I met Toshiko right after her introduction to the board of administration of Dassault Systèmes. She held a conference here at the Vélizy Campus the same day and I thought you’d like to hear her thoughts on Design and its near future…
You’re now member of the board of administration of Dassault Systèmes, congratulations! It’s a first of a kind for you… how does it feel?
That’s true yes! I served in non-profit boards in the past, mainly focused on arts and architecture. I’m currently part of the board “Architecture for Humanity”, advising them on design excellence quality.
So this is my first time in a corporate board. It’s a very humbling experience, I’m learning a lot and I hope I’ll be able to contribute.
During your presentation this morning you talked a lot about how Architecture and Design will have evolved by 2050. Can you give us the three key points that will embody this revolution?
One of our major issues right now is food. We call it energy, water and food crisis as they’re interdependent on each other. What’s underlying is the uneven distribution of population and the rapid urbanization problems. How to provide these people with food, water and energy? It’s not so much about water scarcity but how to make it available according to the population density.
So my three items would be: jobs, water and food. We already have a job shortage which triggers instability in the developing world. In Middle East and Northern Africa, young people don’t find jobs and thus rebel. It’s as simple as that and unfortunately it will not happen in 2050 – it’s already happening.
So, if you build something, it automatically brings in jobs. Then, if it attracts attention, it will also bring in tourists, which means income. So designers have to make sure that whatever they do, they make the best design, so that people notice it and want to come. Second step is to think about the opportunities your design has created for next generations, whether it is in terms of job growth, making buildings, designing a city, etc.
Native Americans say that for every act you do, you have to think about its impact seven generations down the road. So if you always think that way in design, it really is a sustainable practice but it’s also a much more global thinking.
Does this revolution in the way you think as an architect lead to a revolution in the way students learn architecture? Do we need renewed teaching models?
Definitely. We tend to think of teaching in architecture and design as a building or a product: it’s an object-based teaching. But now we’ve got to teach students the context as well.
For example, if we’re talking about a building, what’s surrounding it? Which city or town are we dealing with? What’s its relationship to nature? What’s its overall location? What about the geopolitics? How does it relate in terms of global issues?
The world we’re living in is very complex and consequences can affect much larger parameters. I’ve been teaching a course called Global re-Design Project for the last two years. I’m also about to teach another course centered on Global Risks and Management, i.e. how can design have a built-in resilient system so that buildings can withstand natural catastrophes for example.
The way you think about contextual issues, away from designing objects, is to know the parameters of different possibilities for both negative things (from terrorist attacks to tsunamis, earthquakes and so on) and good opportunities (bringing educational opportunities and healthcare to the children in Africa).
The key is to turn the teaching model into something highly contextual: have larger parameters, be accessible and inclusive.
Any thought that pops up in your mind? I had a thousand ones when I interviewed her!