Posts tagged ‘Architecture for Change’
“This past September I had the pleasure of meeting New York-based Gisela Garrett at the Architecture for Change Summit held @ UIC. I loved Gisela’s series she wrote about Public Interest Architecture in response to the summit for her blog, Daily Design Idea + asked if she would write a piece for Ecohaven Project. We look forward to future collaborations with Gisela – check out her bio on our Collaborators page. Enjoy!
>> read the piece after the jump
The best part about going to events like Architecture for Change and City Lifters is that you’re surrounded by real people who have enacted real change. Some architects are changing the world with participatory design or historic preservation or their own just-do-it approaches. Tons of designers are working on ways to create more responsible housing and reduce project costs (though they could always use more). And everyone seems so dedicated to working towards a world with more good design.
For people like me who are early in their public interest career, here are the two best pieces of advice that I picked up at these events:
1. Listen to the communities that want and/or need change, and
2. Go get involved!
September 28’s daily design idea is strive to be an architect of change.
image from the Manchester Evening News
This post is 7 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.
At Architecture for Change, Daniel Glenn of environmental works led the program “Too costly for affordability,” which explored the causes of relatively high costs of affordable housing projects in addition to the diversity of unofficial or illegal, but very real, affordable housing worldwide.
The fact is that squatter settlements make up most of the world’s privately built affordable housing stock. In addition, people in many countries live in nomadic shelters, cars, storage spaces, and on friend’s couches. Many individuals have also lived in college dorms with minimal personal amenities and in other forms of communal housing. Why then, asked Glenn, is there no cultural or legal standard for these types of housing in America’s longterm private housing market? In an effort to help alleviate the current housing crisis, should architects consider providing more at a somewhat lower quality instead of less at the current middle class standard?
Later in the presentation, Glenn pointed out that affordable housing projects generally take 5x the funding sources and 2x the time to complete as market-rate housing projects. So even with low materials costs, there is significant time and money used in supporting fundraising, legal, and other administrative efforts. This was reaffirmed by panel member Peter Landon, an architect, professor, and the one quoted in the title of today’s post. Recognizing this administrative burden, they asked: how can we change the business structures and, in particular, streamline funding in order to reduce these soft costs?
Despite the great panel discussion, which also included Fred Bonner of Bonheur Development Corporation, and the enthusiastic Q&A from the audience, all of these questions remain difficult and unanswered. The good news is that they are being asked increasingly at conferences, in articles, and generally amongst designers.
left photo of a squatter settlement in Durban by Flickr user Easy Traveler; right photo of Westhaven Park Phase IIB by Landon Bone Baker Architects, a mixed-income development including 45 affordable units
This post is 6 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.
The title of this post is quoted from the website of community-oriented architecture firm David Baker + Partners, whose great video Better Living Through Density was shared by Baker during his presentation at Architecture for Change. One of my favorite moments (located at 2:04) is the comment that dense living requires less stuff but offers more opportunity for the individual and more benefits for the environment. The video also makes an especially strong argument for denser living by explaining the inverse relationship between population density and carbon footprint size (the serious charts start at 1:25).
I completely agree with Baker that density is a positive in urban environments, but I should admit that I really enjoy living in the densely populated city of New York, taking the subway daily, and being friends with my neighbors. As Richard Sciortino, the self-declared “developer in the room,” noted during his turn to play Devil’s advocate: “density requires demand.” And I know that not everyone, especially in America, is as enchanted as Gary Chang at the idea of having only 344 square feet to themselves.
That said, Baker also pointed out that once you make something a standard, it generally gets cheaper to do, which can help previously undesirable construction options become more attractive. The cheaper-by-standardization model has certainly proved helpful in eco-friendly construction (see the 100K house for one of my favorite examples) and could probably be applied to denser models for living as well.
September 26’s daily design idea comes from an interview with Riken Yamamoto in anticipation of the upcoming book Total Housing: Alternatives to Urban Sprawl: “the system of ‘one family in one house’ is already collapsed”. Living spaciously may look nice, but the environmental and personal benefits of living smaller are becoming increasingly clear.
This post is 5 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.
Dan Pitera, Executive Director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, introduced us to a few projects, including the guerrilla and admittedly permit-less FireBreak project. FireBreak “reclaims public space within the burned houses of Detroit” and brings “attention to structures in need of demolition.” This goal is achieved by wrapping abandoned houses with everything from hay to plastic wrap, among other design actions. While cities like Detroit currently have daunting revitalization goals, Pitera encouraged the audience to “insert at the scale in which you can engage,” whatever and wherever that might be.
Sergio Palleroni, co-founder and Director of the BaSiC Initiative and professor at Portland State University, clearly agrees with having an active approach (and is also the one who humorously admitted his sometimes quixotic style). The Alley Flat Initiative is one of Palleroni’s numerous educational design/build projects that I admire, and it also happens to be a project where his work “in the margins” got a little too high profile too quickly. Luckily Palleroni is experienced at working out solutions relatively quickly and using the resources at hand (see projects like the Katrina Furniture Project and Solar Kitchen), qualities that he is committed to passing on to his students. Another key lesson: mistakes are ok in education!
September 25’s daily design idea comes from Plato, who Palleroni referenced at a recent Structures for Inclusion conference: you don’t become a citizen unless you act.
This post is 4 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.
Jorge Mario Jáuregui, known for his socially-geared design projects, was also a speaker at City Lifters. Born in 1948, he has witnessed architecture shift to a preference for the “new” and now back to a preference for the “old.” Rather than demolishing in order to rebuild from scratch, there is definitely increasing support for renovating and revitalizing existing structures. Jorge Mario Jáuregui Architects have been able to do just that for the Favela-Barrio Project throughout Rio de Janeiro, including a current project in Manguinhos, where they will elevate existing train tracks to make room for a linear park instead of clearing an area of houses in the extremely dense favela.
The concluding program at the Architecture for Change Summit was the group presentation ‘Affordability Through Preservation.’ Royce Yeater, of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, spoke broadly about how the rehabilitation of historic homes can be a viable solution for affordable housing. One of many reasons is that starting with an existing structure is a great way to minimize materials costs. Another reason, demonstrated by the Favela-Barrio Project, is minimal disruption of the existing neighborhood fabric.
John McDermott, of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and Charles Leeks, of Chicago’s Neighborhood Housing Services, both spoke about specific Chicago neighborhoods that are relying on historic preservation as a way to support affordable housing initiatives. McDermott shared the history and the current political dynamics surrounding the Julia Lathrop Homes, one of the nation’s first public housing developments. Uniquely, the Lathrop development has never had market-rate housing and has also never had any new construction projects throughout its entire history (though that may be about to change). Leeks spoke about North Lawndale, an area filled with historic “greystones,” an astonishing 1,714 of which have been documented in North Lawndale. Leeks and McDermott both touched on how the process of formal historic documentation can garner new support and stakeholders, and can therefore be a fantastic tool for revitalization in a neighborhood.
September 24’s daily design idea is while historic preservation didn’t start as a community building tool, it has absolutely become one. It’s time to start leveraging those opportunities.
This post is 3 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.
Another inspiring speaker at the Architecture for Change Summit was Maurice Cox, whose career includes being a professor at UVA’s School of Architecture, former Director of Design at the NEA, and former mayor of Charlottesville VA, in addition to leading a few community-oriented architecture and planning firms along the way. The title of this post is a South African proverb, which Cox shared during his Architecture for Change presentation.
A major highlight in Cox’s career is his work with the rural village of Bayview on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a project that eventually became quite high profile in the press. What started as a problem of basic access to clean water ultimately resulted in a multi-year, multi-million dollar community redevelopment project. In the book Design Like You Give a Damn, there is a great interview with Cox about Bayview. A running theme through this interview is the importance of designers being out in the community, both initially (so that the people that need design can find us) and throughout the project (to help give confidence to those who want to change their communities). One of my favorite lines from Cox in this interview is, “We need to be in the places where problems exist.”
Another man who clearly believes in the power of the participatory design process is Hubert Klumpner, a professor at Columbia’s Grad School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, a founding partner of Urban Think Tank, and a speaker at the City Lifters panel discussion (part of MoMA’s upcoming exhibit Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement).
The project that Klumpner spoke about most was U-TT’s Metro Cable project in Caracas, Venezuela. Its main goal was creating access for the city’s poorest neighborhoods (generally located on very steep hills) to the public transportation system. On the panel, Klumpner stressed the importance of engaging the end client early in design projects, an approach resulting in U-TT’s creation of a local task force that was able to produce the basic cable car plan. This concept had numerous advantages over an original plan for building new access roads, including saving up to 30% of one neighborhood’s homes from being demolished for road construction.
September 23’s daily design idea comes straight out of Maurice Cox’s talk, but I’m sure Hubert Klumpner would agree: let’s shift our focus from clients to communities. It’s one of the many ways to “engender a culture that values design excellence in everyday life” instead of in luxury markets alone.
This post is 2 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.