How can art help activate public spaces? Transforming desolate corners into thriving social spaces, in a neighbourhood that lacks usable common areas, shows the potential of placemaking tools and community-led initiatives in this public housing colony
Does school design have value beyond creating a place to educate children? A Rwanda-based practice, Active Social Architecture (ASA) focuses on social architecture, affordable solutions, and the use of local materials.
Does Design Create Politics or Vice Versa? Adbusters Media Foundation has launched numerous international campaigns, including Buy Nothing Day, TV Turnoff Week, and Occupy Wall Street, and is known for their "subvertisements" that spoof popular advertisements. Additionally, it publishes the reader-supported, advertising-free Adbusters, an activist magazine devoted to challenging consumerism.
How does constraint lead to creativity? Al Borde is a collaborative and experimental architecture studio that uses participatory processes and research to work within extreme constraints.
Is sustainability about working within scarcity or finding natural abundance? Anna Heringer is an award-winning leader in architecture who utilizes the skills of the communities she works in as well as low-tech, sustainable materials like mud and bamboo.
Are you ready to co-opt mass consumerism? Dr. Antonio Scarponi is an architect, designer, educator, and the founder of Conceptual Devices, a Zurich-based office with the mission to develop design strategies with social, economic, and poetic impact.
Are open source, global standards for clean, efficient cook stoves possible? Aprovecho Research Center (ARC) is dedicated to researching, developing, and disseminating appropriate technological solutions for meeting the basic human needs of refugees and impoverished people.
What is the role of architects in communities in need? Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, recipients of the first Curry Stone Design Prize Vision Award, have been committed to social impact design since co-founding Architecture for Humanity in 1999.
Should designers be outlaws? Founded in 2010, Arquitectura Expandida (AXP) is a design collective based in Bogota, Colombia focused on building structures for and with communities that cannot afford to go through official channels for design and construction.
How can global practices and individuals share ways to effect change within the built environment? Arquitecturas Colectivas is a massive, open-source network interested in the participatory construction of the built environment. The common thread is a willingness to manipulate the fabric of the built environment.
Can low cost, simple designs be implemented at scale? For over twenty years, US engineer Dr. Ashok Gadgil’s work has focused on designing low-cost technologies that help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
Is the Right to Housing Real? The Asian Coalition is a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, NGOs, architects and engineers currently working in 215 cities across Asia.
Can design reclaim public space? Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) is a South African non-profit focused on promoting inclusive urban planning and design to support the livelihoods of informal workers operating in public spaces not officially allotted to them.
What is the antidote to luxury apartments no one will live in? Assemble Studio is a multi-disciplinary collective bridging the gaps between architecture, design, and art, and employing a democratic and cooperative working method that enables built, social, and research-based work at a variety of scales.
Can a new urban future grow out of a vacant lot? Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée is a collective of architects that transforms urban spaces. It is recognized as an engine for engaging citizens in shaping their own cities through experimentation and renewal.
Can traditional building techniques serve modern needs? Auroville Earth Institute (AVEI) is a pioneering organization that has led in research and implementation of earth-based & sustainable building.
How can a women-led culinary school promote peace and understanding? Bait al Karama, Palestinian Nablus’ first women’s center, combines a culinary social enterprise with cultural activities. Translated as “House of Dignity,” it is located in an area devastated by conflict.
Can the rural poor attain self-sufficiency through design? Barefoot College is an Indian organization that encourages the rural poor to attain self-sufficiency by providing training in education, technology, and work skills.
Can waste be a resource for urban transformation? Best known for creating colorful playgrounds from common landfill waste, Basurama is a collective of Spanish artists whose projects provide cultural amenities while facilitating wider conversations about waste as a resource.
Can architects build community as well as buildings? bcWORKSHOP works in neighborhoods lacking access to designers. Its programs are committed to building community and begin by acknowledging that social structure is the best guide to designing physical structures.
What is supportive housing? Breaking Ground innovated “supportive housing. It includes, but goes beyond, shelter. BG repurposes and builds dignified living environments that support residents via services including counseling, job services and more.
What is needed to rebuild resiliently after a disaster? Denver-based non-profit Build Change designs disaster-resistant houses and schools for emerging nations, then trains builders, homeowners, engineers and government officials to build them using simple, culturally appropriate, and cost-effective techniques.
How do we design with scarcity? BuildX Studio (formerly Orkidstudio) is a Nairobi-based architectural, engineering, and construction company creating real estate projects for positive social and environmental impact.
How is consideration of the full life cycle of products a means to achieve sustainability? The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems designs systems that identify and utilize the full life cycle of products, buildings and regions, resulting in smarter and more sustainable practices.
Can big data be used in the service of social justice? The Center for Spatial Research links design, architecture, urbanism and humanities with data science. Data is used in the service of justice; creating visualizations to understand cities, conflict and inequality.
Can design increase civic participation? The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) collaborates with designers, educators, advocates, students, and communities to make educational tools that demystify complex policy and planning issues.
Can design overcome an optometrist shortage in the developing world? Lack of access to eye care professionals is a serious problem in the developing world. Dr. Joshua Silver designed inexpensive eyeglasses that can be self-adjusted to the correct prescription.
How can public space be reclaimed to forge stronger communities? Portland, Oregon-based City Repair Project (CRP) seeks to address America’s lack of community gathering spaces by empowering neighborhoods to reclaim public spaces and creatively repurpose them to bring people together.
Can graphic arts be an agent of political change? The team of Vera & Ruedi Baur / Civic City are widely credited with launching a wave of political activism within the fields of graphic design and its allied professions.
How do we democratize design? Founded in Egypt in response to the Arab Spring, Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research (CLUSTER) is an interdisciplinary platform for urban design and research working to establish a critical space for urban discourse by engaging questions of public space and specifically, urban informality.
Is there an alternative to a top down, hierarchical civic design process? Collectif Etc is a French design collective that challenges top down, hierarchical civic design. All stakeholders, from experts to the citizens themselves have a role—and a voice.
Can a city work as an ecosystem? Coloco is a collective of landscapers, artists, urban planners, and botanists working in a variety of mediums including mapping, physical gardening, and advocacy.
Should disaster victims be empowered to create their own recovery? Communitere is an international disaster nonprofit operating that creates dynamic, collaborative hubs in communities affected by disaster, empowering residents to take an active role in their own recovery.
Can a museum help people face and resolve conflict? The Conflictorium is a participatory museum that addresses the theme of conflict. It uses art and interactive exhibits to neutrally address how conflicts begin and how they can be resolved.
Is architecture more about community participation than materials? Ctrl+Z Architecture practices collaborative, participatory, self-construction initiatives throughout the world. It believes that at its heart, architecture is more about interaction with communities than specific materials or approaches.
Can affordable housing be more than just housing that is affordable? David Baker Architects is a Bay Area and Atlanta-based firm specializing in affordable housing, green building, and transit-oriented development. With its focus on integrating elegant, contemporary aesthetics with energy conservation and humanity, its work sets the standard for public housing.
How can design address colonization and displacement? Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR) is an architectural studio, collective of architects, and a residency program based in Beit Sahour, Palestine.
Can social change be taught? Design for Extreme Affordability is a graduate course offered by Stanford University where students are asked to design products and services which will change the lives of the world’s poorest citizens.
Can design education promote social justice? Sergio Palleroni and Jane Anderson offer a history of the collective effort to establish a global network of social design teachers and practitioners.
Can Design Challenge Inequality? The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), formerly the School of Architecture + Community Design, is a multidisciplinary nonprofit design center bringing high-quality, community-based design to all neighborhoods in Detroit.
Can improving the built environment in impoverished neighborhoods transform a city? Fajardo and Echeverri implemented a bold program in Medellín. By training architects to build parks and public buildings in impoverished neighborhoods, Medellin was transformed from “world’s deadliest city” into a vibrant, livable place.
Can urban biodiversity be designed? Ecosistema Urbano is a Madrid-based architecture and design firm founded in 2005 by Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo.
Why is all architecture social? El Equipo Mazzanti is a Colombian design studio specializing in socially driven architectural design and academic research.
Can public housing be designed to encourage resident ownership? ELEMENTAL engages in projects ranging from housing to public space to objects to buildings, covering a wide spectrum of interests. One of the firm´s hallmarks is participatory design, in which the architects work closely with the client and users.
Can high quality, low cost medical equipment be broadly available to the world’s poorest? Equalize Health (formerly D-Rev) is a not-for-profit medical technology company working to prevent people lacking access to treatment from suffering treatable conditions.
How can borders be places of innovation, creativity and exchange? Central to Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman’s work is the idea that “borders” are not places to be defended, but can promote innovation and exchange.
Can Design Reclaim Public Space? EXYZT was a European multidisciplinary design collective that broke extraordinary ground in challenging traditional notions of how public space can be organized.
What if our cities become places that grow natural resources for anyone to share? The art collective Fallen Fruit plants fruit trees in public spaces for everyone to share. They invite citizens to re-imagine public participation, urban space and the meaning of community.
Can rejuvenation through art transform a forgotten town? Farm Cultural Park (FCP) is an art gallery and exhibition space, located in Favara, Sicily. The aim of the project is to give the city, previously known mostly for its general decrepitude and for having one of Italy's highest unemployment rates, a new life through art.
Can an online puzzle game crowdsource solutions to preventing and curing disease? Foldit is an online game where players contribute to scientific research via an addictive puzzle game. Crowdsourcing is Foldit’s success: the creative problem-solving of thousands of people refines complex computations.
Is there a relationship between architecture, planning, politics and human rights? The Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST) is a think tank founded from a desire to spark a discussion about how political powers use architecture and architects to implement ideological agendas.
Can an architect truly straddle both first world success and community development in the developing world? Diébédo Francis Kéré is a Pritzker Architecture Prize winning Burkinabé architect recognized for creating innovative works that are often sustainable and collaborative in nature.
Can SMS technology be harnessed as a powerful information dissemination tool? Frontline SMS is software that acts as an information dissemination service for text messages. It uses cell service, not internet access, to create communication networks and exchange information.
Can best practices in seismic safety be employed in the developing world? GeoHazards International (GHI) is a California based non-profit which works to bring the best practices in seismic safety from the developed world to the developing world.
Can design challenge inequality? Girls Garage (formerly Project H Design) is a construction and design school for girls and gender-expansive youth ages 9-18. Located in Berkeley, California, its programs range from carpentry and activist art classes to design-build programs where high school students construct full-scale architectural projects for community-based clients.
How can donated clothing be translated into community renewal? Goonj is a non-governmental organization based in Delhi since 1998 which undertakes poverty alleviation work, using the city's discard as material to fuel widespread development work across village India.
How can the community be integrated into the rebuilding process? A professional service and outreach program of Mississippi State University’s College of Architecture, Art + Design, Gulf Coast Community Design Studio (GCCDS) was established in Biloxi, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to provide design services to devastated communities throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Over time, it has evolved to address long-term issues of equitable community resilience.
Can architecture help stateless people put down roots? Gyaw Gyaw is a community development non-profit that works with the Karen people at the border between Myanmar and Thailand. The organization combines low-cost, sustainable building techniques with community input to ensure designs are appropriate to the customs and culture of each village.
Can post disaster housing be sustainable and respectful of local vernacular? The Heritage Foundation of Pakistan is one of the world’s most successful providers of sustainable, resilient disaster relief structures. They are also involved in historic conservation projects in Pakistani villages.
How can neighborhoods be shaped by the people who live in them? Hester Street works to ensure neighborhoods are shaped by the people who live in them. They offer planning, design and community development assistance to community-based organizations, government and other agencies.
What happens when gravity replaces modern technology as a tool to design urban infrastructure? Himanshu Parikh is an Indian engineer who developed of the concept of ‘slum networking,’ which stems from how the traditional organization of cities was based on natural features such as topography and gravity.
How can a community contribute to a post-disaster rebuilding process? Hsieh Ying-Chun is a Taiwanese architect who works throughout Asia training villagers to build locally-appropriate dwellings in response to earthquake devastation.
How can artisans build a resilient community? Hunnarshala works with artisans to combine traditional building techniques with innovation. They are also engaged in training and empowering artisan entrepreneurs, bringing them into the mainstream of construction.
Can maps promote equality and strategies of resistance? Iconoclasistas is a Buenos Aires-based design duo led by University of Buenos Aires professor Julia Risler and graphic designer and comic strip author Pablo Ares. The mission is to use cartography (maps) and other graphic art forms to create new visions of historic representation, societal growth, and participation.
Can video games form the basis of a school curriculum? Founded by game designers in New York City, Institute of Play pioneers new models of learning and engagement rooted in the principles of game design.
What happens when traditional and modern design techniques are blended? Inteligencias Colectivas focuses on the ‘fringe’ of construction practice. Between highly mechanized construction and ancient methods are blended practices with their own wisdom. Inteligencias Colectivas¬ collects, collates and shares these.
How can designers create a more inclusive space? Interboro is an architecture, urban design, and planning firm working across scales, from buildings to communities. They are known for a participatory, place-specific approach that helps build consensus around complex projects.
Can Design Reclaim Public Space? Interbreeding Field is a Taiwanese educational program that creates installations in and about public space. Interbreeding Field’s work makes provocative commentary on how a space should or could be used.
How can a disaster be a catalyst for new visions? Ishinomaki 2.0 was founded in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami that devastated Ishinomaki and the surrounding region, with nearly 46% of the city destroyed.
Can DIY harvesting of rainwater solve a water crisis? Isla Urbana is a project dedicated to contributing to water sustainability in Mexico through rainwater harvesting.
Can art mend neighborhoods? Jeanne van Heeswijk is an artist who facilitates the creation of dynamic and diversified public spaces. Her long-scale community projects question art’s autonomy by combining performative actions, discussions, and other forms of organizing and pedagogy to assist communities to take control of their futures.
How can a town decimated by globalization be revitalized? John Fetterman is an American politician who, as Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, led the urban rejuvenation of a post-industrial city.
Can excellent design be for everyone? Jonathan Kirschenfeld is a New York architect recognized for design excellence over a wide range of environmentally and socially sustainable projects including supportive housing, childcare centers, recreation, and performance facilities.
How can the widening education gap be bridged? Kitaab Mahal is a children's library at Natwar Parekh Colony, designed and built by Community Design Agency in collaboration with the residents.
How can conversation with residents and deep engagement lead to community empowerment? Kounkuey Design Initiative is a non-profit based in Kenya and California. Using extensive community engagement, KDI reveals systemic needs and enlists the community in constructing solutions.
Can high quality, affordable housing be created in fringe areas of a city? With diverse and flexible housing types, participatory planning processes, and energy-efficient designs, Kraftwerk1 has proven that it’s possible to create high-quality affordable housing schemes in fringe areas of a city.
What is the definition of sustainability? Montreal-based L’Oeuf is known for sustainable architecture, urban housing and renovation. It emphasizes building community over building buildings; the interplay between building, occupant and environment inspires innovation.
Is it better to refurbish and reuse than rebuild? Run by the duo it is named for, Lacaton & Vassal is an award-winning architecture firm using innovative design to promote social justice, sustainability, and the repurposing of materials.
Can a plastic bottle bring light where electricity is scarce? Philippines based Liter of light is a global, open-source, grassroots movement committed to providing affordable, sustainable light to people with limited or no access to electricity.
Does design create politics or vice versa? Lorenzo Romito of Stalker discusses the ‘territory’ of architecture and how it can be expanded.
Can a community be built with sand? Luyanda Mpahlwa is part of a vanguard of designers reshaping and re-envisioning South Africa’s post-apartheid architectural landscape.
Can participatory design inspire sustainable prosperity? Marjetica Potrč is an artist and architect who works on community-based projects characterized by participatory design and a concern for sustainability.
Why invest in architecture in resource-limited settings? Model of Architecture Serving Society (MASS Design) is a Boston-based architectural practice focusing on advocacy, the education of the next generation of architects, and the impacts of architecture on human lives.
Can bicycles power essential tasks and support microbusinesses? In rural Guatemala, energy sources are scarce. Maya Pedal repurposes donated bicycles into pedal-powered machines that can blend food, grind corn and lift water from wells, without requiring electricity.
How can design help flood prone communities to function when facilities and resources are under water? Founded by Mohammed Rezwan, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha is a nonprofit that works to support the environment and people affected by climate change-induced flooding in Bangladesh by transforming waterways into pathways for education, information, and technology.
Can a former salami factory be a home, gallery, film set and a commentary on eviction? Simultaneously a gallery, film project, home for two hundred displaced people (including fifty children) and a profound social and political commentary on an all too common problem: eviction, the Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove di Metropoliz (MAAM), “Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere” is a space unlike any other.
How do we democratize design? MVD is an Austrian collective that works to bring a political view to how public space is utilized.
Can a city work as an ecosystem? “Radical ecologist” Nance Klehm fosters awareness of how plants and animals coexist. She is an ecological systems designer, landscaper, horticultural consultant and permacultural grower focused on soil, ecology and community.
What are the fifty machines essential to modern life—and can their designs be open-sourced? Open Source Ecology is dedicated to an open-source economy. At their core are plans for fifty fundamental machines; what is required to create a small, modern civilization.
Is design about the process or the result? PICO focuses on interventions in gathering spaces. They believe that architecture is not an end it in itself. The process of understanding the interaction of life and space is vital.
How can design address the problem of education for internally neglected communities? Plan Selva is the Peruvian Education Ministry’s plan to bring quality education to remote regions. The result self-empowers indigenous people to cultivate their knowledge and live productively in the Amazon.
Why should citizens and activists reclaim public space? Prinzessinnengärten is a bottom-up community garden in Berlin notable for both its scale and its ingenuity in starting a public conversation about the democratic use of public space.
Can artists create solutions instead of just social commentary? Project Row Houses (PRH) is a community platform that enriches lives through art with an emphasis on cultural identity and its impact on the urban landscape. They engage neighbors, artists, and enterprises in collective creative action to help materialize sustainable opportunities in marginalized communities.
Can design help raise the income of small hold farmers in Myanmar? Proximity Designs is a not-for-profit social enterprise working to reduce poverty for rural families in Myanmar.
How can standard design firms be supported in pro-bono work? San Francisco based Public Architecture formalizes pro bono service within architecture, interiors and landscape design. Their flagship program, The One Percent, supports firms in donating 1% of their time to pro-bono work.
How can neighborhood residents reassert control over their own futures? Public Works is a London-based critical design nonprofit straddling architecture, art, performance and activism. It addresses the challenges of urbanism, seeking ways that communities can reassert control over their futures.
If utopia eluded us, what’s next? Raumlabor Berlin is a German collective practicing what they call “research-based design”, working at the intersection of city planning, architecture, art and urban intervention.
How can citizens take planning into their own hands? Santiago Cirugeda is the founder and principal of Recetas Urbanas (Urban Recipes), a design & advocacy collective of architects, lawyers and social workers based in Seville, Spain.
Can refugees be a national asset? Berlin’s The Refugee Academy responds to the influx of refugees into Germany. Their work is about designing new ways to think about migration.
Can anyone repair everyday objects? The Repair Café is both an organization and a global network of cafés that emphasize the repair of everyday objects in order to promote a culture of sustainability and reuse.
Can restoration work in Palestine reinforce cultural identity? Founded in 1991 by Dr. Suad Amiry and a group of fellow architects and intellectuals, RIWAQ is a Ramallah-based non-profit organization that protects and develops architectural heritage in Palestine.
How do we design with scarcity? RootStudio is a multidisciplinary design studio originating in Oaxaca City, Mexico that develops structures and housing for communities in need.
Can we design community engagement? The Rural Studio is a groundbreaking off-campus designbuild program of Auburn University. Founded in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and Samuel Mockbee, the program established a new breed of community-based design education.
Can design address China’s rural to urban migration? Rural Urban Frameworks (RUF) is a research and design collaborative working to help recover and rebuild villages across China that have been affected by the massive rural-to-urban migrations.
Can waste management create jobs and improve hygiene? Launched in Nairobi’s slums, Sanergy is a business and sanitation initiative. Low-cost pay toilets are run by locals as a business. Waste is processed into fertilizer and sold to commercial farms.
Can schools address development challenges? Semillas para el Desarrollo Sostenible (“Seeds for Sustainable Development”) is a Peruvian NGO providing service to public and private entities in the design of educational, residential, and exhibition spaces, community centers, and spaces of public, cultural and heritage interest.
Can social impact design be taught? Professor Sergio Palleroni has been a long-standing leader, thinker, practitioner and educator in the field of social impact design, with a career that predates the term ‘public interest design.’ Drawing inspiration from educator/philosophers like Paolo Freire and Ivan Illych, Palleroni began working in the 1980’s in Nicaragua, working for the Sandinista government in the aftermath of the Nicaraguan revolution. From there, his work took him to Mexico, where he worked on reconstruction after the Mexico City earthquake. These experiences became the basis of a revolutionary pedagogy begun in the late 1980s. While the idea of a design/build studio, or a studio abroad program, was not new, the philosophy at the core of Palleroni’s teaching was a watershed in architectural education. In 1995, Palleroni founded the BASIC Initiative, a groundbreaking educational program between Portland State University and the University of Texas at Austin which sought to move students out of the design studio and into communities. It supports a range of projects working with poor and underserved constituencies. For example, housing and community services for migrant farm workers, housing for Native Americans and schools and health clinics in central Mexico. These programs combine appropriate technologies with reinforcing local values to inspire self-initiated development. Palleroni also developed and implemented the U.S.’s first academic certification for those wishing to pursue a career in public interest design. The certification requires coursework and field work addressing diverse issues including: non-profit management, urban poverty, ecology and citizen participation. Certification is open to both graduate students and working professionals interested in entering the field of social design. Along the way, Palleroni has trained and mentored generations of public interest designers who continue to influence the field in their own way. As a leading member of the Design for the Common Good Network, a network of design consortiums from around the globe, Palleroni has worked towards creating spaces for new work in the field of social design to find a growing audience and greater support and engagement through biennial conferences and exhibitions. He has succeeded in being a revolutionary for the past thirty years and shows no signs of stopping. We had an opportunity to speak with Sergio Palleroni about his thirty year career in Social Impact Design on Social Design Insights. Listen to the episodes below.
Can wind energy be harnessed with a handheld device? Shawn Frayne invented a non-turbine wind-powered generator that could help people in poor communities power lamps, keep small vaccine refrigerators cool and charge cell phones for relatively little cost.
Can the product-to-consumer supply chain be made more equitable? Slow/d is an Italian organization seeking to disrupt traditional supply chains in design by connecting designers, consumers & artisans directly.
How can a designer build trust among residents under a constant threat of eviction? The residents of a Ahmednagar slum live under a constant threat of eviction. CDA is focusing on trust building, empowering residents to take on development and construction of their homes.
What can slum dwellers teach design professionals? SPARC organizes, legitimizes and advocates for India’s urban poor, seeking improved living conditions and advancements in rights. SPARC believes that with structural support, the urban poor can make their destinies.
Does design create politics or vice versa? Stalker Lab is an experimental collective of architects and researchers. Founded in Rome by a group of university students, artists, scientists, and planners, all later joined. Now, it operates as a laboratory for urban art and spatial exploration. Their international exhibitions and conferences look at different ways to transform space.
What are the limits of architectural practice? STEALTH.unlimited challenges notions about architectural practice by connecting arts, urban research, cultural activism and interventions. They have a particular focus on ‘common’ spaces shared by both the private and the public.
Can design reconcile the legacy of brutal authoritarianism and the new forces of the market? studioBASAR is an architectural office and a “Search and Rescue” team conducting urban observation and intervention. It searches for overlooked urban conditions. Then the ‘rescue’ encompasses architectural interventions.
Can art transform a nation torn apart by conflict and strife? Studios Kabako’s cultural programs and urban interventions create a network for artistic expression in a city isolated by war, political corruption, civil strife, and poverty. In addition, through international commissions and performances, the studio informs an international audience of the geopolitical consequences of postcolonial instability and the exploitation of the Central Africa region.
Can a “blue” economy be created where one business' waste is raw materials for another? Rotterdam based Superuse Studios is at the leading edge of ecological thought. Their work pioneers ideas around an economy where the waste of one business becomes raw materials for another.
Can menstrual pads contribute to economic opportunities for women? Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) has designed a menstrual pad made from banana tree fibers—a local, renewable resource that SHE sources from two (largely female) farming co-ops in the eastern region of the country.
What is the role of art in engaging the public in social justice issues? American artist and activist Suzanne Lacy tackles gender violence, segregation and other social justice issues. Her work evokes discussion and debate and often engages audiences directly, outside of institutional structures.
How can architecture bring dignity in war-torn regions? Studio TAMassociati is a nonprofit architecture firm that specializes in designing healthcare facilities in war-torn areas, highlighting the connection between the built environment and the basic needs of life.
Can resurrecting building techniques from antiquity solve a West African housing crisis? West Africans face unique challenges in sourcing materials for sustainable, cost-efficient housing. In response, The Association la Voûte Nubienne (“AVN”) is bringing back an ages old technique: mud brick.
Can we design community engagement? Based in the South Side of Chicago, Theaster Gates is an artist, professor, social innovator, and founder of Rebuild Foundation, which reimagines the potential of vacancy and abandonment through the power of arts, culture, and creative empowerment by building a constellation of spaces that unearth the value and beauty in Black space.
Can better human services be co-designed? Founded in 2004 as the first of its kind, Thinkpublic is a London-based social design agency that works with public sector and nonprofit organizations to improve the quality of the services they provide.
Can your neighborhood become a self-sufficient community? The Transition Network is an organization whose role is to inspire, encourage, connect, support, and train communities as they create initiatives that rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions.
Can revitalizing traditional crafts bring economic stability to areas of conflict? Turquoise Mountain is a nonprofit focused on regenerating urban areas and furthering the renaissance of the traditional craft industry in the Middle East.
Can former slum and pavement dwellers design better living solutions for themselves? As developing-world cities grow, housing estates for slum and pavement dwellers multiply. In India, the liveability of these developments is questionable, so CDA and residents will collaborate on positive changes.
How can urban dwellers participate in the construction of their own built environment? Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) is an interdisciplinary design studio dedicated to high-level research and design at a variety of scales. The studio champions collaborative work with intended users as a tool to develop spaces and projects that reinterpret the potential of unbuilt areas.
How can slum dwellers be protected against profit-minded developers? Urbz is an experimental action and research collective specialized in participatory planning and design. They work with citizens, associations, local governments, and private clients in Mumbai, Bogotá, and Geneva.
Can urban upgrading reduce crime? In Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township, Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) uses urban planning to fight crime, developing interventions in high-crime spots. They create decent, livable communities through local planning.
How can designers address poverty in American cities? Dr. Wesley Janz is a Professor Emeritus of Architecture at Ball State University, Indiana and the founder of OneSmallProject. Currently, he is working to draw attention to the issues central to the U.S. prison system.
Can design free the public from hierarchical constraints in society? YA+K brings young architects, urban planners, and designers together around projects that question and simultaneously invest in urban planning, architecture, design, and cultural action. The collective aims to create playful and evolving situations that stem from the imaginary to reality.
How do we design with scarcity? Yatin Pandya is the founder and executive director of Footprints E.A.R.T.H. (Environment, Architecture, Research, Technology, Housing), an Indian professional services organization focused on research, design and the promotion of more sustainable urban futures.