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Rory Hyde Projects / Blog » Blog Archive » Potential Futures for Design Practice
"Here follows a brief survey of these new roles for designers, each representing potential futures for design practice.

The Community Enabler

The healthy boom of the past two decades has led the architect to become accustomed to producing boutique solutions for private clients; a comfortable scenario that has distracted us from our responsibility for society at large. By reconceiving the role of the architect not as a designer of buildings, but as a custodian of the built environment, the space of opportunity and tools at our disposal are vastly expanded.

The Renew Newcastle project, established and led by Marcus Westbury, illustrates the value of people in the improvement of a public space. While millions had been spent by local government on rebuilding the physical aspects of Newcastle’s rundown and largely deserted Hunter St mall, the simple gesture of opening up vacant spaces for use by creative practitioners and businesses has kick-started its revival. [5]

The Visionary Pragmatist

The stereotype of the architect as an obsessive, black skivvy-wearing aesthete who produces detailed artefacts of beauty is a pervasive one that may sometimes live up to the truth. This is a potentially dangerous perception however, as it promotes our interest in form over our value as strategic thinkers. By promoting our capacity to challenge the underlying assumptions of a problem and to develop responses informed by a larger context, we can hope to be invited into projects at an earlier, more decisive stage, and not as mere cake-decorators.

Chilean practice Elemental, led by Alejandro Aravena, views the larger contexts of policy, financing and social mobility as equally important territories for the architect to understand and engage. The multi-unit housing project in Iquique proposed a unique solution to the issue of the limited funding allocated per unit of social housing. By providing ‘half of a good house’ [6], and configuring it in a way that enabled future expansion, the residents can create housing of real personal value and utility.

The Trans-Disciplinary Integrator

The complex, manifold and integrated issues of today cannot be solved by architecture alone. To be truly instrumental, we need to open ourselves to new constructive alliances with thinkers and makers from beyond our discipline.

RMIT’s Design Research Institute, established in 2008 by Professor Mark Burry, is a research centre directed toward collaboration and information sharing between students and professionals from over 30 disciplinary backgrounds. By harnessing collective expertise, the DRI is able to address major social and environmental dilemmas that do not conform to the traditional boundaries of design training. [7]

By transcending our own expectations and limits, we can in turn recast society’s expectations of what we are capable of addressing.

The Social Entrepreneur

The economic crisis has been heralded as the end of architecture’s ‘obsession with the image’. What this hope overlooks however, is the powerful narrative potential of architectural communication in catalysing complex visions for the future. Deploying this power to address social aims allows architects to contribute meaningfully to the future of the city by posing the critical question: ‘what if?’

PLOT’s (now BIG and JDS) scheme for the Klovermarken park was developed in response to Copenhagen’s acute housing shortage. Through a media campaign which promoted their solution to provide 3000 units within in a perimeter block without sacrificing a single sporting field, PLOT were able to generate significant public interest in the project, which led to the government holding a competition for the site. Although PLOT did not win the commission, the project is proceeding nonetheless, providing much-needed housing to the inner city, and demonstrating the value of practical vision. [8] (I’ve discussed this project before in an earlier post on Unsolicited Architecture.)

The Practicing Researcher

Architecture’s current model of charging as a percentage of the construction cost does little to justify the thinking and intelligence that is embedded in the process. The inability to distinguish our conceptual value from our production-focused value that this model implies also means we are not natural candidates for projects that require the approach of an architect, but that may not result in a building.

AMO, the think tank of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, was established precisely to focus on this type of work, by applying ‘architectural thinking in its pure form to questions of organisation, identity, culture and program’. [9] The project Roadmap 2050: A Practical Guide to a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Europe, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, delivers on its title with a radical scheme of integrated green power generation stretching from North Africa to Norway. By not being constrained to any particular building commission, this research can operate at a scale that holds the potential for real global impact. (I have discussed this project further in an earlier post Whole Earth Rise.)

The Long-Term Strategist

While form is an important aspect of the architect’s repertoire, it is now just one of a larger set of tools directed at achieving results. The challenge of environmental sustainability has brought with it the necessary obligation that buildings perform as designed, and can adapt throughout their life to meet changing demands and targets. We can no longer simply design the object, but must also design the strategy of implementation and long-term evaluation as part of our responsibilities.

The Low2No competition organised by the Finnish innovation fund Sitra made these long-term strategies a central requirement of the design brief. [10] With the ambitious aim of producing an urban development solution in Helsinki that would over time be carbon negative, the teams were asked not only to produce an architectural vision, but a future strategy for delivering these environmental results. By looking beyond the immediate horizon of project completions, the strategist takes on a greater responsibility and interest in a successful outcome.

The Design Management Thinker

One of the current buzzwords in the design world at the moment is ‘design thinking’. Although it has many definitions, one interpretation is of the application of a design approach to problems in fields outside of design, such as business and management. [11] This is heralded as a potential means for designers to expand their reach and to reclaim their instrumentality and relevance to other disciplines.

However, we are also witnessing the rise of its inverse; a more threatening scenario whereby management consultants occupy the territory traditionally held by architects. As the role of cities in the globalised world evolves from simply being designed to deliver quality of life, to being speculative instruments of investment, governments are increasingly turning to financial and management consultants for advice instead of urbanists or architects. This is particularly true in the Gulf region of the Middle East, where McKinsey & Company has produced the Vision 2030 plan for Bahrain, and have reportedly also been developing the plans for Saudi Arabia’s new economic cities. [12] This potential future should be treated by architects as both a warning and an opportunity for coalition.

The Unsolicited Architect

The potential for architects to address the challenges of the future are limited by our reactive model of commissioning. In a concept outlined by Volume magazine in the issue of the same name, unsolicited architects create their own briefs, identify their own sites, approach their own clients and find their own financing. This requires a more entrepreneurial mindset, as the tools of architecture and architectural thinking are only powerful if they can be unshackled from the constraints of a given brief.

Faced with the planned demolition of the building where they have their offices to make way for encroaching gentrification, landscape architects ZUS created ‘De Dépendance’, a counter proposal to reuse the building as a centre for urban culture and a hub for like-minded institutions and businesses. [13] With support from the municipality and media exposure, they were able to turn around the developer, who now supports their proposal. By developing a viable alternative, instead of merely protesting, ZUS were able to steer the project to an outcome that is both equitable and beneficial for all parties."
architecture  design  future  practice  2014  roryhyde  marcuswestbury  elemental  alejandroaravena  transdisciplinary  markburry  klovermarken  big  jds  plot  amo  oma  low2no  sitra  strategy  via:ablerism 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Uncommon Ground: Change Observer: Design Observer
"Is it really community-minded to present your building as a sort of secular white temple in the middle of a gray city?"

"I hope it is clear that I have no issue with most of the work on view in “Small Scale, Big Change.” (Though I do have an issue with the glossy, tone-deaf film starring a white rabbit that accompanies Michael Maltzan Architecture’s Inner-City Arts complex, as well as the Iwan Baan photo used to show it. Is it really community-minded to present your building as a sort of secular white temple in the middle of a gray city?) I also have no issue with the idea of MoMA embracing social change. The problem is this exhibition fails to engage with real-world questions of scalability, accountability and popularity in a forward-thinking way. The museum is playing catch-up on a decade of design that fell under their radar, and it shows."
socialengagement  diebedofranciskere  2010  alejandroaravena  losangeles  iquique  quintamonroy  andreslepik  mimizeiger  ruedibaur  ruralstudio  elemental  change  scale  photography  iwanbaan  michaelmaltzan  moma  criticism  design  architecture  alexandralange 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Spatial Agency
"…a project that presents a new way of looking at how buildings & space can be produced. Moving away from architecture's traditional focus on the look and making of buildings, Spatial Agency proposes a much more expansive field of opportunities in which architects and non-architects can operate. It suggests other ways of doing architecture.

In the spirit of Cedric Price the project started with the belief that a building is not necessarily the best solution to a spatial problem. The project attempts to uncover a second history of architecture, one that moves sharply away from the figure of the architect as individual hero, & replaces it with a much more collaborative approach in which agents act with, & on behalf of, others.

In all the examples on this website, there is a transformative intent to make the status quo better, but the means are very varied, from activism to pedagogy, publications to networking, making stuff to making policy - all done in the name of empowering others…"
centerforurbanpedagogy  mockbee  santiagocirugeda  coophimmelblau  freeuniversity  hackitectura  teamzoo  yalebuildingproject  wuzhiqiao  wholeearthcatalog  colinward  urbanfarming  supertanker  self-organization  selforganization  raumlabor  victorpapanek  eziomazini  jaimelerner  iwb  cohousing  mikedavis  doorsofperception  johnthackara  teddycruz  buckminsterfuller  centerforlanduseinterpretation  atelierbow-wow  elemental  antfarm  ruralstudio  amo  collaborativeproduction  collaboration  networking  policy  holisticapproach  systemsthinking  systemsdesign  activism  spacialagency  jeremytill  tatjanaschneider  nishantawan  matterofconcern  brunolatour  transformativeintent  openstudioproject  lcproject  empowerment  via:cityofsound  cedricprice  resource  designthinking  database  urbanism  space  uk  design  research  architecture 
august 2012 by robertogreco
ELEMENTAL
"ELEMENTAL is a Do Tank affiliated to the PUCA de Chile and COPEC, its focus is the design and implementation of urban projects of social interest and public impact. ELEMENTAL is based in three principles: A. To think, design and build better neighborhoods, housing and the necessary urban infrastructure to promote social development and overcome the circle of poverty and inequity of our cities; B. In order to trigger a relevant qualitative leap-forward, our projects must be built under the same market and policy conditions than any other, working to achieve “more with the same”. C. By quality we understand projects whose design guarantees incremental value and returns on investment over time, in order to stop considering it a mere “social expense”. In this spirit, ELEMENTAL contributes to improve the quality of life in Chilean cities, providing state of the art architecture and engineering, understanding the city as an unlimited resource to build social equity."
chile  design  architecture  collective  elementalchile  elemental  studio  architects  urban  community  activism  housing  portfolio  urbanism  social  neighborhoods  alejandroaravena 
march 2009 by robertogreco
edgargonzalez.com » CHILE: 1997-2007 OBRAS PÚBLICAS / 0300.TV
"En dos entregas nos cuentan las obras públicas más destacadas en el panorama chileno, contempla obras de Elemental, Smiljan Radic, Mathias Klotz, etc. Este es el trailer, pero en el link puedes verlo completo por cortesía de 300.tv"
via:regine  architecture  chile  documentary  video  film  design  mathiasklotz  elemental  smiljanradic  elementalchile  alejandroaravena 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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