The only traffic we met was other pony carts, audible Guiyang Vacations in advance by their bells; the ponies cantering two-abreast or in tandem, driven Guiyang Vacations by standing charioteers. Tempting as it was to try it I knew that our luggage would bounce out of the cart at that speed. When I asked the driver how much further it was to Shajie, he answered me in li, which is a Chinese unit of distance, more or less a kilometre, but it varies according to the type of terrain underfoot. The more difficult the route, the longer it will take. This made perfect sense to me. We caught up *to Victor and Hanneke and I relinquished the reins to the driver since he would be able to drive faster and more safely than I.
For architecture, the creative economy offers new opportunities. There is some recognition emerging that architecture should have a key role to play. Hall (2000: 640) notes, Culture is now seen as the magic substitute for all the lost factories and warehouses, and as a device that will create a new urban image. Howkins (2001) highlights the growth of creative industries through physical clustering in cities. Although e-commerce growth is now outpacing bricks-and-mortar retail by 2.8 per cent (US Department of Commerce 2011), the digital domain of virtual value shows few other signs of replacing the physical urban world. The popular writer Richard Florida (2008) emphasizes the increased importance of physical place, and location-based social and business networks, as a consequence of mobility and globalization, mitigating the side effects of dispersion and alienation.
We are sold digital technology as a way of improving our lives and in many ways it has. Digital technology is making communication pervasive. But without a structure beyond the intangible and arcane plumbing’ of the Internet’s IP addresses, DNS, TCP/IP and so forth, it provides even less of a formalistic steer than a postal address – 10.1.4.6 says less about a place than 15 Paradise Plaza. Architecture has tools and techniques, and can draw on a long history. Architects have no trouble designing and there are many ways to do this. From the use of typologies to generative algorithms, the methods are now dizzying in variety – and there is no right way. What distinguishes architecture is the intellectual drive for progress, and a place in the lexicon of history. Architecture always wants to move forward. A building is usually a one-off, a prototype, and not a mundane replicated product.
The arrival of service industries showed how intellectual property could have value without a physical anchor. The internet took this to the next stage of abstraction and allows raw ideas to generate value – in some ways this is perhaps analogous to the founding years of philosophy, of Socrates and Plato. The clues to answering the question of where now?’ for architecture, lie in this trend of value via thought.