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The ancients professed that ‘Mind is all’. Even before the technological and medical advances that we acknowledge as the hallmarks of our age they were aware that all creativity and inspiration springs forth from our minds to shape our world and lives. As fundamental as our mind is in the success of our individual and / or joint endeavours it is surprising that the ongoing study of mind is not a practice readily undertaken in our secular world.  With his refreshing approach, via his company One Thought, Aaron Turner is on a mission to change that by encouraging us to fully explore the power of the mind and what we are all capable of…

once we realise and embrace that thoughts and mental clarity can be the driver to achieve anything.

Aaron has been chosen as a NEW CHIEFTAIN, firstly, because of the monumental achievement in overcoming a reclusive lifestyle and crippling social and personal anxieties to now positively affect the personal and professional lives of thousands of people through his work. Secondly, because he exudes a refreshingly inviting energy that makes one  feel that they are listened to, understood and cared for.


Attracted to architecture
They got to me! [laughs] I am a social anthropologist not an architect. About ten years ago I was working at on an ethnographic project. My interest was in urban planning and human behaviourisms. I was exploring interdisciplinary themes. I was trying to study at different firms who said that they were multi-disciplinary I liked White Arkitekter because they had biologists, civil engineers, interior designers and artists. Ten years ago I asked if I could do an ethnographic observation of a project from start to finish. The CEO got interested in me and started to ask me about my work, urban planning and place development. He said ‘Viktoria you are an urban planner why aren’t you working in the planning and architecture field?’ So I was hired and have gone on to be part of a project that has been awarded for our work on urban planning and environmental design with a focus on people’s social and cultural setting as well as the physical environment. We work with children and young women and all other people who are seldom consulted in architectural planning – it’s usually just old men that come to consultation meetings! I am now one of a group of ten in Sweden that have a psychology background – the idea is that architects should embrace our methods.

My contribution
Even before the architects start drawing I would work in the identified area and connect with the people living in the area and ask how can we build in a way that won’t affect you negatively, and also what do you need here; what are the rent levels; do you need a school?

Affordability, regardless of economy
Stockholm is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, it is a small city increasing so fast and people are so scared of gentrification, it is so delicate to not start that process here. Take for example the focus on port areas and industrial areas, all over the world, that are being re-developed into very expensive areas reserved only for the rich. Today we are producing buildings that only a small clan of people can afford. So making sure that all people, regardless of economy, have a home or can stay in their neighbourhood is one of our main issues. This is very much a political issue and sometimes urban planning can influence political decision making. This is a typical example on an issue that is both social and physical.

A revolution
It is scary that we still building cities with cars in mind considering the impact that pollution has upon our communities. Instead, we should be building bicycle lanes for our kids and thinking about our aging population. We need more flexible housing. Trying to tackle this extremely important issue of sustainability- a revolution in the planning and building industry might be necessary. We cannot be driven by short term revenue if we want to create long term sustainable cities. It is a political role that we play really.

“We cannot be driven by short term revenue”

The little ones have their say
Let’s say that we work in a school building: I am sort of a translator, I ask the children and the teachers what they want and what makes them want these things. They will say big door makes me feel important and my colleagues translate that into a concept that they can design from. We try to translate it into a concept that will influence the material. The architects get story telling’s from me that influences them in their work. The client might say why do we have a big room here when we could have two classrooms? Well the room with more light encourages the children to stay in school and do their homework, you said that you wanted the design to help children to focus so we compromise in this way by telling a story. Anthropology is all about story telling.

Kiruna, an arctic triumph
Kiruna is an artic arctic city in the north of Sweden. One of the world’s biggest iron mines, the mine is of course becoming a big hole in the ground which is eating up the city so the people need to relocate. They work from the mine and make good money but they know that the city needs to move. So they made an international competition asking people, how should we do this? So I travelled up and I biked around the city talking to people on behalf of White Architects. They voted for us. Why? Because we created a story based around what people had said to us in our interviews. So we are moving it step by step. We don’t just have to consider the people we have to consider the reindeers and their walking patterns so it is a complex job. In 100 years the city needs to be moved again. So we set it out like a snake so when it needs to be moved the building closest to the mine will be moved to the front and so on until it moved.

My children are invaluable
Even when they were small they could be quite an icebreaker for me. My job is about talking to people so having my cute children along helped! Especially on school projects, the young people are happy to talk to me.

What I would think in the end is that you want to spend your life contributing to a better world somehow and for some reason I really found that the building industry does that because it effects so many people it is a make it or break it system. For the environment, considering the pollution and waste. And about justice, this is all about where people live and they should be consulted on the changes made to their environment.

I was talking to an American urban planner who said that are 500,000 parking spaces in the US and also 500,000 homeless people in the US. When you hear these figures, and connected to space, place and planning you know that there is so much that needs to be done.

We should treat our urban plans as good businesses treat their customers, by asking how do we make the customer happy? If the city can be driven exactly the same way, to make the citizen’s happy, then we are doing the right thing.


“We must promote affordability regardless of profitability” Viktoria Walden