University of Calgary

Dr. Sinclair on People, Design + Environment: A Quest for Deeper Understanding, Greater Connections + A Better World

Submitted by jwalla on Mon, 2012/02/06 - 8:39am.

Dr. Sinclair (right) with His Excellency The Governor General of CanadaOur times are interesting and challenging, with escalating uncertainly, complexity and chaos commonplace regardless of country, culture and context.

The predictability of previous days has been replaced with turbulence and, at times, trauma. From global warming and climate change to national unrest and international conflict we struggle, as a civilization, to gain understanding and to determine the most appropriate paths forward.

It is my contention that many modern maladies have been fuelled, if not created, by an increasingly fragmented, specialized, anaesthetized and otherwise indifferent ethos where greed and selfishness all too often eclipse sharing and caring. My interests and activities, in many respects, confront this dominion of disintegration, disrespect and disinterest with an approach that promotes systems thinking, improved integration and the pursuit of holism.  Intersecting such an approach is my Dr. Sinclair onsite with EVDS studentsfundamental belief in interdisciplinarity as a potent vehicle for teaching, research and practice.  Gestalt is an attainment worth chasing.

With a diverse background that spans from science (e.g., neuropsychology) to art (e.g., architecture) I am convinced that new ways of seeing, thinking and acting can arise when such realms are bridged, juxtaposed and reconciled. Often each side looks with suspicion over the fence, feeling that methods are questionable, explorations are suspect, and outcomes are illegitimate. However, as British Essayist CP Snow rightfully noted so many years back, the two cultures should cooperate and have to seek resonance in the interest of a healthier world.  With this conception of cooperation in mind, a significant dimension of my teaching, research and practice aims to span Dr. Sinclair in Kuwaitsome gaps, demonstrate some imagination, exercise some compassion and take some risks. Lofty aspirations for certain -- worthwhile endeavours nonetheless.

My scholarship, pursuits and passions have taken me to many corners of the globe in search of discovery, awareness, insight and impact. From Australia, Asia and Africa to Europe, the Middle East and the Americas I have explored opportunities to work with governments, communities and organizations in order to better understand circumstances, to better grasp problems, to better craft solutions, and to foster new ways of managing complexity. A good example is the development, dissemination and application of my “Holistic Framework for Design & Planning” (see Sinclair, 2009; Sinclair, 2010). First crafted in response to work in the informal settlements of Mongolia, this framework has been the focus of many of my international engagements over Dr. Sinclair's Holistic Framework for Design & Planningrecent years. The framework is structured in a manner that places equal emphasis on the qualities of Agility, Fitness, Diversity and Delight. These aspects, as they pertain to a city, neighbourhood or building challenge, for example, arguably need to be in some equilibrium in order to generate optimum benefit.  In many instances problems are driven by narrow agendas, political posturing and specific interests. The aforesaid framework underscores the need to transcend such constriction in order to address necessary and broadly positioned dimensions of any given problem.

In recent years I have been involved in examining and developing additional models that look at sub-sections of the framework, notably Agility and Delight, in some quite specific contexts. My work on Agility (see Sinclair, Mousazadeh, & Safarzadeh, 2011; Safarzadeh, Mousazadeh & Sinclair, 2011) considers most overtly Japan, although increasingly links and opportunities are being realized in North American markets. My work on Delight (see Sinclair, 2011) has recently taken me to Bhutan where my ideas find resonance with the government-endorsed system of Gross National Happiness (GNH). At home and abroad I have lectured widely on this Holistic Framework for Design & Planning, with a goal to underscore the importance of deeper understanding, greater connections + a better world. All, in my estimation, prove essential to a future that must demonstrate more respect for people, more appreciation of design and more responsibility around the environment.

Dr. Brian R. Sinclair, FRAIC AIA (Intl) is a Professor of Architecture & Environmental Design.

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