Brendan Cormier: "How can we insure that rules respond to the times?"
published on 19/10/2015
“We have to build strong frameworks in which people can make a mess.” Renny Ramakers' last sentence in her text "Imperfection Perfect" reminds me of another recent Dutch project that tries to radically rethink the relationship between rules, agency, and urban space: Oosterwold by MVRDV. A couple of years ago, we featured this project in an issue of Volume with the cheeky tagline “rules for freedom”. In the project, land is set aside on the fringes of Almere for people to develop however they like. Still, to make the project work, a series of carefully considered rules had to be crafted. The conclusion: rules aren’t necessarily the problem. In fact, rules, when properly considered, can be the keys to unlocking agency and self-initiative. So when we complain about rules that stifle creativity, diversity, and initiative, we need to be careful what it is we’re complaining about. It’s not rules in general, but specific kinds of rules. Rules that are outmoded, overly-prescriptive, and counter-productive. Perhaps even more urgently needed is a system which allows for rules to be modified and changed with more ease and fluidity. Rules tend to ossify in bureaucracies without regard for changes over time. How can we insure that rules respond to the times?
Brendan Cormier is lead curator of 20th and 21st century design at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. He is on the regular respondents panel for Social City.
Top image: an impression of Almere Oosterwold by MVRDV.