This morning I was looking at a plastic container full of fresh strawberries. I imagined the strawberries about a week from now. Unopened, ethylene gas had accumulated in the package. The strawberries went from ripe to beyond ripe. The white fuzz of fungi had exploded all throughout the container. Luckily, it didn't happen. But imagine if we could look from the present into the future or back into the past. With natural systems, which are always changing, this isn't so far-fetched.
What about our urban landscapes? What about the green spaces we build in them? Can we foresee how they will look in 50 years? In 100 years? When I take my students from the Boston architectural college to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston I ask them to visualize this asynchronous landscape. I ask them a somewhat provocative question. When Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned this space, did he look forward to the way plants would fill the space in the future? How much did Olmsted know about plant form? How much did he care about what way his built landscapes would appear a century later?
So when we design spaces or buildings or landscapes or urban habitations we need to think about the future. This isn't rocket science. It isn't some sort of astral projection. I think it requires a little common sense and the possibility of stepping back for a moment from our egoish grand plans. If we consider more than the productive snapshot of our immediate present, if we take a moment to imagine a past and visualize a future, maybe we can design built environments that grow into the future as they become more beautiful and more usable.