Transition States

Photo of transitional space in Harlem, by Camilo Jose VergaraDevelopment, use, abandonment, reuse, demolition, redevelopment. Transition states. It seems that everything is in transition, but here I'd like to focus on the span of time between clearly defined places like factories and forests.

Development includes combining separate elements into new forms, like making something out of legos. Materials are assembled into buildings, which in turn form cities. This may fulfill a need or function based on reactions to things that came before. In this sense, new things embody the past.

When a thing no longer serves its purpose, it is often abandoned. At this point it can be reused in its current form, reassembled into something new, or destroyed. But it can never really be destroyed. Nearly imperceptible parts remain in circulation. They integrate with other things. They may haunt us in ways more tangible than the ways we haunt places. Smoke can be like a ghost that haunts us.

Photo of plants growing on an abandoned houseIf left abandoned, things are said to return to nature. Not that they ever left, but they can again be transformed into something else. There is a period of transition. For a building, this may be when weeds start to grow around and within it, or when other life forms make it their home. Eventually it may be enveloped by a forest.

Plants are often considered therapeutic, like Mandela's prison garden. They are also zoned and regulated. We put them in our cubicles, malls, streets, airports, and they represent healthier locations. Why are the places we work not healthy in their own right? How did the real or perceived separation between healthy environments and work environments come about? What was the transition like? And how do we alter the resulting state?Photo of Nelson Mandela in his prison garden

We might consider what happens to the things we develop and abandon. Ideally they are reclaimed, reassembled, or disposed of with care. This is how we prevent a haunted world. Maybe this will help us improve the quality of work sites, or even change the nature of our work. As unhealthy places are abandoned, there is hope for transition. What will this transition be like?

In animation, creating a transition requires a momentary destination state. Maybe we can learn from this. If we envision a solution to each problem that confronts us, clearly defining our origin and destination, we should find improved transitions. Many people are doing this through ecologically oriented design, entrepreneurship, policy, architecture, education, activism, engineering, and other pursuits. Inclusive planning can help us work towards well conceived destination states. We'll still face the unexpected, but we can keep experimenting and solving problems as we move closer to where we hope to be.

(Credits: Photo of transitional space in Harlem by Camilo Jose Vergara of Invincible Cities. Photo of plants growing on an abandoned house from Houses of Tung Ping Chau. Photo of Nelson Mandela in his prison garden from City Farmer News.)

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