-fledged school of architecture or urban planning. Newfoundland and Labrador doesn't have either of these, and we believe having one here would enshrine “design thinking” as a key aspect of our culture. Building upon the principles currently being explored at the new Creative Innovation Hub in the Neal Building at 50 Harbour Drive, the Design Resource Centre is seen as a “seed” -- a minimum viable product for the startup that will one day be a prized local institution.
The Centre would support the grand vision in several ways. It would help consolidate a currently fragmented architectural community, creating a space where people can discuss with, learn from, and seek advice of experts in architecture, design, and urban planning. It would also provide the opportunity to address a province-wide issue: currently, developers are required by law to involve an architect in their projects; however, there are few architects practicing outside of the St. John's core. The Centre can house a collaborative initiative (in partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Architects Association and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador) whereby architects are available to review outside projects, assisting both municipalities and developers in making better decisions. And all of these activities will be exposed to and engage members of the public -- especially young people -- to help us all gain a better understanding of the concepts, benefits, and real-life work of planning and design. We will leverage the $12,500 Albedo Grant funding to plan, design and upgrade our downtown space on Harbour Drive, brand and promote it, and fill it with physical design-related resources. This will all be heavily “subsidized” by enthusiastic partnerships and volunteer contributions, because it will be built by and for the community it serves.