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In April, I attended an event at the Center for Architecture called RE:Think | Design Thinking Outputs that was focused on models for dynamic and collaborative practice within the design (and larger problem solving) industry. It’s one of the best professional panels I’ve ever been to content-wise, and the format was also especially interesting; presenters were paired up and then engaged in dialogues after their paired presentations.
If you have the time, a video of the event is available: http://vimeo.com/41152962 But if you don’t, below are my four big takeaways/predictions.
image via VisionArc
1. Project teams will increasingly be formed based on shared values, rather than coordinated skill sets or specific project goals. To be successful in these teams, we’ll all need to get better at articulating and demonstrating our most important values.
2. Projects will become increasingly iterative, and decreasingly organized around predetermined deliverables. Everyone will need to get better at embracing risk, learning quickly, communicating clearly, and generally being adaptable.
3. The term “client” will include an increasingly diverse array of stakeholders, funders, and both participating and non-participating beneficiaries. As designers, we have the opportunity to take a proactive stance in prioritizing all these clients. It would be wise for us to do so.
4. Authorship will increasingly be preserved thanks to respect from our peers, rather than by taking defensive legal action. As the processes of creating ideas, images, products, and systems become increasingly collaborative, the myth of the lone creative will continue to be debunked. We will have to get more comfortable in trusting others to give credit where credit is due, since strict copyrights will become increasingly impractical.
This event was organized by AIANY’s New Practice Committee.
May 30′s daily design idea is what predictions do you have about the future of design practice?
While the quiet tedium of a daily commute and a massive travel-disrupting volcano may not seem to have much in common, it turns out they can both be catalysts for the creation of beautiful publications.
The Atlantic recently reported on the sketching project of British illustrator Steve Wilkin, which was really just a personal creative exercise until Wilkin decided to turn his work into a free limited-edition newspaper.
As Eric Jaffe of the Atlantic writes:
“For the past decade or so, Wilkin has used his hour-long commute on the 7:38 a.m. train from the town of Hebden Bridge toward the city of Preston to sketch his fellow passengers in all their commuting glory.
“Last month, with the help of a service called the Newspaper Club, Wilkin published some of the drawings in a free newspaper called, of course, “738.” (He also started a blog about the project.) He distributed the publication at the Hebden Bridge station; exhibited the drawings at the University of Central Lancashire, where he lectures in illustration; and even threw a modest ‘opening’ on the train.”
April 15′s daily design idea is inspiration is everywhere.
Part 5 of 5
The day’s self-described “analyst and scribe” Steven Moore was last to speak to the Structures audience on Saturday. Throughout the day, Moore tracked the topics covered using a spreadsheet, and then ranked the topics by frequency. The ones covered most were: relationships, participation, spatial justice, & organizational structure. Public interest designers are clearly a participatory, activist, and practical bunch!
One of Moore’s major takeaways from the day’s presentations was that “outsiders, or ‘valuable strangers,’ can broker knowledge but also adapt [outside] relevant knowledge to local context.” It’s a great framework for thinking about collaboration between all the team members and beneficiaries on a project. Moore also affirmed the opportunity for the SEED Network to be an industry forum “for the accumulation of accessible knowledge,” and to become a truly disruptive platform for the industry.
On the topic of organizational structure, Moore wisely noted that “there has not yet been enough focus on new, sustainable economic models for public interest design.” I couldn’t agree more. The biggest reason I keep going to Structures is to be a part of the community that will eventually build those models.
April 8’s daily design idea is Moore noted that “opportunity” was an important but underrepresented topic at this year’s Structures. What opportunities for social change design do you see?
Part 3 of 5
The second panel focused on Participation. Architecture for Humanity‘s program coordinator, T. Luke Young, kicked off by introducing AFH and the approach they take: “We don’t call ourselves designers; we like to be thought of as catalysts… in a global village.” AFH design fellow Diego Collazos continued by discussing the SEED award winning work he is doing at the Maria Auxiliadora School in Peru. A personal highlight of the project was how Collazos and his team asked students to stick green notes on the parts of the building that are good, and red notes on the parts of the building that are bad. This struck me as such a simple but effective technique for getting feedback, especially from children.
photo of the Maria Auxiliadora School
Tulane City Center‘s SEED award winning project, Grow Dat youth farm, was presented next by Emilie Taylor and Scott Bernhard. Their team empowered the youth to study “the logic of the site,” which informed many design choices, such as situating the building in the worst spot for growing vegetables. Separately, Bernhard also shared that Tulane’s admission rates increased 400% after integrating service-oriented curricula after Hurricane Katrina, such as the projects of City Center. There was a shared feeling of hope between the panelists and audience that other institutions would notice, and follow in Tulane’s footsteps.
The panel wrapped up with Anne Frederick, the founding director of New York’s Hester Street Collaborative. In addition to introducing the audience to HSC’s advocacy work for the Lower East Side’s waterfront (which included a mobile scale model that residents can interact with!), Frederick also shared questions that she’s developed with the Center for Urban Pedagogy to help social change designers frame their projects. Their number one question is a critical but too often overlooked one: Is there a need for the project? (In the case of the SEED award winning projects, I’d guess that the answer is a resounding “yes!”).
Hester Street Collaborative’s “Waterfront on Wheels“
April 6’s daily design idea is that “instructive failure” is pervasive in design for social good, particularly when the participant pool is large; an observation articulated by the Tulane City Center team but shared by everyone at Structures.
Part 2 of 5
The first panel of the day was focused on Partnerships, and kicked off with a review of the SEED award winning Owe’neh Bupingeh project. Project architect Jamie Blosser shared some of the deep research that she did on what phases of the pueblo’s evolving history to preserve, which included documentation of oral histories from elders about the pueblo and GIS mapping with some of the pueblo’s youth.
site photo of Owe’neh Bupingeh project by Atkins Olshin Schade Architects
Next, Peru-based Jorge Alarcon shared the SEED award winning Escuela Ecologica. Alarcon emphasized the value of post-occupancy evaluations and of tracking student experience in new buildings vs the old ones. His American teammate Dan Shaw noted that drawing with the students was a key step in the design process, and a particularly effective way to overcome language barriers. Shaw also reinforced the value of including beneficiaries in design processes by saying: “Just being asked your opinion in a built environment project is empowering.”
Both teams expressed how happy they were to be able to pass skills on to the communities they were serving (and vice versa), particularly with local youth.
April 5’s daily design idea is Bell and Palleroni were right: there are so many non-physical benefits of design!
I live tweeted the main day of this year’s Structures for Inclusion 12 (SFI12), hosted by UT Austin, but I also thought it would be fun to share a fuller version of those tweets here (particularly with all the vowels and grammar added back in). Hope you enjoy!
Part 1 of 5
Bryan Bell kicked off the Saturday session of Structures by talking about this year’s theme, “Design is Relational.” This theme was inspired by Sergio Palleroni’s presentation at last year’s Structures, regarding the fact that it’s often the non-physical effects of the design process that have the most lasting impact. Bell specifically noted that strengthening relationships within the industry and advancing our processes for collaboration are both essential going forward. “Creativity makes a bigger & healthier pie out of limited resources.” We can do more with less by working together better.
From there, Barbara Brown Wilson took the stage and reflected on past links between social change and physical space. Wilson highlighted the Disabilities Movement as a highly successful effort to transform standards for the built environment, and pointed out that we are currently in a relatively undefined proto-movement (which has yet to create that same level of disruptive impact). The SEED Network, which Wilson helped found, is certainly a step in the right direction. While the network has evolved into a platform for “knowledge brokering,” it was originally conceived as a “bat signal” for communities to reach out to when they needed design services. Providing services to these communities is obviously still the ultimate goal.
This year’s featured speaker, the amazing Coleman Coker, followed. He primarily focused on designing ethically, in response to the earth (something he’s been doing for over 30 years), in contrast to designing based on aesthetic judgment or taste. I found it incredibly inspiring to hear Coker speak about the social and environmental elements of his work, especially as the two are so integrated for him.
April 4’s daily design idea is Coleman Coker’s concluding thought: “if architecture is done well, it brings us closer to the world.”