Henrique Cayatte • Founding and Managing Partner S+A Concept Design


“In order to see things clearly, we must cross a border”

Salman Rushdie



While the geography of politics, religion, science, sports, and others, seeks to strongly highlight the borders and differences amongst us, the approach of Design and Architecture is to look out for the affinities and to clear away the divergences.

This is mostly due to education paths that have consideration for the old, to project philosophies ever more consensual, technologies that are almost common, and work orders that urge for collaboration instead of dissent.

Designers and architects tend not to be against one another, working instead in multidisciplinary teams. Adding to each other, not dividing.

Nowadays we talk about the “air of times”, where in the way we look upon the world is becoming similar – although not the same – consequence of an intensive crossover throughout the media of a great deal of information and knowledge. The preferences do not set us so much apart, as the greater problem is the near incapacity that we have of properly perceiving and focusing on all that surrounds us, all that encircles us and addresses us. There is a lot that passes us by, preventing us from carrying out a slow reading that allows us to learn, intertwine and have the mental availability to try new creations. The “greater reference models” and their works are becoming increasingly scarce, more diverse, and we have a recurring difficulty in detecting the work of authors – both the young and the less young. Although it is not something necessarily bad, this forces us to an additional effort to perceive and acquire such offerings. The great influences subside in spite of the absent-mindedness caused by the fragmentation and by the hypnosis inducing noise, light, movement and speed, all of which becoming increasingly prevalent.

There has never been so much communication as there is today, as much as there is loneliness.

So, let us talk about design.

Never before in our country have we seen as much use of the word design as today.

This happens 50 years after the advent of the first design degrees in Lisbon. From then on everything has changed, and so have those degrees. Both in availability and in quality.

From an almost complete unknown, the term is nowadays overused. We refer to design for all and every reason. Adequately and Inadequately. Right and Wrong.

Now everything has a design, or a lot of design! Thus, let us accept it and allow the course of time and use to intervene and help towards a better understanding.  The architects – praise be done – have integrated this new reality well with just over one hundred and fifty years – as of the date in which the industrial revolution and the design as an alternative to the old arts & crafts took off -, as well as the corresponding terminology.  We, therefore, witness both architects and designers sharing their space in projects without significant clashes, building complementary strategies and proposals.  The frontiers of these two areas of knowledge call for an embrace, instead of a turned back against each other.  In this centenary of the Bauhaus – a seminal experience – the plastic arts, the Architecture and the designs gained texture and gravitas, making their stance as a decisive influence over other schools and models of thought. The most consistent experiment of their heirs has been the Ulm School, headed by Max Bill, an heir of the legacy of Walter Gropius.

Architecture and design are subjects of precision within a project, which “vest” and assist in developing more or less defined projects. They speak almost the same language, this being the Drawing, which is almost like Esperanto – i.e. universal – and they show ideas according to almost the same representation principles – almost. Therefore, they are cousins, not brothers.

The design of equipment, or products, and the design of communication and multimedia, in their relation to architecture, develop complementary proposals that sometimes foresee – as in the case of 3D designs – while other times go far into the inner design, dressing the inner spaces offered by the projects of Architecture.

The risk today is that of “drowning” in the several stereotypes, since the graphical representations are quite often more of the same. This forces everyone to a constant reinvention to avoid being swallowed by the “all consuming” rush.

As with everything in life, we shall have to learn by studying, by exchanging knowledge, and by working, while having a constant availability and openness towards the initiatives of “others”.    Only like this shall we move on and innovate.  The difficulty lies in the brutal fragmentation and diversity of sources, which begins to scare and even paralyze the students of this subject. One must then learn how to learn. How to study, how to research and how to select what we come upon and find? How do we make a progressive space for creation that enables us to materialise our studies and come up with proposals?

Some decades ago the students of the so called artistic subjects would come together in the universities.

They would share their works – both theoretical and practical – and grow from that experience.  Today they almost refrain from talking to one another, and this behaviour indelibly compromises the future.

We must redraw the borders – erase them if necessary -, jump across them and meet our neighbours, which could be right next door or on the other side of the antipodes.

Without fear and with boldness.

This was how history was done. Both the small and the great tales had the ability of bringing us closer, not setting us apart. At the beginning of a century that is so technologically developed, it makes no sense to have a “closure” and an unacceptable isolation.

Those who will come next shall never understand this.

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