Designs from a Distance
Designing for a country not one’s own often results in projects that reflect the geo-political and economic factors at the time. Issues of diplomacy, colonialism, post-war reconstruction, new and old political allies, and resources such as rubber and petroleum and who manages them are only a few of the forces that compel the clients commissioning design projects. This exhibit features designs, landscapes, and planning projects on six continents by designers based in the San Francisco Bay Area and held by the Environmental Design Archives.
In some sense investigating “designing in foreign lands” is an exercise in following the money. Governments are the clients for embassies, developers contract commercial centers and resorts, businesses commission corporate facilities, and municipalities fund parks, schools, and master plans. International competitions also encourage designers to submit schemes for overseas projects. Other influential factors may be expertise in a particular building type such as Ernest Kump’s proficiency designing community colleges or clients requesting an architect or landscape architect from their home locale to design a project for them.
These projects, whether planning, landscape architecture, or architecture, both raise questions and provide insight. Do they reflect cultural preferences? Do they engage local building materials and techniques? Does plant selection reflect climate more accurately than building design, because it must?