How to Heal Our Nation's Open Wound: Introducing the UrbaNatural Paradigm

Our nation is going through a massive shift right now that creates opportunity for many organizations; the harsh, uncivil tonality of political discourse has catalyzed a new kind of segmentation based not on race, gender, political affiliation, age, education or economic stature, but on worldview, values and style.

The key idea behind this segmentation is otherness; People have not been this aware of how they are different from others since the late sixties. The fundamental contrast occurs between urbanites and rural (or “natural”) citizens of our country.

This contrast (or “otherness”) can cause enormous, below-the-surface tension that pulls families and companies apart. This trend is exacerbated by the omnipresence of the Internet; fewer people are talking to each other face to face, which makes it even more difficult to resolve differences and challenge the assumptions behind them.

No matter how much we want to come together as a community or nation, we are making it hard for ourselves to accomplish that objective. It’s like trying to lift a board that we are standing on! We are preventing ourselves from healing an open wound.

However, a second, related trend has also emerged that contradicts and offsets the current trend of discord, finger-pointing and polarization.


The idea, of course, is unity: by blending and balancing people with opposite worldviews into one new “thing,” new energy is released, and an unusual type of progress can be made. (The late John McCain believed strongly in this idea.)

Whether it’s a sofa, a neighborhood or a person: when we mix synthetic with organic, fast with slow, intense with serene or smooth with rough, we get a new paradigm of “dualistic design” which I’ve entitled UrbaNaturalism.

An article from the New York Times illustrates this high-minded idea. The Times journalist noted that interior designers are opting for vividly colored refrigerators instead of the classic silver or white finish. The walls and counters, however, are made of porous wood that ages. The contrast between smooth and rough, vivid and muted, is classic UrbaNaturalism. The driver is idiosyncratic, eclectic design that says, “I’m unique …. special. I create my own personal design formula.”

When we see opposites as exciting and full of possibilities instead of a dangerous unknown, we become free to create eclectic, new environments - communities, offices, furniture, art – that elegantly blend green materials (wood, water, stone, unprocessed fabrics) with steel, glass, concrete, acrylic, etc.

When we gaze at the resultant streetscape, architecture or furniture collection, we remember that opposites can blend into something that evokes the best in us.

Very different people with opposite views of the world can surmount their differences through the self-awareness that is stimulated through the UrbaNatural design paradigm.The key idea is to leverage new thinking at a pivotal time in our culture. UrbaNaturalism could become a balm and a bridge to your community's future, proving that 2 plus 2 can equal 5.

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