September already?! This is my final message to you as Chair of your national Board of Directors, and this year has been a flurry of activities and emotions. To say that it’s been an honor to serve ASID and its members is the biggest understatement of my life. I’ve heard from so many of you and I’ve been moved by your stories, encouragement, and ideas. I can’t thank you enough for inspiring me and the Board throughout this past year!
Rather than being nostalgic (or worse yet, self-congratulatory) by recapping the past 11 months, I’d planned on telling you how excited I am about the year ahead, and how thrilled I am to be supporting the wonderful Tim Schelfe, your new Chair starting October 1, when I move to Past Chair. During our final board meeting in Temple, Texas, I’d started jotting down some of the many things to share with all of you.
And then the rain started falling. And falling.
I was lucky enough to get on an earlier flight and make it out before Hurricane Harvey’s full fury struck and the flooding began. But as I write these words, 100,000 homes have been devastated, millions of people are suffering mentally and physically, and perhaps $160 billion of property has been damaged. I’m haunted by the photos of people huddled on rickety bleachers in auditoriums, surrounded by filth, and of senior citizens waiting in their chairs, submerged up to their chests in brown water. I’m stirred by the images of emergency workers and everyday citizens alike, helping others escape the floods. And now, just as the flood waters are starting to recede in Houston, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, Hurrance Irma, and two smaller storms, Jose and Katia, are threatening our shores once again.
I’m asking myself what I can do, besides donate money, not just now, but in the future? And that’s where the ASID slogan “Design Impacts Lives” really hits home for me. As interior designers, we can make a difference by helping design structures that serve as refuge when disasters strike, renovating homes and schools and hospitals that have been damaged by Harvey, Irma, and other natural and man-made disasters, and creating warm and comforting spaces that help people heal from the trauma they’ve undergone. We can use our expertise to help plan for the floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes that seem to strike with greater frequency. This is what designing for resiliency means. This is how we can improve and even save lives.
If you haven’t read the excellent whitepaper, “Weathering the Storm: Mental Health and Resilient Design,” by Perkins & Will, please at least read the synopsis. Please get involved with your local and regional government task forces and boards to add the voice of interior designers to the policy discussions that affect all of us. And please, let’s all support each other, not just ASID members or even fellow interior designers, but all of us working in design. What we do is valuable and important, and only when we band together will the public finally understand what it is we do. As Johns Hopkins University president Ron Daniels said to the incoming class of 2021 last week: “[Let’s] model the best habits of civil society – habits of debate, dialogue, conflict, resolutions, consensus-building, or sometimes even compromise.”
Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Associate AIA
ASID National Chair