Fresh Briefs

Tim Durfee

The Fresh Briefs working group discusses, researches, and proposes the design briefs of the near future.

Much attention is dedicated today to calling our attention to the huge changes facing nearly every aspect of our lives in the present and going forward. In worlds such as design, engineering, business, or politics, the responses to these challenges are often in the form of bold solutions, or opportunistic disruption. But what if these reactions are fundamentally missing the point: that not only are the great forces impacting the world today – climate change, accelerating technology, globalism – creating new problems, but the fundamental needs and desires themselves are changing. Do humans require or desire the same things they did just 5, or 10, or 20 years ago? When we speak in defense of nature, to what ecological state are we imagining we return? Do the forms of governance we assume represent our political options even apply to how societies and economies actually operate today?

In design and architecture, a brief or program is a statement that captures the scope of needs that a designer works to address in any given project. The central premise of Fresh Briefs is that even most forward-thinking design today is stuck in the habit of responding to new problems as though the desired end result is – at some literal, or abstract level – essentially unchanged from what it used to be. Rather than focusing on new answers, we need to focus on new questions, new understandings of what people really want and need, new perspectives on our planet, new programs, fresh spanking new briefs.

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