Time Warner Experience, New York City by GlobalDesign Workshop and Cuningham Group
Hobbesian Concept Design Principles
Hobbes, Thomas (1588–1679), English philosopher. He believed that human action was motivated entirely by selfish concerns. He is best known for his treatise Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651).
Hobbesian |ˈhäbzēən| adjective
On a fundamental level, designers have two choices concerning those that will use the places we design. One can assume that one’s creation will be so novel as to alter normative human behavior, or one can assume that humans will continue to behave as they have done throughout history.
To this destination master planner and destination architect, the later seems the more reasonable course. Thomas Hobbes believed that human actions are entirely motivated by selfish concern. Perhaps this is an extreme view. It is to be hoped that this is not an entirely accurate position. Yet our long and storied observation of the way people use public spaces suggests that Hobbes, if cynical, was not far removed from reality.
In no place is this more true than in destinations where people choose to spend their leisure time. It is their limited time, and the very point of leisure for many is to spend time as they please.
Thus, designers of destinations, retail architecture destinations, town center destinations, entertainment destinations and resort destinations, should they desire their projects to succeed, are wise to assume that Hobbes was accurate in his assessment of his fellow man.
An appropriate design process derivative of this assumption is as follows:
OBSERVATION: Observe successful destinations. Observe the manner in which people interact with the spaces, their patterns of movement and behavior, their responses to stimuli.
ANALYZE: Analyze and decipher observed behavior. Compare and contrast successful destinations with those that have failed.
EXECUTE: Develop actionable criteria based on this observation and analysis. Design and build based on that criteria.
As designers, we have established a series of false dichotomies:
Fine art vs. pop culture
Artistic purity vs. pragmatic populism
Artists and architects vs. the movie and entertainment industry
Design theory vs. strategic planning
Additionally, we have established a series of dogmatic statements which, depending on one’s point of view, are either foundational principles or ludicrous and pejorative assertions:
Pragmatism without design principles = kitsch
Design theory without an understanding of behavioral psychology creates cold, hard places
Only architects understand how to create beauty (primarily visual)
Only entertainers understand how to capture imaginations through stories and metaphors (5 senses)
CityWalk is popular but not beautiful or timeless
The Salk Institute is beautiful but empty
The best places, however, the most timeless places, combine both the purist and the pragmatic schools of thought:
Prague’s Old Town Square
Siena’s Piazza del Campo
New York City’s Rockefeller Center and Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden
Must timeless beauty and effective pragmatism, sense and sensibility, be mutually exclusive?