Written/Recommendations by Mikyoung Kim

With winter settling in and icicles hanging from our deck in Boston, I’ve been warming up on the couch and rereading some old favorites to remind myself about how creative people can inspire real change for urban communities. Some of the recent reads I’d recommend include:

1) A classic that I’ve reread many times: The Great Good Place, by Ray Oldenburg- coupled with a new favorite:  Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, by Robert D. Putnam (the author of Bowling Alone).  These books are a reminder to all designers of our responsibilities to build social infrastructure into our work: to create designs that are inclusive, safe and welcoming for all communities, while thinking about ways of integrating health and well being into the civic landscape.

2) One of my favorites is Sarah Goldhagen’s Welcome to your World.  If you read this one, consider another amazing book she authored: Louis Kahn’s Situated Modernism.  Sarah has been such an inspiration to our studio as we continue to study and understand how human-centered design impacts the public realm.

3) During the last storm, I pulled out two books from my library that cross over traditional creative boundaries (from writing to painting to music to poetry: we should be interested in it all!).  As Willa Cathers is quoted “Beauty is not so plentiful that we can afford  to object to stepping back a dozen paces to catch it” in Daniel Halpern’s collection of essays: Writers on Artists.  These include D.H. Lawrence and the great poet Rilke both writing about Cezanne, Albert Camus on the painter Balthus, and Hemingway writing about Miro. The other book is The Poet at the Piano, by Michiko Kakutani, which includes profiles of writers, artists and filmmakers mostly published in The New York Times.  I love how she talks about women writers like Joan Didion and Nadine Gordimer and the way that Kakutani describes how these different artists are focused on “stretching the imaginative muscles.”

4) Does the lone genius model of creativity (the myth of the sketch on the napkin) hold water in today’s complex economy?  I really like James Surowieck book “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business…”.  He discusses how the most innovative solutions can emerge from a collaborative and cooperative process- “They are not imposed from above, but emerge from the crowd”  He asks bigger questions that we should all be asking ourselves- In this age of partisanship and divisions, How can we learn to live and discover in a new more democratic way- together?  It’s a book that bring a little bit of hope.