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Diversity: Its importance in developing creative and innovative designs

Technology has linked together the world in ways which previous centuries did not. As a result, we have become more diverse in our thinking and approach to design.

When it comes to design, it is essential to communicate with not only the majorities but also the minorities in society. More often than not, this is best implemented through representation. A team cannot be represented by one person, as this limits the levels of innovation and creativity. By expanding the team to include a diverse range of talents, the result leads to a multifaceted way of thinking.

Designing for accessibility, for example, requires you to include people of varying abilities. The only way to approach this design is to be all inclusive.

As an architect, you are given a brief by a client, the end user. The conversation starts with a team of two (minimum). Then there are the engineers, with whom you work with to ensure your building functions properly. The builders, who construct the building. The quantity surveyors who cost up the materials, labour and contingencies. The specialists in detailed work and their suppliers. The councillors to ensure your project complies with building regulations. The list is endless. All bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the project which you cannot get from an individual.

But how does this lead to innovation and creativity? By having more people with different skills on a team, you allow for a wider range of ideas to be voiced. You listen to the locals, you allow for representation on their part so that your design does not take away from their community. Instead you aim to improve it for their benefit. We take from our own experiences new concepts which lead to more diverse and exciting methods or creations.

I recently attended a lecture by Mexican female architect, Rozana Montiel, head of Estudio de Arquitectura. Her lecture discussed extensively about past projects and exhibitions she had presented at, such as the Venice Biennale 2018.  The one idea that stuck with me the most, was the inclusion of the community in her designs. One of her specialities is project work for low income areas. Renewal of these areas does not require consultation with locals, but Montiel aims to include the community in her design. After all, these are her true clients. These will be the people who will benefit from her work, so why should she exclude them? The diverse representation of the community and her design team, work in collaboration to bring about creative solutions to local problems.

In one of her projects, she redesigned an unused steep walkway with sewerage pipes to become a gathering place for people of the area. Montiel noted that the children used these sewerage pipes as slides and included this concept in her design. The walkway was redesigned to be more accessible with its underside being used as a sheltered place. The surrounding area was refashioned with slides and steps, acting as a play area for the children. This innovation improved the community spirit as it provided more than just a walkway but also a gathering and play space. Would these innovative ideas have been thought of and developed before? Possibly, but how would we think of these solutions, when we do not consider the problem?

In conclusion, when choosing a team, to achieve maximum innovation and creativity, it is vital to consider a range of team members with varying skills, backgrounds, ages, genders, social classes and abilities. Only when this is considered can the end result become exciting and revolutionary for all involved.