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We are all designers

Design is everything a human touches

A tree on Blauson Boulevard in Auguston. Photo by Stephen Bau.

The world of the city is some distance away from the window that looks into a forest across the street. The area had been cleared for development in a small subdivision called Auguston at the edge of the residential area of the City of Abbotsford. But the forest has grown back, up to the sidewalk that defines the boundary between the Craftsman style homes and what remains of the habitat for wildlife, including bees, robins, squirrels, deer, coyotes, and bears.

The Auguston subdivision is named for Mr. Au Bak Ling, the Hong Kong investor who had aspired to create a master-planned community on Sumas Mountain.

The subdivision is not far away from the Sumas Terminal of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

At the foot of the mountain, there is a reserve set aside by the Canadian Federal Government for the Sumas First Nation.

The Clayburn Creek Trail flows down the mountain along the south edge of the Auguston subdivision, before making its way across the farms of the Matsqui Prairie to the Fraser River.

The eastern area of Sumas Mountain consists primarily of Crown land, including Sumas Mountain Regional Park.

So many people have made claims on this region, but this land remains the unceded territory of the Stó:lō Nation.

Stephen watches the green leaves of the trees rustling in the wind as he listens to a podcast from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the CBC. Ideas is one of his favourite shows. The host, Nahlah Ayed, is in conversation with Romans Mars, who hosts a podcast called 99% Invisible.

Roman Mars tells of the moment he came up with the name for his podcast.

“One of the people I was talking with was a landscape architect. And he said, ‘Well, you know, the real thing is, if we’re doing our jobs right, it’s 99% invisible.’ And I was like, ‘Ding!’”

Another idea catches Stephen’s attention.

“Our purview of what design is, is anything that a human touches. And as long as we’re thinking about these things as the unintended and intended consequences of people’s decisions, you can’t run out of stories, really.”

Stephen thinks to himself, “If design is everything a human touches, then we are all designers.”

“And a lot of people have designs for this land we are living on, including the CEO of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Premier of British Columbia, the Prime Minister of Canada, and the Queen of England.”

“How did things get so complicated? How are we ever going to solve these problems?”

“Well, for a designer, problems are design challenges. So, where do we start?”

Found typography on a sidewalk in Auguston by the tree photographed above on Blauson Boulevard.

Everyone is Creative

This article is submitted to the June-August writing competition on creativity and resilience.

Writing in the third person is a way of creating some narrative distance from myself as a character, as I play with the literary forms of fiction and non-fiction. The past is non-fiction, having been written into history, and is fading from memory, although it can be retrieved in some fragmentary form as emotions, sensations, images, and stories. The present is flowing through conscious experience as filtered awareness by the brain’s ability to focus on what seems to be most important. The future is speculative fiction, the adjacent possible, yet to be written.

We live at the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. We are just making it up as we go along.

However, in this moment, we are more aware than ever that what is often represented as non-fiction is actually fiction, and the fictions that fill our minds have a greater power to shape our realities than the truths that lie hidden all around us.



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