About the Design Sense Program

Certainly we have developed great buildings and communities in this age, places that inspire their users and viewers. But unfortunately these good examples are few. Far too much of the built world in which we live is uninspiring, mediocre, or even horrible. One story strip malls line our highways, old city centers deteriorate as big box retailers drive them to bankruptcy, and parking lots dominate the landscape. Why is this?  There are certainly many reasons, many causes.  But overlaying all of them seems to be a general confusion as to what is desirable, what it is we really want. The age of specialization has resulted in the design professions concentrating on their small sphere of influence with the big picture, the overall concept, often completely absent from consideration.


I have also found that much of the public is ignorant of many of the concepts, processes, and realities connected to the development of our environment. This is obvious just by attending a design review or planning meeting in nearly any municipality: people are very emotional and fight hard against what they don’t want–unfortunately, they rarely know what they do want. There has also developed a general mistrust of the participants involved with development–from architects to developers or even homeowners wanting to add a room on their house!  So how can this confusion and mistrust be remedied? How can we change this current course so that we can develop in a way that we become proud of our resulting neighborhoods, communities and cities?

The development of the built environment around us will improve and the process become more rational only when an informed public insist that it be so.


It is my feeling that only when the general public is better aware, better educated and better informed, and has become a thoughtful participant in the development process will this situation change.  Just as art is a reflection of the values, attitudes, and goals of a society, so too is the work of the design professions of Planning, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, Architecture and Interior Design.  The development of our built environment will improve and the process become more rational only when an informed public insist that it be so.

This program is intended to introduce and expand upon the concepts, tools, processes and participants that are involved with the design and development of the built environment. It starts with a simply a call to awareness—seeing what is around us and deciding if it is good or bad, if we like it or not.  This is the first step, to start people thinking about the areas in which we live, work, and play–if they are good or bad, and how they can be improved–not accepting as inevitable new developments which are aesthetically lacking and inhibit community and lifestyle.   The more we think about our surrounding environment, the better equipped we will be to participate in the process and demand good design.