Revisiting Field Conditions

white cover with blue text that says Revising Field Conditions

Revisiting Field Conditions is an Open Project report from the Spring 2023 semester at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design instructed by Elisa Silva.

In surveying landscapes, neighborhoods and communities, design could greatly benefit from further consideration of how they are recorded. Indeed, unreduced interpretations of fields, as the architect Stan Allen argued, remain conspicuously underexplored arsenals for design. His 1997 essay “From Object to Field” is a call to embrace “the real in all its messiness and unpredictability.” He gripes that architect’s need for control has impoverished the discipline by disengaging it from the complexity and indeterminacy of most every field.

This Open Project revisits the premise of field conditions encompassing not only territory, but also discipline and actors. What is this missing “real” in design? In order to facilitate ample opportunities to explore the ‘real’, students went on frequent walks and became “regulars” of Mattapan in Boston. Engaging organizations and locals in conversation, observing daily routines, exploring overlooked spaces, tracing real estate dynamics, spotting conflicts and identifying misunderstood assumptions were desired outcomes of each visit. Students also acknowledged bonds and even affection created with locals and understood themselves as part of the set of actors that operate in the field. Students were encouraged to pursue collaborative endeavors amongst themselves and with neighbors. In revisiting field conditions, students moved into shared creative processes that while inclusive and complex, arrived at expressions that were resourceful, accessible, and relevant to people and the places they inhabit.

Series initially designed by Zak Jensen and Laura Grey

458 pages, 17 x 24.5 cm