Tonight at USC, I saw a lecture given by Dr. Chris Luebkeman of Ove Arup Associates in London. Dr. Luebkeman is the Director of Foresight, Innovation and Incubation for Arup; he makes a living out of traveling the world and connecting with professionals, academics, and fellow designers and engineers to talk about the future of the planet and how our development will affect that future. I've seen Dr. Luebkeman speak before, but not in person....he gave a talk to hundreds of thousands of people via a web cast as part of the Architecture 2030 Global Emergency Teach-In back in February.
He was as inspiring then as he was engaging tonight. Having seen his presentation in February, I knew what to expect. Some of my classmates were a little confused at the outset, since we are so used to seeing architects present PowerPoint slide shows of their work and the theory behind that work. Dr. Luebkeman presents information to you in such a way that you start to wonder where he's going with it, until you get lost in his anecdotes and 15 minutes later you realize you've been hanging on every word since then.
The main thesis of the talk was "building a sustainable future". This, of course, is probably a cliche, but it was presented in a way that would make us think about how we, as architects, are going to design and build going forward. In essence, here's a guy from an international company that is taking the time and the energy to visualize a built environment that operates in harmony with the Earth itself....and not only that, but they are taking the time and energy to help others understand the complexities and challenges involved. Arup looks at all aspects of our environment, from the largest scale of city planning to the minutia of glass detailing, and they have fashioned themselves as experts in nearly every area of the field. And if there is still a question of their intention...how many companies do you know that have the foresight to create a Director of Foresight?
Dr. Luebkeman closed the evening with this image of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. (Not your standard closing image in an architecture lecture hall.) In it, Winnie the Pooh thinks that there must be some other way of coming down the stairs besides bumping his way down on his head. And he thinks that he would like to try another way....if he weren't so busy bumping his way down on his head. So it sounds rather silly, and I imagine I'm going to look back on this post and laugh later on, but aren't we all Winnie the Pooh? Don't we all need to stop and think about what we're doing, and how we could probably do things a little bit better? Because I'm afraid that the time for complacency has passed, and now we need to actually start changing the world around us, before the future slips out of our grasp.
(images courtesy of Arup and Icons.org.uk)