Two Minutes With // Kira Gould

Hi there! Today marks the official kick off of our monthly interview initiative titled, “Two Minutes with “. From here on out, we will be posting a new interview on the First Friday of every month. The interviews are conducted by our interior design students here at Virginia Tech, and are based on their specific research and outreach interests. We have quite an exciting interview line-up from design professionals around the world, and we hope that you enjoy them as much as we do.

Today we proudly present Kira Gould as our first interview of the series. Kira’s impressive background includes co-authoring Women in Green, being the Managing Editor for Metropolis Magazine, and Director of Communications for William McDonough + Partners, just to name a few. Follow her on twitter for more thoughts @KiraGould.

Images courtesy of Kira Gould.

VT: Kira, as a writer about design, we imagine you have your finger on the pulse of the design industry as well as anyone. What’s the current state of Sustainability in Design? Also, the economic downturn has seriously impacted design and construction, what effect has it had on efforts toward sustainability?

KG: I think that a lot of people thought that the gains in the sustainable design movement might be threatened by the recession, and there are some signals that certain projects have suffered, of course, but I believe that the market transformation that had occurred prior to 2008 were sufficient to cement the commitment – at universities, corporations, communities, and more – sufficiently that building and planning for the future now necessarily involves thinking about “sustainability.” Now, what that word actually means is another matter. Many people are still thinking mostly about incremental improvements in efficiencies, rather than thinking about flipping things around, in the way that Bill McDonough inspirationally advocates, to think about what would be more good rather than less bad.

VT: How do you imagine sustainable design moving forward from here?

KG: I anticipate that we will see an increased focused on linkages between human behavior and design, and also that we will see a dramatic uptick in the understanding of what Stewart Brand called “how buildings learn.” His book of that name and the thinking on that topic have been inspiring to many designers, but I think owners and the people who live and work and play in buildings have been slower to grasp these ideas. When a building is occupied is the beginning of its life, not its end. We are seeing enlightened owners embrace the opportunities to set their buildings up to become more effective over time.

VT: Many of the students in our program will work at multi-disciplinary design firms immediately after graduation; however, some do choose to go into other design-related areas, which could include writing for a magazine like Metropolis. Do you have any suggestions for students who might be in interested in a career similar to yours?

KG: I knew I wanted to be a “word person” or writer from a fairly young age, but I would encourage anyone in the design fields to hone and develop their communications skills; these would be valuable for alternative paths (which are certainly important in times like these) as well as for communicating effectively about your own work, whether it be in a design competition package, a cover letter, or a proposal. In my experience, architects tend to have amazing ideas, but some of these are literally impenetrable by laypersons, such as developers, simply because there is a language barrier. If we hope, and being an optimistic, I still do, to find ways to elevate and celebrate the importance of design to public and private space of all types, then we are obliged to find ways to quantify the quality and value that good design offers. Otherwise, we’ll just be party to letting lack of intentionality rule. I think designers need to constantly find better ways to demonstrate and illustrate how important good design can be at all scales, and when I say “good design” I am using that term inclusively: that is design that has a full “sense” of place and time and material.