The Architecture of Life: Partners In Human Centered Design

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Partners In Human Centered Design

There are many voices out there who are committed to human-centered design. Most of them - with notable exceptions - are not practicing architecture. Since I tend to focus on my own ideas and activites on this blog, I thought I should send a shout out to a few of them who have particularly impressed me.

The first is a brilliant woman named Lauralee Alben who runs a design consultation called Alben Design.

I was introduced to her by another like-minded voice, Mark Rettig of FIT Associates.

Lauralee uses a process of her own - called the Sea Change Design Process - to impact organizational design. Like my work, hers is influenced strongly by systems science.

She is also a graphic designer. I had the chance to visit with her for almost an hour one day about our common vision and it was one of best conversations I have had in months.

Check out what she is doing.

The second shout out I want to give in this post is to Architecture for Humanity. It is a non-profit that was founded ten years ago by Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr - who are also the editors of a wonderful book called Design Like You Give a Damn.

As they describe it, "using design as a tool, we empower our partners to build a more sustainable future."

They are a well conceived organization doing breakthrough work and deserve support.

Architecture for Humanity has local chapters around the world including in Texas. Here is the link to the Austin chapter.

I also want to give props to Garry VanPatter and Elizabeth Pastor of the NextDesign Leadership Institute. GK VanPatter and his collaborators - most of whom are professional designers of various ilks or academics interested in design theory - offer a wealth of information to people like me.

They also host a Google group called Transforming Transformation. I have followed and participated in group for a couple of years. It is full of brilliant people working on the leading edge of their design disciplines.

Finally, I found an evolutionary neuroscientist of the tradition of John Morgan Allman. His book - Evolving Brains - was an early influence on my own ideas.

Her name is Peggy La Cerra and she is the past Director of the Center for Evolutionary Neuroscience. I found her by accident because a link to one of her old papers appeared in the daily Google Alert searches I use to keep up with one of my areas of interest - entropy and its realtionship with the evolution of living systems.

I began reading the paper - The First Law of Psychology is the Second Law of Thermodynamics - and was spellbound.

In a series of lectures that became a book called What Is Life? , one of the fathers of quantum physics - Erwin Schrodinger - posited in 1944 that a profound relationship may exist between the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the nature of life. It has been a hot topic ever since.

I sent Dr. La Cerra an e-mail lavish with praise and she was kind enough to reply. Later we were able to visit on the phone - a brilliant, busy woman.

Yesterday, a copy of her 2002 book - The Origin of Minds - co-written by Roger Bingham, arrived at my home. With it was a copy of the February 2009 issue of Spirtuality and Health.

The cover story of the magazine - The Creation of I - was written by Peggy. The issue also includes an article about the home she and her husband - a sculptor and healer with a Ph.D. in philosophy - built outside Ojai, California.

My impression is that Peggy La Cerra is one of those rare people - Einstein among them - who offered brilliant insights as a scientist and later as a spiritual leader.

I strongly recommend anyone interested in such subjects check into her varied career. Her work is edgy and goes beyond what some would consider reductionist science - but in the end - I bet she is right!

My congratulations and respect to all these innovative, far-sighted voices!