An individual may aspire to varied levels of self-reliance but the overall quality of our lives, our physical environment, and our social and cultural institutions is enabled by the reciprocal effort of many. Civilization is a collective, and therefore inherently cooperative, endeavor.
When viewed from a socio-political perspective, economic activity and market- making is the medium through which much of this cooperation occurs. “Many hands make light work,” indeed, but the cooperative effort isn’t only about distributing work. Importantly, a cooperative endeavor allows for differentiation of expertise, where some can specialize and achieve greater proficiency in certain activities because they rely on others to undertake the other necessary components of the effort.
The heroic attempts of Thomas Thwaites, a British designer, to personally make a toaster from raw materials vividly illustrate the benefits that specialization and trade afford us in contemporary society.
Trade enables cooperative specialization and its coincident high levels of expertise by providing a mechanism for one party to exchange the value of their production for that of another. One characteristic of trade is the spatial, and often temporal, separation of production and consumption—a fundamentally architectural condition. Regardless of whether this trade is very local or spans the globe, the places of production, consumption, and especially the places bridging the spatial and temporal interval between production and consumption are the subject of the LIMINAL design studio.
LIMINAL: relating to a transitional state of a process.