Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 14 Jan 2015
Projects pop-up on peoples radars in various ways. Sometimes information about a person or project comes from many different sources all at once. This was the case for Mandy Lau and her award-winning project, Reach & Match. The project helps visually impaired and autistic children develop their senses, social skills and literacy.
In 2012, Reach & Match was a Student Notable in the Social Impact category for the Core77 Design Awards. In under three years, Reach & Match is now a full-fledged product available for purchase. Core77 spoke with Mandy about bringing a product from idea to market, some of the biggest challenges for designers working in special education and what's next for this learning tool.
Core77: Tell me a bit about the thoughts that brought you to decided on creating Reach & Match?
Mandy Lau: I have always been very interested in social design and creating effective solutions through design. For my bachelor degree in Product Engineering, I developed a few projects for people with physical limitations as well as blind and vision-impaired people. I also enjoy my other work in art therapy with children and adults with special needs. During my postgraduate research in Industrial Design, I started looking into braille literacy and blindness.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 9 Jan 2015
Photo by Zan van Alderwegen
With a new year, it's time to clear out the digital clutter and make way for some new lines for inspiration. First on the list: Architecture in Development. After nurturing a passionate online community for a number of years, the founders of the site hope that Architecture in Development (AiD) can do more than just share information about sustainable development and architecture. The members behind the site are now developing workshops and launching pilot cases as a way of gathering and challenging like-minded people in a real world environment to develop new solutions for specific challenges. Core77 spoke with founding members Changfang Luo and Rob Breed about the newest phase for AiD.
What is Architecture In Development?
Rob Breed and Changfang Luo: Architecture In Development (AiD) is a global platform that aims to bring together the demand and supply in the practice of community design that emphasizes people rather than icons. AiD exists to support this new generation of architects by means of an online platform for knowledge and network resources, offline workshops and events to connect and, in the future, pilot cases to incubate real projects.
What is the backstory for why you founded Architecture In Development?
After we finished studying architecture, we started working in architecture studios. During that time we noticed the growing distance between our profession and the people using the spaces. In media, architecture was glamorized into a fashion industry with seductive images to capture attention (mainly from peer architects). And we noticed that in the world of architecture little attention was spent on the people and their relationship with architecture; everyone was busy with 'the final selling image' rather than the contexts, the culture and the tradition that give shape to architecture. There is hardly a voice from the people who participated in the process of making architecture; there is hardly any critique or evaluation on architecture after it's inhabited.
We were confronting these ideas while the architecture industry was devastated by the recession. Most of our friends and colleagues lost their jobs and the future was looking bleak. We asked ourselves: How can we help our colleagues think and act differently in our daily practice?
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 14 Oct 2014
When I write about projects and people that I find interesting, I often wonder "Why the heck don't more people know about these projects/people?" You can say that I see it as my duty to spread the word, to inform people about the things going on out there, and make sure that you don't miss out on all the awesomeness that is to be found in various places, and within people... which is a long way of introducing Communitere.
When disaster hit Haiti back in 2010, Sam Bloch was working on a custom-made lighting system for a weekend cabin up in the mountains. He had finished work for the day and was sitting in a bar, drinking a well-deserved beer, when he saw the news about the earthquake. Right then and there (because it sounds more dramatic that way), he decided that he needed to be there. He packed his big backpack with as few private things as possible and filled the rest up with tools. About a week later, he was standing in the middle of the disaster area with the feeling that he had made the right choice and was in the exact place that he needed to be. And although that moment marked the beginning of Communitere, Sam had already been working in disaster relief for about six years.
The name itself, Communitere—which I first thought was French—stands for Communities United In Response, Relief & Renewal.
What works, and what doesn't
With quite a few years within the field, Sam had gathered a fair share of insight into what worked and what didn't work. One of the problems he had identified was the lack of innovation within the global aid industry. Where there's no margin to fail, there's no margin for innovation, at the same time as it's easy to argue that this lack of innovation is failure in itself.
This lack of innovation is the problem that Communitere took to heart and decided to make into its main focus. By creating Resource Centers, spaces that also know as "Spaces of Safe Failure," they have established big workshops where the locals inhabitants can learn how to build their own homes; use the tools provided in the workshops; use the space to work on new ideas; and collaborae with visitors on prototypes and projects to solve a specific problem.
As Bloch says, "You can't empower people, the only thing you can do is give them the tools to empower themselves."
"Focus on solving the problems that others are not"
It's one thing to think that you know what the people you want to help want, but actually knowing what they want may be a whole 'nother thing. There's also a difference between knowing what they want and what they truly need. Needs can be tricky in the sense that sometimes what you need the most is something that you didn't even know existed—a problem that might be so ingrained in your day-to-day life to that you don't even see it as a problem, but rather you take it for granted.
One of the problems you encounter in the world of aid is oftentimes many organizations focusing on solving the same problem without communicating with one another what they are up to, at what time, where, and so on and so forth. This results in redundant efforts, resources going to waste, as well as other areas being neglected when it comes to support, products or medicine.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 7 Oct 2014
When I first started writing for this wonderful blog, the one you are on right now, I started off by writing about co-creative processes in relation to education and learning spaces. One of the offices that contacted me in relation to these articles was STL architects, a Spanish architecture studio based in Chicago. I arranged a Skype call with the two directors of the office, Luis Collado and Jose Luis de la Fuente, and we ended up talking for over an hour as shared our previous projects, work methods, processes and personal experiences.
In this interview you will be able to read about their way of working, the strategies when entering a project and their latest project, developing a 20-year master plan expansion for Wilbur Wright College in Chicago, which started working on in the beginning ofJjune this year.
The Wilbur Wright College is one of seven Chicago City Colleges, designed by Bertrand Goldberg architect studio back in 1986, all of which are currently undergoing a major remodeling. At the moment, the college hosts students from the age of 18 and up. It is divided into three different programs:
- Credit programs
- Continuing education
- Adult education
Course offerings range from African American Studies to Zoology.
The goal for the central authority of the Chicago City Colleges is to create a 20-year master-plan expansion, while the end goal with the expansion plan for STL is to "create spaces that promote learning."
A 20-year master-plan expansion
STL's mission is to create a 20-year master plan expansion for Wright College, which includes taking the university through a major transformation from the inside of the organization to the outdoor lawns. One of these changes is transforming Wright College from being one of seven city colleges—which allow the students the possibility of studying almost anything between heaven and earth—to focusing on IT, making it the IT hub of the Chicago universities.
In order to be able to handle this big change, STL had to dig their teeth into more than just the exterior and interior of the building—they had to study the existing structure of the organization to get a true understanding of how to create, and be a part of, a lasting change.
Based on previous experience, STL had prepared themselves for a rather stubborn, and difficult-to-please client, similar to the ones they had encountered in the past. But to their great surprise, that wasn't the case this time around. The client, which in this case consists of administrators, stakeholders, students and the central authority of City Colleges, completely broke this perception by giving STL loads of encouragement and support.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 6 Oct 2014
It's interesting how things sometimes end up in your lap—in this case, it was a bag belonging to a friend of a friend that ended up on my kitchen table, and things developed from there. Those of you who already have read a few of my interviews from this interview series know that I have a tendency to stumble upon people and things that catch my interest. Well, the bag on my kitchen table sparked my interest and led me on a quest to find out more about the woman behind the brand. Turns out, she's been staying in Copenhagen for a few months. Lucky me!
Read on to learn how a woman born and raised in Australia ended up starting a bag brand in Guatemala.
Core77: What inspired you to start designing?
Athena Maroulis: I've always loved colors, patterns and dressing up since I was a kid. My mother is an architect and both of my parents have travelled a lot and have an appreciation for art. Our house was full of paintings, art deco furniture (my dad's obsessed), African jewelry, millinery ribbons (my great grandmother was well known hat-maker) and exotic fabrics amongst other things. I think that growing up in this kind of environment makes you conscious of shapes, colors, textures and how things are put together.
Other than that, I have been sewing since I was around 13 and learned how to make garments. From there, I placed top 10 in the state in my final year textiles and design and knew I wanted to have my own fashion business. It seems that design has been in my life from an early age.
Being exposed to items from so many different cultures most have triggered your imagination on many levels. Do you remember any particular piece that you found extra interesting?
It's hard to pinpoint one piece specifically. I have a huge appreciation for structured lines and symmetry and I think it's due to the art deco buffet table, drink cabinet and side board that we had in our home. However, I think my favorite thing (now and forever) has been dressing up, so I've probably spent countless hours fossicking through and trying on the fabulous pieces in my great grandmother's old costume jewellery box. There are the most amazing chintzy, glitzy, rhinestone encrusted statement jewellery pieces in there. I still find them so fascinating and beautiful.