On Governing By Design

From the Art of Science Learning Series, via Seed:

Paola_HSDesign is an inescapable dimension of human activity. To adapt one of my favorite quotes by Reyner Banham, like the weather it is always there, but we speak about it only when it is exceptionally bad or exceptionally good. Design is also a powerful political tool, as pharaohs, queens, presidents, and dictators throughout history have taught us. It comes not only in very visible and traditional applications—in the national identities expressed by currencies, symbols, monuments, and public buildings—but also in less apparent and yet equally momentous applications such as the design of complex systems, ranging from territorial infrastructures to the planning of new communities, and the translation of technological and social innovation for the use of the population.

Design has been a mighty governing tool and an instrument of power for all those regimes that have known how to recognize and use it. Iconic examples of design’s alchemy with politics abound, from the Egyptian pyramids to the transformation of Paris by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann under Napoleon III at the end of the 19th century and by President François Mitterand in the 1980s; from the sinister and incisive branding and the tragic racial redesign determination of the Nazi party, to the creation of a new populist capital for Brazil in the 60s—desired by a conservative president, inspired by the dream of an Italian Catholic saint, and planned by a socialist architect and a communist urban planner.

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