Why we shouldn’t let engineers design our world

Or, where is the creativity in geo-design?

You would probably agree that power pylons are the ugliest things ever invented by man. And let’s be honest, there’s no need to be politically correct here – no woman on earth could possibly have created such hideous things (you’re welcome!). Pylons have an eerie ability to spoil the landscape like nothing else. Alas, our society cannot run without electricity, and power cables are notoriously costly to bury underground. It seems like we are stuck with pylons.

So imagine my surprise today when, visiting an energy conference in Berlin, I saw… beautiful pylons. How can this be? The beautiful pylons are built using the same raw materials as the ugly ones. They even use the same type of construction. But the result is stunning: the new pylons have totally changed my emotional response to them.

The answer lies in their shape. It’s something to do with design. Or more precisely: not designed by engineers.

As you look at these amazing pictures from Choi + Shine Architects, imagine what this type of creativity could do in the so-called world of geo-design which, in a nutshell, concerns itself with supporting holistic decision-making in urban infrastructure planning. Design goes beyond the shape of things but, most importantly, design is about creativity.

Just like engineers not everyone in the professional geo-community is creative. But we do have some creative types amongst ourselves who are able to design beautiful maps and publications. Can they also help us inject a bit of creativity into a world that is still dominated by function over form?

The Land of Giants: Pylon design for Iceland, by Choi + Shine Architects

Pylons arranged to create a "sense of place", by Choi + Shine Architects

Post revised & updated on 6 January 2012, also incorporating a new link to an excellent intro on geodesign by @spatialsustain, see http://www.vector1media.com/spatialsustain/the-third-geodesign-summit-focuses-on-creating-our-future.html.

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