August 30, 2012
Tuesday marked the official release date of Thomas Fisher‘s latest book, Designing to Avoid Disaster: The Nature of Fracture-Critical Design (Routledge, 2012). Fisher is dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota as well as a foremost thought leader in the public interest design field. Whereas designers are historically trained to focus on buildings and objects, for example, Fisher advocates that greater emphasis must be placed on the design and urgently-needed redesign of systems, services, and processes.
Recent catastrophic events, such as the I-35W bridge collapse, New Orleans flooding, the BP oil spill, Port au Prince’s destruction by earthquake, Fukushima nuclear plant’s devastation by tsunami, the Wall Street investment bank failures, and the housing foreclosure epidemic and the collapse of housing prices, all stem from what author Thomas Fisher calls fracture-critical design. This is design in which structures and systems have so little redundancy and so much interconnectedness and misguided efficiency that they fail completely if any one part does not perform as intended. If we, as architects, planners, engineers, and citizens are to predict and prepare for the next disaster, we need to recognize this error in our thinking and to understand how design thinking provides us with a way to anticipate unintended failures and increase the resiliency of the world in which we live.