Editor’s Letter: Ideas for Life

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By Amanda Dameron
Here is the best idea for life: Choose to be extraordinary.

No matter who you are, you can overcome obstacles with imagination and focus. This is the practice of good design—finding the right tools to identify hidden opportunities. Learning how to see, as George Nelson advised, is essential, because it is the invisible details that shape our lives.

This is not a solo enterprise. We are at our best when we collaborate; communities thrive when citizens share a commitment to the future. This is perfectly illustrated in Columbus, Indiana, the site of many an architecture student’s pilgrimage. Here, a family’s dedication to modern design led to a rich, and arguably unmatched, urban tapestry. Today the city represents something important, and through the efforts of a new generation of locals, the hoped-for future for this "Athens of the Prairie" is secure.

Success comes to those who are unafraid to fail. Experimentation, and its inevitable setbacks, is crucial for progress. Whether it’s a leap of faith, as in the case of an artist who entrusted the realization of her dream home to a young, aspiring architect and her builder father, or the dogged pursuit of a material breakthrough, as evidenced by a Miami Beach designer who used his own home as a canvas, the specter of defeat is a close companion to anyone taking a chance. 

Don’t give up. Support the triumphs of others, take heart in their unwillingness to accept restrictions. When glassmaker Simon Pearce tired of the bureaucratic snarls of doing business in Ireland early in his career, he left for the United States. Today his factories are staffed by trained artisans who work with handmade tools, and he has created a thriving, modern enterprise by using techniques employed for thousands of years.

We believe that home is the first arena for overcoming limitations. Solid design thinking is the answer to all problems in our current issue, whether the dwelling is a light-starved railroad apartment in Brooklyn; a decrepit water tower in England; or a Los Angeles bungalow in need of an accessible, secure upgrade. These battles weren’t won overnight. But the players persisted and they prevailed. 

"Whatever you do in this world, you’ve got a responsibility and a privilege of doing it the very best way you can," said J. Irwin Miller, a man who, through his appreciation for the arts, ensured that his hometown of Columbus, Indiana, would thrive as an example of the best kind of community building. "Whether it is architecture or cooking or drama or music, the best is none too good for any of us."