Frameworks and toolkits – red tape or solution?

I recently interviewed a landscape architect who has been the principal at a respected firm for 21 years while working on another project about the state of the practice. He mentioned that the recent trend for designers to interact with other fields is through policy and design frameworks, which has only increased the amount of paperwork and policy for projects everywhere.

From a small business’s point of view, I certainly can understand how frameworks that are then implemented as regulatory policies then translate to more time and effort spent towards more red tape, especially when the firm itself already does cutting edge, responsible civic design.

And yet, I have been intrigued by the bevy of “kit of parts”, “toolkits”, and “frameworks” that have been presented as strategies in both design and policy projects. To me, these aren’t inhibitory frameworks, but rather empowering DIY documents that make the planning and design process more understandable and do-able to the general public. I think others might argue that these are the responsibilities of other governing structures. However, I think any steps towards empowering civic engagement is the only way to make change outside of potentially rigid frameworks.

It is in this light that I myself am striving towards crafting a toolkit in my thesis for the UW Farm. Striking the right balance of tools that enable its users to perceive and organize information in a common language while keeping the structure open enough to accommodate innovative ideas has been the most challenging aspect. However, I think working closely with the client you have in mind is the key to transcending the problem of applicability and implementation.

If implemented as policies, frameworks will have to be adjusted carefully in order to strike the right balance of regulation at the correct scale of community and/or organization in order to be a resilient system that can adapt to new changes and challenges.

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