The current rate of technological change suggests that designers will face considerable pressure to practice with time in mind. Both the container and the contained-“structure and stuff,” as Stewart Brand put it in How Buildings Learn-change over time, but at different rates of speed.11 The trends of mass customization and congruence suggest that settings will change frequently, which puts pressure on the rest to facilitate the change. This brings us back to sustainability, which also demands of “stuff” that its residual value be salvaged through recycling and reuse.
Designing in four dimensions means rethinking our conceptions of buildings.
“There isn’t such a thing as a building,” Frank Duffy asserts. Buildings are just “layers of longevity of built components”-they exist in time. What matters for their designers is their “use through time.” Duffy finds the whole notion of timelessness to be “sterile” because it ignores time as the building’s fourth dimension-they exist in time, so they have to evolve to meet its changing demands.
Also working from a “time-layered” perspective, Brand proposes a holistic approach to time-sensitive design.He identifies six components of buildings: site, structure, skin, services, and space plan. While interior designers are focused on the last two, they have good reason to want to influence the rest: they all affect the building’s use through time. To exercise this influence effectively, of course, interior designers have to understand the characteristics of these components, and the possibilities of the other elements of the built environment. Interior designers do not have to be engineers, or vice versa, but both need to know enough about the others’ business so they can approach the building in a holistic or time-layered way. As Brand says:
Thinking about buildings in this time-laden way is very practical.
As a designer you avoid such classic mistakes as solving a five minutes problem with a fifty-year solution. It legitimizes the existence of different design skills, all with their different agendas defined by this time scale.
To be responsive to the user in the building design process, interior designers need to have this broader knowledge of the building and its components.
In the end, their ability to sway others in the design and delivery process will rest primarily on issues of use over time-issues that are primarily functional and strategic, and that constantly require new skills.