Imagine That: The Importance of Imagination in Design
Imagination is a funny thing. We typically associate it with children and the extraordinary things they come up with. With my 2-year-old son, he creatively describes seeing monkeys jump through the “Christmas” trees as we drive by the “jungle” on our way home from daycare. If you take a moment to listen and watch a young child play, you will experience how creative thought turns the mundane into a magical experience. This is a special gift we all have, but our challenge is to never give up that spark. One of the best ways to evoke your imagination skills is to think back to your past imaginations. We take our imagination as children for granted. All children possess it, but over the years – if not steadily used – it can become elusive. Mine was strong as a child. My brother and I constructed “forts” and “castles,” using everything from straw bales and leaf piles to rafters in an old barn. If we can reminisce on how imaginative we were as children, we are more likely to be able to recapture it as adults and create lasting, innovative impacts.
As designers, we are lucky enough to hold onto and exercise imagination with much of what we do. We can leave practicality at the door. We are often not afraid to let our imaginations run wild, allowing us to visualize new possibilities. As problem solvers, we always ask “what if” and then push on as new realities unfold. Our imagination and thoughts create our future, and as landscape architects, we are leaders in how our cities and world are shaped. Albert Einstein once said, “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” Imagination, by definition, allows us to explore ideas of things that are not in our present environment. Imagination is the foundation of discovery, invention and creativity.
“Imagination is the working stuff of creativity, and creativity is the bridge to innovation,” states creativity and innovation motivational speaker Gregg Fraley in his TedxTalk. He goes on to explain the ideal “imagination quadrant” personality for which we should all should aim: the leader. The leader, as opposed to the dreamer, zombie or manager, is characterized by:
Someone who is aware of their imagination
Writes or sketches their thoughts down
Constantly asks their imagination for more and better ideas
Takes action on their ideas
At City Place, we imagined a centralized stormwater facility that doubled as a park. This vision not only highlighted the environmental benefits of treating stormwater, but also created social and financial benefits for our clients. At Turner Corporate Headquarters in Atlanta, we imagined a centralized loading dock functioning as a welcoming gathering space, complete with a lively set of Spanish stairs. Some of the most influential and innovative creations have come from the simple act of imagining something bigger, better or more beautiful. We look at every project as a unique opportunity to exercise our imagination and creative vision, providing innovative and successful solutions for our world.
When we were kids with a limitless imagination, we viewed the world as a blank canvas. The possibilities were endless. Landscape architects must be kids at heart as we sit sketching and dreaming. We not only imagine great places for people and the environment, but we also take action on those ideas and make them reality.
Blog by Shea Hendress, Project Manager