Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Magic Of Innovation: Improvement Through Architecture Networks

Cameron Sinclair, the head of architecture humanity, has founded an open architecture network. His goal is to connect smart designs with those who need them most in order to improve the lives of the worlds poor and displaced peoples.

The open architecture network is a system that allows architects and innovators to share information and solutions amongst each other. This then helps communities find solutions to systemic problems and enables post-disaster reconstruction.

There is no office. Everything is completely online. In fact, as Cameron states, it is essentially an online architecture firm, except the clients are those in need. The organization is based on the idea of "social good" instead of "financial good."

There are about seven thousand members around the world. They share projects and they also project manage other development projects in the field. This type of sharing has become more possible since the 90's, when every architecture firm went digital.

The organization even edited a book of many of the projects they are involved in. It is cleverly called, "Design Like You Give A Damn."

Some stories throughout the book really stand out. For instance, the women of the Maasai tribe in Kenya headed the architecture of the town. They used cow dung originally for roofing. By making a simple change from cow dung to ferrocement, which is much lighter, they can now collect enough water to irrigate the land while also providing clean sanitation for their families.

Another great example was an idea that formulated out of a NASA Mars housing project. A consultant found that it is possible to fill sand bags with lunar dust and create rings by using barb wire. This creates a dome structure and when material are put on the outside for insulation, a low cost house.

The designer found that you can build these for less than an UN winter tent and use any type of earth's soil. The brilliance of this idea is that you can not only use local soil, but you can also hire the refugees or replaced people to build them. This channels the aid to where it needs to be most while also being significantly cheaper than bringing in a UN tent.

Interestingly, the aesthetic for these projects are not great leaps. They are simply a matter of looking at the problems on the ground and adapting to them through innovation.

-Gabrielle Gurian