• Lucy Grant

Town Hall #34 - The New Possible - EUK

Updated: Dec 16, 2020


David Constantine - Founder Director at Motivation Charitable Trust at IBM

Kirsty Dias - Managing Director at PriestmanGoode.

Gurvinder Khurana - Co owner and Design Director at align

William Knight - Director at The Renew Consultancy

Frven Lim - Director at DP Architects UK

Julia Monk - Hospitality Thought Leader, Architect, Interior Designer


William Knight

It is about culture shift, it's about behavior, and understanding personal responsibility

Julia Monk

we didn't get it right 40 years ago and now I feel I'm really lucky to have lived long enough to have a second opportunity to get those things right
we have to be positively moving and making differences and making differences in policy, making differences in how we apply to get to 2050 goals so that we can see BeyondZero
I think there'll be so many other events that happen between now and then that are going to shape what that future becomes
I think we need to keep ourselves all informed of what's going on laterally, as well as into the future
take the best of all the tools that come along, and use those and apply those to make a difference
the political divisiveness that we've had needs to be replaced with political consensus in order for us to move forward...building that consensus is going to help us create environments and design solutions that are far more sustainable
let's look to the community and find out what's needed from by listening, by questioning, by hearing what they need to support them emotionally, physically or economically

Mark Bergin

a Better Future is set, we need to have thriving economics, we need to have a sustainable environment, and we also need to have social equity
this virus has showed us that if we focus on a ME culture that we fall apart, we need to think about a WE culture
if we're back in that model which [only considered] economic leverage and didn't value the additive side of a sustainable environment and inclusion, and if we continue to think they're negatives not additive parts, then we've got a long way to go

Kirsty Dias

more and more I'm interested in what design can do to help define and help guide what it is to be a good citizen
this idea of global citizenship is so important for every country, every community, every high street, and you know, its political, its social, its environmental
we have to be educated as citizens to make good wise decisions for our whole community
we're taking on shared responsibility for the society that we want to live in
we are at a tipping point of how design can influence and change how we live in the coming decades

Frven Lim

we've got illness versus wellness, it's kind of I versus WE
we're in this age where what's important is the collective
[follow the] logic of the three H's, the head, the heart and the hand
until the stage when we can use social media to engage everybody's hearts, it's very difficult to achieve what the logical mind has an ambition to accomplish

David Constatine

if you take the civil rights movement in the US (Black Lives Matter), that took things so far, but we saw this year it didn't take it anywhere near far enough
this is my journey, but it's been a massive team effort

Gurvinder Khuana

growing up in my generation, there was a real stigma attached to reuse and about the fact that everything had to be shiny and new
I think [younger generations] understand the value of things not necessarily needing to be shiny and new... there's an elevating going on with the fact that it's okay to reuse buildings, it's okay to reuse stuff
it is coming from the generations behind us that we need to change our mindset about the negativities associated with reuse, and also this whole mass disposal and disposable society
if we don't deal with poverty, sustainability will fall down, because the two actually have to come hand in hand... you've got to educate, you've got to eradicate poverty, you've got to give credence for reuse and repurposing and give it the elevating that it deserves


Mark Bergin 00:00

Hello, everybody, welcome to another Design Exec Club Town Hall. I'm Mark Bergin, the Founder of DRIVENxDESIGN. This is Episode 34, of the Town Halls. And we're focusing with a bunch of some of the smartest people I know, in the European and UK market or EUK as we call it here in our world. Sorry if you're in the UK, we did join you to the EU there. I know you're not like that. But that's what happens when you think globally. Today, we're going to take a bit of a dive in and we're going to look at what happens to a world when we get to a carbon positive state. At the moment, we're all thinking about, well, we want to turn around and get to net zero carbon. I want to explore what it means if our imagination is that we actually go BeyondZero, and we're actually producing more energy than we need through sustainability. What that means is that we can unlock these projects. What does that mean for using that extra energy to repair some of the problems of the past, and also the projects that we might be able to unlock in the future? But we know to get to the future, there's a lot of steps along the Next. And if we think that's 30 years away, many of us will have either retired or we will have been in maybe the second or third job, a long haul job that we'd have there. Will Knight, I'm going to throw across to you because you've seen these trends come around for a long time with your work with the various design expos and London Design Fair, even if I take you further back to the Design Council. They're big ideas, but sometimes they succeed and sometimes they stumble. How do we help to get people's imagination going, that there's something like getting BeyondZero that excites their imagination, when we're all trying to get to the finish line of at least being carbon neutral?

William Knight 01:49

It's interesting to think about the journey of expressing what sustainability has been in the context of kind of promoting design or promoting ideas, innovation over the last 25 years. Because a lot of what things like design festivals and design fairs do to kind of synthesize thoughts and kind of bigger ambitions that may be generated through research institutes or government policy, and bring them to life. They make them physical, they give people something to engage with directly. I think that not all of those projects, ideas, concepts, have necessarily gone on into the next stage of development. But what they have done, and what I think the design kind of calendar does, is kind of tweeks the consciousness. It gets people's ideas flowing and it provides a point of engagement that may well be spread across the two kind of areas that I suppose I concentrate on. One is a kind of, you know, inter industry collaboration or kind of exchange of ideas and a knowledge transfer, to stimulate other things. And then obviously the other one really important is, to kind of communicate to larger audiences. And it's that larger audience that is really important in this and that's the shift we've seen. And by that, I mean kind of press coverage, I mean, engagement with kind of design, and innovation. But also really, really importantly a thing that will really shift everything is about culture shift, it's about behavior, and understanding personal responsibility and how, you know, personal behavior impacts as a whole, because it's a collective responsibility. So, you know, I think design has done a good amount. It's the translation now, because everywhere it's a default, exactly as this conversations about. It's the kind of acceptance and it's now pushing it to the next layer.

Mark Bergin 03:50

Julie, I'm going to throw across to you because you're a radical from way back. I know it was when Black Lives Matter that we spoke about some of the protests that happened when you were either a young architect or when you were at uni, and it was about actually thinking that the future was going to be better. Those ideals have now moved on along the way. We've also seen things like Well Standards and LEED Standards come into buildings. Where does something like a BeyondZero go? Is that like, LEED plus plus plus or Well, plus, plus, plus? You know a lot of people are struggling to go and just maintain those existing standards. How do we set their imagination that there's an even larger horizon that we should be thinking about?

Julie Monk 04:37

Yeah, I think that's important. And Mark, I love these conversations, because you always challenge us to things that I hadn't thought about before we got into this call, so I'm going to have to wing it here.

Mark Bergin 04:46

No, that's what it's about being present. Yeah?

Julie Monk 04:49

I do want to caution when you referred back to my time in high school when we were radical

Mark Bergin 04:56


Julie Monk 04:57

I have to say is that all the things that are happening now, you know, all of this social injustice that we're coping with at this point, a lot of these issues are the same issues we were coping with then. We didn't get it right 40 years ago. And now I feel I'm really lucky to have lived long enough to have a second opportunity to get those things right. And I'm hoping the same thing doesn't happen with sustainability. I think we really need to be conscious every day between now and 2050, that we're positively moving and making differences and making differences in policy, making differences in how we apply to get to that 2050 goals so that we can see beyond. I think what happens in the in between, and I don't have a prediction yet for 2050, I'm gonna have to think about that while we continue our discussion. But I think there'll be so many other events that happen between now and then that are going to shape what that future becomes. I think we need to keep ourselves all informed of what's going on laterally, as well as into the future. So that we can take the best of all the tools that come along, and use those and apply those to make a difference once we get there. I think it's going to be that gathering of information along the way and editing of how we use the tools that come along, that's really going to make the difference. Once we get to that end goal, we're going to be in the middle of the next end goal.

Mark Bergin 06:22

And I think if I focus on the difference between where we are now and if I go back 30 or 40 years ago, the focus was about high extraction and really borrowing from the future. It was the way that we thought before. It was the type of thing that you could have a petrochemicals industry and it wasn't polluting, or you could go have a mass consumerism and it wasn't a problem, or you could go have acceleration in policies, economic policies with neoliberalism and you could leave people behind, it didn't matter. Now we understand it does matter. And so the idea of a Better Future is set that we have to go think about, we need to have thriving economics, we need to have a sustainable environment, and we also need to have social equity. And if we don't have all three, we're going to have handbrakes in our economy. We saw this year that the social equity handbrake was about Black Lives Matter. But it's not just about that, it's also about the way that women in power, the services that are available support women who are being productive in economies. And so there's lots and lots of layers aren't there?

Julie Monk 07:37

There are. But broaden it back out, it's really social injustice that we're talking about that includes Black Lives Matter, that includes you know, people of color, includes women, includes all different kinds of gender, minorities, and that kind of thing, we really need to focus on inclusiveness across the board. The other topic that I think that you've forgotten that I would add to the three that you've listed, you know, environmental, economic, and social and justice, would be the whole thing about a lot of this political divisiveness that we've had. And I think that needs to be replaced with political consensus in order for us to move forward in what we're doing. So it's almost like what we should be talking about equity and inclusiveness instead of social injustice, let's get everything back into a positive format. Instead of political divisiveness, we should be talking about political consensus, we should be talking about economic resilience, where we're building systems to make it resilient, not that we're competitive anymore, but that we are all being supportive of one another in creating a success that we can all live from.

Mark Bergin 08:50

Yeah, the point there about the political divisiveness is a really interesting one because the internet went and created, in effect, the fifth estate. And so the fourth estate it had some regulation and governance and we had a way to go and moderate certain forms of conversation, which effectively is a form of censorship. And it was done in a very highbrow way, where we said, there are certain people who are allowed to actually have the platform and are allowed to speak. And then the group who was controlling that as a guild, as journalists, they turn around, they said, well these are the people who are and are not allowed to speak and there was a license to operate and there was control. When the internet came around that license to operate and control got broken and it's severely broken and it's a very unhealthy thing. It's almost like we're living on junk food and there's not enough nutrition in the content diet we're getting. It's a huge issue to go deal with. In Australia at the moment, we've got some laws that are coming around which are saying that Google and Facebook will have to go and pay a license fee for search results and rely on published articles from major publishers. Rupert Murdoch who used to be an Australian, so if we don't claim him anymore he's now an American. But I know he's messed up your country, he's messed up our country and he's messed up the US. But he's very much pushing that because he wants to go get intellectual property fees for the work that his publications - I'm not going to call them news outlets, they're not really news, they're publications, fictional publications - and so that's something we haven't fixed yet. And so that's a big challenge. And it's a challenge, which has a toxicity that we have to deal with, like we deal with toxic sludge if it was around. So I think you're 100% right there that we need to work at that, because the people who are getting elected are going for the simple, easy vote. And that's actually from people who are coming through that echo chamber that's coming through social media. It used to come through a more enlightened balanced way. But now they're getting cheap wins. So I think you've highlighted something that's very important there. Kirsty I want to focus with you at the moment because I know Priestman Goode world is that you go look at a lot of projects which are speculative design and saying, well, this is what a future could look at. You're probably one of the studios that we see the least amount of your work that sees light of day in publications, but then you've also got this great output where you actually talk about well, this is where we think that the future direction is, which is very smart. Because I know a lot of people who are doing very advanced work, don't have license from their clients to go talking about what they're doing. So you can probably talk about the future rather than talking what you're doing at the moment. So what I want to talk about is setting those agendas and getting people to understand that there are these new alternatives, and there are new enablements that are out there. Is that pushing the proverbial up a hill? Or is it something which is quite a measured process, it just takes time?

Kirsty Dias 12:11

This is such fascinating conversation and there are so many different things we could talk about. So you've thrown me with that question, Mark. Is it pushing up hill? I actually think when we do conceptual projects, which, you know, just throw a nice idea out into the ether, we actually get, you know, it's a pretty open field, I think, and we get, we have a very responsive audience. I mean, in a sense, this forum is doing the same thing. It's inviting people to debate and engage in public discourse. And I think it's through these kinds of discussions that we're, you know, progressing the conversations around what the future can be. But I think, just going back to what Julie was saying and the last comment that you made, you know, I think one of the things that's come through all of our conversations this year, I can't quite believe there are 34 of them already, just in this phenomenal year of 2020, but more and more I'm interested in what design can do to help define and help guide what it is to be a good citizen. And I think this idea of global citizenship is so important for every country, every community, every high street, and you know, its political, its social, its environmental. And it's, you know, this experience that we find ourselves sharing around the world is really, you know, questioning what is democracy? You know, what is the role of media in informing us, helping us? What's the role of education? Because to be, you know, a true democracy, we have to be educated as citizens to make good wise decisions for our whole community, that we're taking on shared responsibility for the society that we want to live in. I feel hopeful and optimistic because I really feel that we are at a tipping point of how, you know, design can influence and change how we live in the kind of coming decades, but I feel really strongly that that is in the hands of, you know, younger generations, the people who are graduating now, the people who are students now, who almost, you know, they have all there is. We're in an almost post war, post second world war situation where there could be like an uprising, a revolution, you know, which obviously the 60s gave us to take what is a quite dire situation and make great change. And so, you know, I'm really keen that we at Priestman Goode are part of that conversation. But yeah, I'm interested in how we harness kind of, you know, this collective expertise around the world and help those generations make a much better future.

Mark Bergin 15:38

And I think you're really right there. And in Episode 31, we had Karin Soukup from Collins, and she was referring to the idea that we're actually, we're not looking up at our elders, we're looking down at our future leaders. And we're more likely to go see some guidance from the younger generation than we are from the middle age or elders that are there. So I think that's really interesting that we have to work out, what are some of those foundations about democracy? What does it mean to have leadership? You know, we've got a very interesting scenario at the moment that this virus has showed us that if we focus on a ME culture that we fall apart. We need to think about a WE culture. And the WE culture is actually that, yes we should be getting some of our own interests. But we live in a community and we live in a society and there are consequential impacts, and those things have ramifications over quite a period of time.

Frven Lim 16:40

If I can chime in here?

Mark Bergin 16:42

Yes Frven, please come in.

Frven Lim 16:44

Sorry, I know I'm kind of interrupting you. I thought it would be a bit different won't it. This WE culture is really interesting, because of late we were spending a lot of time trying to investigate and also understand how the this amazing topic of well-being, wellness that's absolutely surfaces in all kinds of literature online, offline, arising from COVID obviously. And if you think of I mean, so a play of words, we've got illness versus wellness, it's kind of I versus WE.

Mark Bergin 17:21

Ah, I like that, yeah.

Frven Lim 17:23

We've got I illness and we've got WE wellness. So increasingly we're in this age where what's important is the collective and it's where the individual agenda has kind of diminished and it's the common good that serves us. During the period of COVID, I believe it brings many of us to kind of strip our typical daily routine down to a pretty basic kind of agenda, I would think. And you know, obviously the Zoom meetings and everything else that we do, has become more rudimentary and is not color coated with too many other accessories. And for myself, I mean, I begin to realize, you know, there's this logic of the three H's, so it's the head, the heart and the hand. And in the current digital era, and we immerse in this situation whereby everyone's become, you know, absorbing, and using data and using technology in such a fascinating way. We were compelled, we were led to doing that because of COVID. So that's probably one of the good things from COVID. But coming back to head, heart and hand, very often information is ramped down, and it does get to the head. So the logical mind does accept and we can read the data, we know of how we're destroying the planet of things like that. But the reason why the hands are not really doing anything about it is that the emotions, the heart and the real CPU, the real brain and not the you know, the heart, is not engaged. And I thought what's interesting in the current era of social media, and the fact that we, a lot of this has to do with the next generation, the next, the next and the next next generation. It's the fact that social media has become such a you know, easy life. It's not even a part of life. Social media is like, is the definition of life, so to speak. Whether we embrace it, or we like it, or we don't like it, it has become such. And it becomes very important for policymakers to really use it in the correct way. We're pretty much at the point where it could either go horribly, horribly bad, or it could go really, really well. And I think I do not have a solution, but I think something has to be done so that what we have created as humanity, you know, in terms of this digital era, should be used for good rather than bad. I know that's probably a very generalized statement. But the way that you can do good is to teach us how to use technology, to teach us how to take on every opinion and a strong attitude. But I suppose my point is, until the stage when we can use social media to engage everybody's hearts it's always, it's very difficult to achieve what the logical mind has an ambition to accomplish.

Mark Bergin 20:38

Fantastic. I like the contribution. David, I'm going to throw across to you, because your world through the programs that you go do, takes you into a lot of different countries outside the United Kingdom. And those countries have actually been quite resilient here, when it comes to the virus. They haven't had the same sorts of infection rates that the western country or the supposed leading countries in the world have had. How are you seeing, you know, the way that people are interacting? Because there's a lot more focus on their community, and a lot more focus on how they go support each other. Is that something over the last five or 10 years that you've seen diminish? Or has it actually been increasing? You know Frven was talking about the social media, its defining life. Has that same toxicity from behavior gone into the other countries that you're working in?

David Constantine 21:33

I mean I only know it through quite a small lens really, through our work which is, you know. Because I think about how, we work basically in Africa and India at the moment; we have teams there, national teams. And so what we're seeing is, well, throughout this year, the organization has become a far more internationalized level playing field because we're all on Zoom, everybody's taking part. Whereas it used to be, you know, staff meetings in the UK, and then staff meetings in those teams, and then they'd be reporting lines all going all over the place. And now it feels a lot more equitable. In terms of your question about what's happening in those countries, India have had a really hard time, they're all still working from home. And strangely in Africa, we're working in Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, it's very hard to work out. And the staff are saying the same thing. My colleagues are saying, we don't know whether it's not that bad here and we haven't had such a spread, or it's just what we're not being told. You know, it's hard to know. I mean, it was a similar thing with the HIV, you know, people would die of various different issues because it affects the immune system just like COVID has, and therefore, you know, is it put down to HIV or AIDS? In a setting where, you know, people don't know how people have died then it's not really measured. And so, but in terms of the last five and 10 years in terms of disability anyway, has the world come together more? Is there more understanding? I think there has been throughout those regions. There's still a huge amount of work to do. So, you know, it took something like Black Lives Matter this year to really start that conversation. And, as you said, for the social media thing can be very positive, but it can also be extremely negative. And we're finding this out from the reactions that we probably wouldn't have never heard, to say a vaccine. You know, there's all sorts of stuff on Twitter, but well, yeah, it's the best thing that's happening to us right now. And other people are saying, Bill Gates is going to be remote controlling you. I mean, where do you start with stuff like that. And so it does allow people a much greater voice and so in terms of disability, I think there has been much more understanding and sharing and, you know, all these movements, whether it be, you know, gender, race, disability, they've all had to come from the people who are affected by it, or put down by it. If you take the civil rights movement in the US, and you know that took things so far, but we saw this year, well, actually, it didn't take anywhere near far enough. Really looking at the roots of what this conversation needs to have to say, you know, this is the history, this was an unacceptable way of doing things. Whereas we are taught so much in our own schooling that, well, this is just what happened. This is what the British did, this is what the Australians did, this is what the US did in those different countries. And that's just the history. But whether it's right or wrong, it's happened, you can't change it. You know, whether taking statues down is a right or wrong thing to do. But that sort of acceptance from the history books, oh that wasn't such a good thing too. But we'll start those conversations to get people. And I think that needs to happen in gender. And it's happening more in race. It needs to happen more in disability. But there is a better ability to communicate through social media. I'll just finish by saying, I started a speech that I gave in Japan last year, and I found this quote. Because you know, I was one of the Founders of my organization, so my name gets put around a lot as being the sort of person who did it all. And I'd say, No, no, no, it's the team. It was motivation. It was my colleagues, it was all of us. And I was asked to do this big opening speech at a conference in Japan for the International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics. And I found this quote, and I thought, This is what I'm going to drive my speech with. And it was, Muhammad Ali was once asked what his short his poem was. And he replied in two words - ME, WE. Which speaks to your illness, wellness comment earlier Frven. And I think, you know, that really made me think of that quote, because I wanted to say, Yeah, well, this is my journey, but it's been a massive team effort, you know. And so I think that's a really interesting quote he made. I'd never heard it before and I read it somewhere. I thought, that's perfect. Simple.

Mark Bergin 27:07

Yeah, it is. And you know, the focus on how we go get to understanding what the WE is, is really a challenge, because there's lots of framing that we've got to do. I heard somebody was talking around Black Lives Matter and they were talking about the marginalized, marginalized, marginalized. What do you mean? And I said, Well, imagine if you're an Australian Aboriginal, so already you've got a skin color, you're marginalized. You then turn around and say that you are gay. And then you're on the spectrum. Right? So somebody who has those all three stacked on top? There's people caring about people who have a disability that is, because they're on the spectrum. There's people who are interested because they're gay and there's people who are interested in if you're black. But who's really interested in the black, gay people on the spectrum? And they fall through the gap. And those gaps are really quite difficult. And then they said, Oh, now you're incarcerated. And so then you've got another level on top of that. And so we need to actually work out how do we understand that there's power in the diversity, and that there's power through the inclusion, which I think we know. But if we're back in that model which looked at, the only thing was economic leverage and we didn't value the additive side of a sustainable environment, and also inclusion and if we think they're negatives not additive parts, then we've got a long way to go. And I think we're on the cusp there. Gurvinder, your household is full of a couple of future leaders. And it's also full of I'd imagine teenaged angst if they're future leaders like that. Are you seeing that there's a positive disposition that is coming from those little souls, and well they're not that little anymore are they? Those young souls in your house?

Gurvinder Khurana 29:05

There is, and I think it's really interesting. This is fascinating. And so thank you for including me, and it's not what I thought when I read the title we'd be talking about, but it is absolutely amazing to be in this conversation. I actually think that this has been pushed for a little while from the generations coming up. And I think that's one of the reasons it's become so topical, that's certainly my experience that the generations after me, and subsequently my own kids as you said Mark, you know, are really passionate about this subject. And it's great because it means that it's more present for us. Growing up as a 70s child I don't think it was really that topical. But it's front and center, and I think it really needs to be. So yes, it gets discussed a lot and I think as future leaders, sometimes as I see them as teenagers, it worries me that these are our future leaders. But politics is becoming more and more, you know, a dinnertime subject in our house, which is fascinating to see. But I think they get more than people of a bad demographic, they get the importance of longevity of Cradle to Cradle, of changing the way we live and the way we use everything around us. I think they get it more. And they are therefore more vocal about it. I think what's really interesting is that as growing up in my generation, there was a real stigma attached to, to reuse and about the fact that everything had to be shiny and new. Whereas I think they understand the value of it not necessarily needing to be shiny and new. And actually there's an elevating going on of the fact that it's okay to reuse buildings, it's okay to reuse stuff. And I think that's really important. We need to change the mindset. And I think it is coming from the generations behind us that we need to change our mindset about the negativities associated with reuse, and also this whole mass disposal and disposable society that we've created after the Second World War. I think you know that. And that's a really interesting push that's coming from where I'm living with Gen Zed, who are going to be the next leaders. You know it's really important, but I think that's also classed hand in hand with the fact and it's been touched on but the word itself hasn't been used -alongside education, social Discord. You know, I think we've got a massive issue with poverty. And that's something that's coming back to me over and over again now, where I'm feeling that if we don't deal with poverty, sustainability will fall down, because the two actually have to come hand in hand. You've got to educate, you've got to eradicate poverty, you've got to give credence for reuse and repurposing and give it the elevating, as I said, that it deserves. Stop seeing it with stigma and negativity, and change people's attitudes and views. And then there'll be a societal shift. But I think we've got a long way to go. And I think these kids coming in that are much younger, you know, the 12, 13 and 14 year olds, they're pushing it, but we need to support them.

Mark Bergin 32:50

Kirsty, I think you want to go and actually add a comment in here?

Kirsty Dias 32:56

Yes, thanks Mark. No, I mean, I completely agree with Gurvinder. We just recently had news in the UK last week that a kind of stalwart of the British High Street, a chain of department stores Debenhams, has gone to the wall. And I heard a really interesting kind of discussion on the radio at the weekend about how important store is to the center of towns that no longer have a purpose. So they specifically talked about a town in the northwest of England called Accrington, which is one of the kind of previously labour voting towns that voted for Brexit. And the discussion was all around how, you know, these towns no longer have a purpose for being and the removal of, you know, a store like Debenhams is actually not just about a store going from the high street, it's about almost the heart going from a community. That kind of previous, you know, center or reason that people might go into a town is being removed. And of course, it's not just a shop, it's a place where people of all generations go to kind of engage in social interactions. I mean, particularly for older people. And if those institutions are no longer there, what do we do with our high street? And I think in this kind of, you know, possibly post consumer society, you know, the big question is, how do we create or what do we create as, you know, the focus of our communities? I think that is the kind of, you know, really interesting challenge to, you know, to design. How do we engage in that, also kind of political discussion around that? And so it's interesting to have, you know, being this group of architects of what does that become, because that is so needed, I would suspect in every country.

Mark Bergin 35:15

And so just before we jump into that .... like, I'm loving this conversation, because I set an horizon out that was 30 years. But before we can get there, we've got some really serious issues before we start that journey. And I think that's very interesting. Julie I'll go to you. But I also want to drag Will Knight back into this because Will's been working on the Sunderland project there, which sounds like we're Debbenham's might have moved out of a long time ago, and the reactivation of that. So we'll do that. But let's go on to Julie first.

Julie Monk 35:48

I just wanted to support what Kirsty is saying here. And this kind of goes back to the whole idea that I had about going from political divisiveness to political consensus. And I think part of the answer to your question is, let's look to the community and find out what's needed from the community by listening, by questioning, by hearing what they need to support them emotionally, you know, physically or economically. If we go and ask them what's missing in their community, they'll help us with define the program to fill those buildings again, once it changes. I think a lot of us, you know, what happens in our downtown's, what happens in these kind of sections, has been going through evolution over time since the beginning of the Egora, you know, back in Greece, or whatever. And I think the purpose is constantly changing, depending on what the needs of the community are. And I think building that consensus is going to help us create environments and design solutions that are far more sustainable than having someone, a developer come in from the outside saying, I had a formula that work for two towns over, let's try it here. We know it's going to be successful. And I think rather than having our little shopping mall thing that we have that was based on overall populations, and placement, without really asking people what they needed, someone assumed what they needed. And they told us what we needed. Now as our term as a community to say, this is what we want, and then build it up from there.

Mark Bergin 37:18

Will, I want to go across and actually ask you some questions. Because the project you're working on in Sunderland sounds like this is a reactivation rejuvenation. Is it just moving people out so that then it's gentrified? Or is it actually trying to build the heart back into that population, for the people who are the long haul residents and actually trying to reactivate as a community and a society?

William Knight 37:51

Yeah, Sunderland is a really interesting - small city, lot a history, huge amount of kind of competence around manufacturing, very kind of loyal and relatively stable population. I might just at first reflect on Julie's point around essentially engagement and communities that's really critical. It's something that project is very committed to. And I was on a Zoom call fairly recently talking about that process and being able to sort of really get the most from it, not just in the initial phase as things kind of begin to take shape, but also go all the way through to kind of post occupancy and making sure that that actually is an effective part of our community, is established and maintained as well. So people getting used to sharing information and thoughts and feelings about what their environment is like, is really quite important. But kind of the analogy of the retail space as a role, as a kind of social function in a city, I think is something that Sunderland has suffered from. It had that kind of classic kind of 1980s, 1990s syndrome of building things out of town, drawing people from the center of the city, essentially hiring it out as a kind of social destination. So, you know, there's a unique opportunity, and the uniqueness starts and ends really with that city and the characteristics of it. The fact that it's by the coastline is very well kind of connected, that it has this manufacturing, it has a port, it has history has the potential to really kind of tell a very strong story. And the kind of building blocks of doing that are very much based on what the future looks like. So, sustainability technology, advanced manufacturing are very much part of that narrative. It's been driven by a very dedicated team at the City Council and a lot of kind of very experienced consultant who are feeding into it, not least, you know, some high quality architects that are kind of rebuilding the new housin there. So you know, I think it's one of those things where you want to really kind of feed in the very, very latest thinking around technology and sustainability and all these things. But ultimately people want to live in a high quality home that connects and reflects what they want to do in that space. And, you know, what's really amazing about it is that there is literally no one living in the center of that city. But give it five years, it'll be populated, and it'll be brought back to life in many ways. So it's a fascinating project. It's probably one of the most interesting kind of urban development projects at the moment.

Mark Bergin 40:40

Yeah. David, so I want to throw across to you here, because, you know, we're talking about these community centers being deactivated and now they're trying to be reactivated. I suppose 5 or 10 years ago there would have been quite a lot of work that was spent in disability advocacy, trying to say could you make it that it's accessible for us? Has that workload decreased so that you can focus on other challenges and other tasks? Or is it still the same effort to make sure that inclusive design and accessible design is part of the world that's been recreated?

David Constantine 41:21

It's still a lot of work to do internationally in low middle income countries. I would say in the UK, the experience I have as a user, it's much much better than it was nearly 40 years ago. You know, you were lucky if you could get in somewhere or more to the point was, it wasn't about getting in it was about being allowed in. In cinemas, in the theaters. No, no I'm sorry you can't unless you get out of your chair, and we haven't got a lift. Now that's all you know, well really? So that has changed. And there is a definite, I think. It's always hard to know whether it's more something you're more familiar with now, and more comfortable with 30 years later, 40 years later than it was at the beginning or whether people really have changed. And I think people really have changed to be honest. I think people are much more willing to talk and accommodate and so on. Partly because they have to, but there is more of that bought in. Interestingly, just going back to what you were talking about, about the high street, I think, what I really well, it's just bought it home to me but I was obviously what I was doing and it's not like I don't use a supermarket and I've never shopped online before. I find that's a pretty solice experience really. And I get a veggie box, an organic veggie box delivered, I get my milk delivered so I get my milk witin a bottle still. I rather like that. But during the lockdown when I haven't been able or wanting to go into shops, and I don't want to send someone in that's close to me, into a shop, I've been using really local shops down the high street. And I can pull up outside in my car and ring them up and say hi, it's David outside, because they know who I am. And that has created a little sense of community for me. I own, you know, and I live in a city. And yet I'm five minutes from the longest independent shop street in the country called Gloucester Road, which is quite groovy and alternative. And then you've got sort of White Ladies Road down here. Not named because of any race thing. It's in Bristol, it was named after and nunnery that was down the road and ladies used to work with white habits, so it's called White Ladies Road, bizarrely. But you know, those people have been incredibly helpful. My pharmacy will just walk out to the car and drop it through the window, you know hardware stores bring them up from outside. And this is because you're a regular to those local shops and rather than going out to the shopping area and going to be in queue or sometimes you do need to do that. But that's been a really interesting sort of wake up call that actually shopping local and getting to know people in that High Street. And I think you know, the fact that Debenhams have gone, they are those kind of stores, there's talk about how, you know, if an M&S goes, does the town really still exist kind of thing, a while ago, as well, and it's a similar thing. And you think well, how sad is that, that we have to have a flagship store to make people come into town, but that's the reality and it is a place where people ... and you can remember all. I can remember in my local town where I grew up in Essex, there was a family run department store on two corners in the high street. And it had a restaurant and it was the biggest treat ever of on a Saturday, we were allowed to have lunch there, and fish and chips in the restaurant cafe in this department store. They're sort of normal now. But it was one of those places where you would bump into people in the town, and so on. So they are important, even though they're bigger things. But I do notice that there is a difference in the access in terms of at assistive technology. There's a lot going on through the WHO, at the moment of creating a more accessible route. Because there's lots of assistive technology that we can all lay our hands on, if we can afford it, or know about it. But it all, a lot of it relies on the latest smartphone. And while they are spreading around the world, not everybody has one. And so I will just do an app. And it'll be you know, that will be accessible kind of thing. Well, it may or may not be. So there is more movement. Now there's a thing called eighty scale which is run out of Geneva, and it's a collaboration between WHO, UNICEF, USAID, DFID, as it was, and the Norwegian government, and they are really pushing not only new ideas and new technologies, but technologies that already exist. But how can you make that? How can you get that stuff at scale out to people. And UNICEF, USAID, WHO have talked about quite a lot in the last year or two. I mean, it's only really started two years ago. And it's very fledgling. But it's about getting governments engaged to provide assistive technology for people, which in theory should help us all as we age. What they've done very cleverly is linked disability with aging. So they're taking quite an unsexy area, disability if we're honest, into something we're all going to face. And so, you know, we may not as we age, we may not sort of consider any impairments we have like eating, reading glasses or hearing aid as a disability as such. We may not want to be part of that scene. Some people, you know, end up in it like it or not. But a billion people at the moment need some form of assistive technology. And by 2050, that will be 2 billion, because the world's population is aging and governments have got this explosion of need coming along. And if you don't have some sort of help or AT equipment and it doesn't have to be you know, crutches or a wheelchair, it could be apps, it could be environmental control, it could be all sorts of things. And just going back to what William said in about, you know, the new housing projects, althought this could be built in, obviously, things move on quite fast, and build things in and they tend to become out of date quite quickly. But that there is this explosion going to happen of people's needs, we're all living longer, and we're going to need stuff more, and who's going to pay for it apart from ourselves. And if you live in a low middle income country, there's no chance of that. And so therefore, you're going to need your family or social care to support you physically, because you haven't got some, you know, piece of equipment that you might need, goes right through. So who created a list of 50 essential assistive devices as a starting point, recommending that all UN members sign up to that and provide those for their populations? It hasn't happened yet.

Mark Bergin 48:51

David what I'm going to do is I'm going to make another one of these Town Halls, actually a series as we go around all four markets in the world. And we'll do it about assistive technology. And that's very interesting. What's the timeframe that it's meant to go from 1 billion to 2 billion people who need that? Is that in our 30 years?

David Constantine 49:12

That's between now and 2050.

Mark Bergin 49:13

,Okay, so it's in that 2050 horizon there. So we're going to get to net zero. And at the same time we're going to double the population of people who need assistance and so what I found very interesting with this is the competing priorities. Here I am actually going the high ideal, let's go talk about BeyondZero. It sounds like there's quite a lot of things that we need to get in order in our house first. Frven I'm interested about you. There's about 1100 architects and designers involved with the DP Group or DP Architects. And so you've got a lot of young minds there, you've got a lot of mature minds there. Are your clients actually as progressive as the imagination of the team or are you like a lot of designers, where you're saying, could you let us go a little bit further?

Frven Lim 50:03

Well, that's a good question Mark. I think because the majority of our projects are in Asia, we are facing a lot of challenges because the Asian market is still predominantly driven by the economics and the financial side of things. But increasingly, especially where we're headquartered in Singapore, the government from the top is really implementing very interesting and very holistic policies. And as we all know, Singapore is quite unique because there are certain things you can do in Singapore that's quite difficult to replicate anywhere else. But some of the policies and incentives really push for the developers to take a more holistic and more long term view of their developments and projects. Case in point, there is this term which is pretty much common language in practitioners in Singapore now, which is the digital twin. So instead of just going for the BRM, all significant projects be constructed as a digital twin. So that's with every single aspect of the real thing being built virtually and then the model is then tested, not just in terms of physical clashes, as in the case for BRM, to see whether, you know, you need to rectify things during construction, but in terms of even like the operations and the cost effectiveness of the systems that are embedded into a building. So some of these trends that are happening there has become pretty much the de facto methodology. However, I think it's primarily and very, very strongly instigated by the government. And we're using that as case studies to bring it forth to some of our other clients. For example, we're very active in China and India at the moment, so we're going there, and we kind of carry the Singapore flag, and because of that, there is credibility and success in trying to communicate some of these methodologies and some of these approaches. But I think increasingly, like I was describing earlier, the economic side will start to dwindle in terms of power, because as you start to incentivize, or you start to create some penalties for the poor approach to conceiving or doing a building plus the fact that the developers are very smart, the developers are actually building for the Gen Z, and even the group beyond the Gen Z. So they have to actually build things or product, for what these group of buyers or this group of consumers want. So instead of going against the flow, you know, they are listening to the voices or what they want in the social media and the way that everyone's working and living in a very hybrid way, in the modern digital era. So I think some of these experiments that are being tested there will gradually become more and more successful. But we are starting to get some inroads into making sure that some of these ideas can materialize. But this is a long journey and the word Value Engineering, you know, it's like a lot of ideas get engineered out.

Mark Bergin 53:45

So Gurvinder I want to take you back to a little while ago in London. If you go think of Saint Pancras Station, it was black, you know, it was a beautiful building that was built around the same time as the Chateau at Shambo. So that gives you an idea that the French we're building nice little palaces, this is meant to be where commerce moves through, but it got tarnished through the pollution that happened through a previous era. And now it's glorious, and it's resplendent. And it's like just such a fantastic building. And in fact, it's the home for the Euro Star. So you know, it's like, now the connection. So it's got this new era. You've got these young people in your household who are going to be really disappointed that we've stuffed up the politics and we stuffed up the media and we stuffed up the inclusion and we stuffed up the environment. Are we too late? Like you know, I've always got this philosophy that I'm late and therefore we have to do things in a hurry. And all of you know that I try to go fit too much into every year. And so that's my philosophy. Have we got that drive and energy? You know, are we going to serve the young people that are in your home well, or do they have to go now pick up because we haven't done things over the last 20 years?

Gurvinder Khurana 55:06

Good question, difficult question. I think

Mark Bergin 55:11

Nothing's simple!

Gurvinder Khurana 55:12

I think it's a mix, actually. And I think that we're still within the grasp of not getting it wholly wrong. I mean, I think that if you look at Saint Pancras and the King's Cross area and coal drop yard and what they've done, you know, it's an amazing regeneration and repurposing, and I have to say, I'm a massive advocate of taking buildings stock, and not letting it just be crushed. But actually saving our green belt and reinvigorating our brown sites, you know. I think there's coming a point where there's going to be a lot of buildings, that're empty. And I think we'd be doing the next generation a great service actually to be reinventing. You know, we were talking about communities where we reinvent the community, we repurpose the buildings that we have. And I think that Gen, Z will help with that. And I think, you know, we've got quite young members within our design team who are also real advocates of this. I think the generations are coming up behind, see the benefit in the repurposing, and it's interesting, because, you know, if I think about the UK, particularly, you know, I'm living in a Victorian house, and you walk in through the door, and it's incredibly modern, and you walk around, and we are brilliant in this country of turning Victorian, Edwardian old buildings into something really fantastic. But I think the time is coming, where the buildings that have been built over the last 30 or 40 years now have to go through reinvention. And that's both at a building, a use, and a societal cultural change that they've all got to come hand in hand. And I think our high streets can survive and redefine. You know, I have a real love for the comment that I've made this time this year, quite a few times. And I think yeah, we are having a Madonna moment. You know, it's totally about reinventing. And, Life in Pictures is some amazing things. When I say I nearly bought her first album the other day, actually on vinyl, that tells you something. But I think you know, we're on that edge. And we can redefine, we can take some of these glass buildings that people look at and think are really ugly. And we can turn them into something fabulous. They can be office blocks turned to hotels or, you know, social housing, or shops turned into offices, because we are going to change the way we live and the way we work. And so we have to change our mindset on what these buildings can be. Because at the end of the day, they're shells that we turn into something when we move into them. It's the people that change how those spaces feel and function. And I think we owe it to ourselves and the generations coming to lead that. But I think they are marching full steam ahead behind us pushing the way forward on this. So I think it's coming whether we like it or not, we just need to get on board and get ready. And I'm going to be driving that train.

Mark Bergin 58:25

I know we're really close to the hour. I said take us home and you've done that. So you've done that incredibly well there. I feel like an auctioneer here. Does anybody have any other comment that you'd like to get in here? Or do you think we carry some of this over into into our next conversation? Have I missed out on anything for anyone?

David Constantine 58:48

Can I say something?

Mark Bergin 58:49

David please, yeah go for it.


Just two things. Just following up on what Govinda just said. I mean, one of those amazing things I've seen as a kid I used to come up on the train to Liverpool Street and see all the big gasometers. Never quite understood how they worked, how they get the gas in and out, how they go up and down. Now I've worked out. But in Kings Cross there are those gasometers turned into flats. And I don't know what they are like to live in, but from the train they look amazing on the way to Stratford. I think what a great use of something I used to think was in the the horrible bit of London, that nether region that used to come in the 60s and 70s on the train looking at all this horrible stuff on the outskirts, and there's a great use of it. The other thing I just wanted to say was, I don't know if anybody saw Obama being interviewed recently, but he talks about the future generation, he talks about his daughters a lot and how they are holding he and Michelle to task. And I think he has some really interesting messages. And I hear a lot of parents, I haven't got any kids myself, saying, God I'm being, you know, told by my kids about the environment, I've been told about the politics. I think, you know, young people today are a lot more vocal and feel willing to speak out than they did when we were kids. You know, whether you came from a sort of political vocal family or not, I'd have not to have done that. You just went with the flow. But I think Obama's got some really, he was always referring to his daughters and what they think and what they're saying. Things are really interesting. And that's very recent, not just when he was President more so probably now,

Mark Bergin 1:00:30

David, you've given me a huge piece of inspiration there, which is, I think, I want to do one of these Town Halls where I get the kids on the call, not the parents. And it's almost like, Okay, we'll get both of you there. And Will, Kirsty, Gurvinder, I know you've got them. Frven have you got somebody who's actually of speaking age that would speak so eloquently for you?

Frven Lim 1:00:59

Speaking age. I'm not sure about eloquently. I've got a five and a nine year old.

Mark Bergin 1:01:07

Okay, well, like they might be just under but worthwhile to hear. And even Julie, I'm thinking, you know, wouldn't it be interesting to just see how far does the designer's Halo go even you know, for your partner to be able to get them on the call and say, Well, can they go talk about these topics? Because I sometimes think we might be in this little gasometer, you know, echo chamber where we can all talk to ourselves. Have we been able to at least get it into the people that we share a household with, let alone the people who are beyond that. Look, it's dangerous, I should go do it because it seems like a lot of fun. Everybody, this has been fantastic. Because what I've learned is that it's a high ideal to think that we can get BeyondZero, and that there's lovely projects that we can imagine in the future. But we've got to get our house in order. We have to actually make sure that we've worked out how to go and cooperate with each other again, rather than just chew each other out. We've got to work out how to take people forward with this, not leave them behind. And there's a huge amount of work that needs to be done. And that's going to be very prescriptive to different economies. So I'd imagine if we had the people from Berlin who are normally on the call, they'd actually turn around and say it was a very, very different circumstance. It is in Australia, it is throughout Asia. So I've been given lots of food for thought here. I think yourselves have also. I'm always humbled. Thank you so much to the viewers. We're in the US next week, for Episode 35. And it'll be interesting to see, do the Americans have a similar idea of what that BeyondZero might be? They might even be denying that there's a need for Zero. You know, that seems to be where the economy is stuck there at the moment. But again, thank you for your attention. And panelists, always humbled. Thank you for joining me.

Kirsty Dias 1:03:06

Thanks, Mark.

Mark Bergin 1:03:07

Actually, what we'll do is open all mics on. And we'll do that ... thank you for joining me.

David Constantine 1:03:14

Thanks very much.

Gurvinder Khurana 1:03:16

Thank you.

Julie Monk 1:03:16

Mark it was a pleasure

Kirsty Dias 1:03:20

Thank you.

Mark Bergin 1:03:21

Fantastic. All right. So that's a wrap for us. We'll be able to get into that together. That's awesome. But what do you think about that idea of actually getting in the next generation? Who's nervous? I am.

Kirsty Dias 1:03:39

It would depend what mood the teenagers were in, I would have to say.

Mark Bergin 1:03:45

But that's okay. Because what we were talking about was the idea. Yeah, you're the future leaders. But can you clean your room? And actually, the future leaders can you clean your room? But will you not be moody today? Yeah, that's like so there's all these challenges out there to work out? What does it mean, you're the future? You're the future leaders? Or is it that we're actually grumpy? And we're messy and that we're still trying to be leaders? I'm wondering how different they are to us. I know I wouldn't want to be taking guidance from me.

Frven Lim 1:04:22

I think this is a fascinating if you do get I think it's probably between 12 and 15 year old so they've already gathered some simple opinion. And I feel that they realized that if they don't say or do anything about it, we'll have to clean up the mess very soon, and they will do it, you know, things would have gone so far. That is going to be an incredibly uphill task for them to even make any difference in any smallest way. So I think it's really good.

Kirsty Dias 1:04:58

Last week I was on a judging panel for a sixth form, public speaking competition for a group of schools, they're managed by a group called the creative Education Trust. But they were speaking about they've been given a title Where're you from? And one of the kids, so they're between like 16 and 18, but one of the kids did her speech around the premise of if somebody arrived from a different planet. And they asked you, you know, where are you from? And then they specifically asked you, you know, so you're from the place where the famine in Yemen is taking place? How would that make you feel, and it was all about having responsibility as a global citizen for the events that are happening in the world, and how almost you carry around that weight with you and remain optimistic. It was very powerful.

Mark Bergin 1:06:08

A really embarrassing event that occurred to me when I was probably 20. And I was a DJ on a train, which is just embarrassing by a start for being a DJ and being a DJ on a train

Kirsty Dias 1:06:23

You'd have a lot of stories, though.

Mark Bergin 1:06:25

Yeah, well, there's nothing that I would do being a DJ

David Constantine 1:06:29

DJing on a train or were you just being a DJ? No, No I was on a train being a DJ, the party was on a train. So you're in a confined space. And it was round about the time that apartheid hadn't actually quite finished. And I was being a smartass, I think the technical term is, on the mic. And I was talking, I forget it was free Nelson Mandela song or something I was playing. I was like, you know, those assholes in South Africa. And this guy came and he hit me across the side of the head, the sucker punch. And there's no bouncers on the train, there's nothing, I'm totally exposed. And he began to speak to me in a South African accent. I thought I've got to bring you down. And he said, we're not all like that. I left because I disagreed. But you've insulted me. And then about 15 years later, I did a project that was to help people who were refugees that come to Australia, to go and understand some of the behavioral patterns of Australia, the way that we raise kids. And then because of the language issue, the normal way of designing interfaces, put the British flag up for English and put the French flag up for French. But you didn't want to go put a flag up because the language in the flag, the language was a cultural asset, the flag was the imperialist a**h****, who would actually cause the problem for them. So you're hearing right. And so those two events hit me. Which is, we've got to have consideration that they're people first, they're not an economic or political circumstance. And I look at all of you as very sensible people, not the people who put your country in the peril that you're experiencing with Brexit. But even if you are, I'd like to actually work out how to go and be considerate to you and say, well, there must be some reason for how do we move forward. And I think the opportunity in the United States at the moment is there's 70 million people who want to have a Better Future, just they feel the Better Future is by going backwards. Whereas the grandparents, their idea of a better future was by being progressive and going forwards. And so there's this massive opportunity to flip them from a communications perspective and say, you want to be like your grandfather, you want to make America great again, be progressive. If you want to make America great again, being progressive, going backwards, we know we can never go back. We know we can't go back with COVID. We know we can't go back on a whole range of things. We have to be progressive. And given that I think we're late. And that's that the whole thing. It's like, you know, we're like we have to, we have to drive and we have to accelerate. As David indicated, within a 30 year period we're going to actually double the number of people who need assistive technologies and assistive devices to help them in their lives, We're late. I'm not even sure we can make the devices for that many people in the period of time. You know, could we scale the industries? It doesn't seem like we can do that in a lot of cases. So you know, I think there's been a really interesting discussion because we've all got the idea that we'd like to think that we can go Beyond Zero, but there's a lot of house getting in order before we can get there. And all of you thank you for your time. And it's been really great. I didn't know where we were going to go when we do this. I never do, you all know that. But we went to somewhere which was really great because now we got a bit of a shopping list of what we have to do. Jobs we have to do to get to that enablement position. So thank you. Thank you.

Hosted by: Mark Bergin

Podcast Production: Pat Daly

Transcript: Otter AI and Victoria Robinson

86 views0 comments

© 2020 - an initiative of DRIVENxDESIGN