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Adaptive Products: Designing for Evolution rough Use - page 19 / 31

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needs of the immediate users, leaving future users out of the picture,”30 most products today are optimized for the present, and unable to adapt well to the future. By developing divergent scenarios of future possibilities designers can build a strategy for accommodating various types of change.

An evolutionary strategy must be coupled with a product that is flexible enough to allow for future adaptation, yet formed enough to work “out of the box.” Architect Frank Duffy once said, “there isn’t such a thing as a building . . . A building properly conceived is several layers of longevity of built components.”31 In his writings on adaptive architecture Brand expands on Duffy’s idea to develop six general purpose “layers of change” for any building. These layers conceptualize a building not as a monolithic structure but a system of interconnected components, each layer is able to change and evolve at a different speed while maintaining a cohesive whole. Since products can also be thought of as systems, the layers are a useful way of thinking about product evolution as well. Here are the layers of change, from slowest to fastest: 32

Site: The geographical setting . . . the legally defined lot, whose boundaries and context outlast generations of ephemeral buildings.

Structure: The foundation and load bearing elements . . . perilous and expensive to change . . . these are the building.

Skin: Exterior surfaces . . . keep up with fashion or technology . . . repair.

Services: These are the working guts of a building . . . wiring . . . plumbing . . . HVAC . . . elevators and escalators. They wear out or

30

Ibid., 181.

31

Ibid., 12.

32

Verbeek, What Things Do, 13.

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