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Monday, September 13, 2010

Do what you can with what you have?


One of my first assignments in college was to carry a boiled egg from one floor level to another with a range of materials given to me by my professor. The challenge was a straight forward lesson in problem solving.

For many students it meant finding a way to design something around the egg to absorb impact as the majority of designers dropped their eggs over a wall to a designated position multiple floors down. It was a great introduction to architecture.

Regardless of the many approaches at some point everyone who had to deal with this design solution had to evaluate what resources were available to them. We had to do what we could with what we had.

I heard this phrase in church and couldn’t help but wonder about our community. Does anyone know what we really have here? Aside from the nostalgic memories of this being a basketball town or a GM based city, does anybody remember what we were 50 years before that?

Somehow we have ended up conveying on our community billboard that we are only a product of who we were 10, 15, 20 years ago. What if that is the real problem that we need to address?

Bill Gates story always fascinates me. His innate ability to be able to see a problem allowed him to understand what the solution was even before the solution had technically been created. He identified the problem as need for the design of a next generation operating system and he convinced others that this is what they needed as well. He took what he had and made history.

The principles of design are applicable anywhere. I heard an architect in the documentary by the son of the late architect Louis Kahn say the challenge was not to design buildings, but to design a path one must take for their life. Yes we need jobs but we need an identifier even more. We need something that at its center gives us a collective identity, legacy, and future all at the same time.

There is a bigger picture to the problem we have here. There are certain variables about community that may never change. The problem might have one singular definition. We live in a community like other communities that suffers job loss, aging work force, and brain drain.

What solution best fits our town? Solutions that begin with ideas like having our own T.V. station, our own convention center, signing large companies to come to town to employ our capable workforce, strengthening our local businesses to gain a national presence, hosting our own national technology and trade shows or even retooling our school system to compete with the top school systems in the world.
Whatever the problem is the solution is surrounded by us doing what we can with what we have.

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