Urban Design: Urban design, like fashion, should cover more than the basics

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As I write this, Indiana Fashion Week is ending. If you didn’t know about it, maybe you encountered the Flashmob Fashion Show at the Indiana State Fair, a themed photo booth downtown, or the Fashion Fair on Monument Circle.

Local not-for-profit Pattern was key to Indiana Fashion Week’s success and is an organization you should be keeping an eye on. Pattern is a national-level fashion show. fashionpublication. Its mission goes beyond publishing a magazine. It seeks “to grow the local creative economy and provide a platform for creative expression for up-and-coming creatives of all kinds, but especially in the areas of fashion, photography, graphic design, digital & social media, art and music—our goal is to keep Indiana talent in Indiana.”

It isn’t an accident that some cities become synonymous with fashionand other artistic endeavors. Creatives recognize the subtleties, craft and artfulness of physical places and are drawn towards those who share a similar vibe.

Design is often viewed as a luxury. Design is at its core. designIt is about solving problems creatively for everyone, at any scale. To defend designPractitioners often downplay beauty’s importance, but aesthetic should not be ignored.

Urban designYou could learn some lessons from fashion design. While this is a clear solution to a basic need, fashionIt elevates the everyday by asking bigger questions such as: How does what we wear affect our feelings about ourselves? What does it tell us about who we are? showRespect for others

A T-shirt and pajama pants could be worn to an interview, fulfilling the basic expectation that all parts are covered. We are more likely to wear something that makes us feel confident, and signals to others that we are worthy of extra attention.

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You might also consider extending the concept to the designA street or public space. Although it may be well-engineered and provide safety, does it help us feel secure? Is it comfortable? What does the quality of the materials tell us about our shared values, longevity, and commitment to quality? Is it a sign that we are proud of our community and feel confident? Is it welcoming to all residents of our city?

Urban artist Lewis Miller’s Instagram page shows a child experiencing one of his Flower Flashes—temporary oversized floral arrangements displayed in public spaces. (Photo courtesy Tom Gallagher

Recently, a colleague introduced me to the work of Lewis Miller, an artist who brings beautiful, oversized floral arrangements to urban public spaces in unexpected ways—moments he calls Flower Flashes. This column was inspired by his Instagram page. It speaks volumes about the importance of great urban spaces.

It would be easy just to dismiss this work, but I see it as more than that. A single creative mind created a moment of multisensory beauty, which enhances the urban environment and creates a welcoming, consequential experience. Cities’ essential purpose is bringing people together and creating these kinds of small moments that we can share.

This is the next evolution of our city—embracing beauty as necessity and building a more solid and supportive creative economy. This will take time. Pattern, an outstanding organization that has been working hard for more than a ten years, and GangGang aren’t waiting. They are leading the way for the future. Give them a look, and see what they are up to next.•

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Gallagher is both a principal and an urbanist. designer with Ratio and a professor-in-practice of urban designBall State University. Send correspondence to [email protected]

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