The description of ‘could-be-anywhere-ness’ caught my attention recently in this article about the plans to redevelop the centre of Coventry.
The point being made here is that a lot of place redevelopment, especially towns and cities, is generic. The vision and plans put in place could belong to anywhere, and if you visited you might feel that you could be anywhere.
Design can lose any sense of the places and communities it represents.
Thinking beyond planning, it’s easy for organisations and teams to fall into could-be-anywhere-ness. A generic vision for the future based on digital technology, efficiency, and even simpler, clearer, faster. But forgetting or being unwilling to question what these things mean in a local and community context.
There’s a more meaningful question to ask about ‘here-and-now-ness’:
What is it about this place, the situation here now, and how can we respond to this to create something that’s an appropriate response to the community we serve?
Here-and-now-ness is “who is here, and how can we work with them.” Could-be-anywhere-ness is generic solutions that presume problems and needs can be solved in isolation, or by any one team or organisation anywhere.
Could-be-anywhere-ness has the potential to fail because many of the problems people face require trust, familiarity, and local networks to solve. The real opportunity is to understand and build on local strengths, while recognising the insights that can be gained from local knowledge and history.