Design the Future

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By Amanda Dameron / Published by Dwell
Read the Editor’s Letter from our upcoming September/October edition and look for the issue on newsstands in the first week of September.

Tomorrow’s success depends on the good deeds of today.  

If there has ever been an age in which progressive design thinking is required, surely this is it. Designers, architects, engineers, builders, innovators of all stripes: We need your ideas, your grasp of beauty, your rejection of banality and cynicism. The gifts of the creative mind must lead the way. 

Pleasant images of enviable homes are one thing, but architects exploring new materials and techniques are the real focus of our admiration. On Tasmania, an island state of Australia, a partially prefab retreat is surrounded by Tasman gold gravel to ward off the bushfires that plague the area. Architects Lisa Gray and Alan Organschi used cross-laminated timber, a building material that is gaining notice in the United States for its efficiency, accuracy, and strength, for an aging firehouse in New Haven, Connecticut, that is now a resource for a wide community of music lovers. The practice of charring cedar, a centuries-old Japanese technique called shou sugi ban, which protects against bugs, mold, rot, and fire, was used by architects for a lakefront home in Leelanau County, Michigan. These are the kinds of ideas that make a difference. 

Finding bold solutions to the problems of our time is the essence of modern design thinking. Complacency is a formidable hurdle—avoid it at all costs. Heed the advice of John Baptiste Yeon II—a timber magnate and the father of pioneering modern architect John Yeon—who at the turn of the last century made huge strides in opening up the Pacific Northwest through the creation of roads and infrastructure: "Hit the future as hard as your money and brains will permit. Otherwise you will be out of date tomorrow."