re: what it means to be a citizen architect

Dean Milton Curry at the University of Southern California

‘Design thinking’ is, for me, the instrumentalization of methods of design for profit. “Architectural thinking” is understanding that the role of the designer, within the context of architecture, always incorporates the public good no matter if you are you doing a private or public building. The notion of public good is embedded within the DNA of architecture period. That has to be and has to remain in the DNA of architecture and architecture schools.That’s what I call “architectural thinking”. 

via Archinect


re: Breakout Innovation and cocreative processes

Research shows that groups produce the richest, most accurate information when they are involved at multiple points throughout a design process. The rapid prototyping and recurrent user testing at the heart of the lean startup methodology affirms this.15 Most social sector organizations do little if any prototyping. Most largescale development projects, for example, do not allow the public to comment until a plan has been largely decided and significant sums of money have already been invested in feasibility and preparatory studies, at which point what is actually open for public input is “everything but the essentials.”16


More via Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR)

Bug Hotels: A pedagogical act of Social design

I have been trying to get this written up for ages. For most anyone who could care, the re-emergence of the meme/idea of small-non-human architecture as urban intervention, will make this project old news. However, I really enjoyed doing it, especially the DIY/low-fi nature of it. I presented Bug Hotels: A pedagogical act of Social design at Pecha Kucha Gainesville Vol 4 held back in late June, 2012 at Volta Coffee and Tea. The raw, original presentation is viewable below via Slideshare.

Following the same model I used for presenting my first/previous Pecha Kucha post, I have also post each slide, individually below. Underneath each image a caption, culled from the text I used as my “speakers notes“.
So my project is a “Bug Hotel” but it is also about strategies of instruction. The goal of social design is instruction. Designing with and for social dynamics/relationships.
Bugs, hotel and pedagogy. This conceptual map is applied to examine the idea of productive vs generative urbanism(s)…
What is a bug hotel? I didn’t know either until winter of 2010. They are literally homes for bugs, but not a roach motel. Apparently, widely known in Europe. They can be functional and still serve as a lawn ornament.
Online examples of them used as a teaching tool for ecological learning. Pedagogical in nature but also a tool of garden enthusiasts encouraged for their ecological benefits.
There are also more hip examples. Here in London part of a creative class branding, green urbanism exercise. Not just your everyday DIY version, but CNC machined, Arup designed. Very British Hi-tech.
A resurgence of productive urbanism as next form of contemporary green urbanism. Urban farms, backyard and community gardens. Permaculture vs. post-industrial, a sort of re-Pastoralizing of the urban. A functional landscape, productive and post-industrial.
From urban food networks to other forms of urban metabolics. A making non-consuming urbanism. Looking at the image of hives, and thinking about modular scalability. Humans have long united insects and production. But can one also consider the axis of functionally productive vs generating function(ality)?
Scalability bridges the large and local scale. A wetland(s) machine is one recent attempt, for Paynes Prarie. One interesting aspect of that project is the suggestion of a teaching landscape. There will be an interpretive tower and experimental (read monitored/controlled) test cells. It was this eco-system vs an expensive retro-pipe.
Animal architecture, learning from animal building but building not just for animals. With ecosystems/ecologies… Habitat for bugs meaning ecological generation, an eco-logic.
Why are ecologies important? There is a self-importance but also because of services. The buzzword is “ecosystem services”.They can provide, distributed vs centralized, in big or small, built environment(s).
Urban garden/farming is creative. Growing, making but key is also generating. Can you virally, re-produce again? How?
Through social design, more than an object as result. Designing future designs but also designers.
Up-cycling vs recycling. Now come the specifics of the project. Salvage is one way. High end vs low cost and high-tech vs low-skills barrier.
Site is adjacent to a backyard garden. Grow Gainesville is a local network of like-minded urban agriculturalists. Another example of social design. Growing, agriculture.
Improvised. Used locally (read: yard) available materials. Bamboo.
Varied material size and habitat. Stacked construction, scalable and mobile. No nails, temporary.
A one man job. Easy and quick to do. Re-purposed some old windows in garage as roofs.
Had enough material for two. One short one tall. Repeatable.
What do we have? A DIY, scalable, ecological infrastructure. A science experiment, can be refined, personalized and spread.
Some final examples for inspiration. Manuals, for socially designed interventions. Wherein ecological infrastructure and feedback loops enable an ecological altruism of extra-species-sociality.
Finally, as a brief post-script of sorts, I want to highlight a wonderful “city science” project Native Buzz. Native Buzz is run by the University of Florida (IFAS) Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab. The “goal is to learn more about the nesting preferences, diversity and distribution of our native solitary bees and wasps, share the information gained and provide a forum for those interested in participating in the science and art of native beekeeping (and wasp-keeping!)”. The web-site features a crowd-sourced map component as well as DIY Building Plans.
Since, I no longer live at 835 Nw 20 St, I didn’t add my two “towers” to the list. Also, while I noticed insects, spiders, mice and other non-human animals inhabiting my yard and it’s structures, I did not notice many native bees. Likely because I didn’t target the habitat specifically to them.

Soft design and the “nudge unit”

A few weeks ago in Britain’s Ministry of Nudges, Katrin Bennhold explored the work of the United Kingdom’s new(ish) Behavioral Insights Team, for the NYT Sunday Business section. The team was started-up by Prime Minister David Cameron after reading ‘Nudge‘ by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

Two key concepts:

1) The idea of behavioral economics as a form of soft design. The article touches on the idea of shaping “choice architecture“. Perhaps simply another way of saying that “everything needs to actually be ‘architected’…“.

2) The group started off almost as a “guerilla operation” similar in spirit to the off talked about guerilla urbanism. The goal is “evidence-based policy-making“, wherein the scientific method results in an iterative process. Social design, devised and refined via small-bore, research/trials.

David Adjaye – Ward 8

William O. Lockridge/Bellevue Library in Washington Highlands

In early November (2012) The Architects Newspaper published Crit> Adjaye’s D.C. Libraries, a review of two new libraries by David Adjaye, by Gwen Webber (the U.S. correspondent for Blueprint and a frequent contributor to AN). Ms. Webber argues that libraries are a “vital piece of community infrastructure” and perhaps these two new buildings located in Ward 8 are a step towards developing a greater “social architecture” as they have begun to do in Medellín for instance.