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.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 1 Oct 2014
Founded by Ian Hall, Arkitrek works to the create socially and environmentally sustainable buildings in Malaysia. I have been following them for several years now, just looking for a reason to contact them other than to just say "Hi! I like what you do. Keep up the good work," and now I have one, so here we go.
Core77: Can you give us a short outline to what Arkitrek is about?
Ian Hall: We are architects and we're motivated use design to solve environmental problems. Problems, like resource consumption, pollution and energy use. To solve these problems usually involves working with people, so we are highly socially minded in the way that we work, but I'm a nature lover foremost and love of wild places and nature is what inspires me
What lead you to start Arkitrek?
Haha. Long story...
One thing led to another. I always knew that I did not want to follow a 'conventional' architecture career. After completing my Part III and getting solid commercial experience, I decided to look for alternatives and I joined an expedition with Raleigh International to Borneo. They asked me to lead a team of young volunteers to do a feasibility study for a jungle research station in Borneo. That was a dream job. I swapped designing shiny urban hotels and started work on primitive huts in the jungle. I joke that 'the people I worked with were primitive too': gap year students mostly. The Raleigh ethos is empowering young people by giving them responsibility for delivering project work in challenging places. After some initial resistance, I embraced this philosophy.
After my Raleigh expedition in 2004, I volunteered to work for The Sabah Foundation, Raleigh's local partner in Sabah, Borneo. The Sabah Foundation manages three rainforest conservation areas and I went on to volunteer for them as an architect, designing jungle camps, staff quarters and research facilities on and off for two years.
I funded this with contract work in London. Six months in London would fund four months in Sabah. During this time, I met the people who would become my first paying clients in Sabah. That's how Arkitrek started.
The name, Arkitrek, was coined by my mate Andy Lo. Andy is a Londoner whose parents are from Sabah. We worked together in London and he came out to visit his family in Sabah and then joined me for a month long design and trekking stint in Sabah's Maliau Basin Conservation Area.
I worked in the most awesome and wild and beautiful places.
What was the main foundation when you started Arkitrek?
During that time with Sabah Foundation I was very concerned with two questions:
1. Should we build anything here? [in this wild and beautiful place]
2. If we do build, what kind of building is appropriate?
A little later, when I was no longer supported by high paying London contract work a third question came into play...
3. How can I keep saying yes to designing small buildings in beautiful places for worthy clients, who can't pay professional fees?
I think that my 'ground pillars' are those three questions.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 29 Sep 2014
Over the past few years, since I've started researching education, learning spaces and social education projects, my network has expanded exponentially. This was to be expected, considering how much time I've spent on various platforms trying to find out what is going on out there. Another thing that was expected was to see just how small the education circle really is. Everyone knows everyone in one way or another, or is just one degree removed from them.
In the beginning of my research, when I had just started my master studies at Aarhus Architecture School, I got in contact with Rosan Bosch and her work at Vittra School at Telefonplan in Stockholm, Sweden. This is where I first got into contact with Jannie Jeppesen, then headmaster of Vittra Skolan, now head of of Rebel Learners.
An unexpected meeting on the subway
Rebel Learners is a new initiative created by Rektorsakademin Utveckling (RAU), who also arranges SETT, Scandinavia's biggest education conference, and are the creators behind the podcast Skolsnack (School Chat) and Learning Narratives, a new game developed to build future learning environments.
The short version is that Rebel Learners is a course for teacher-students developed by teacher-students to upgrade and gain knowledge that they feel that they are not learning at their current institutions.
Rebel Learners came about after Fredrik Svensson, former principal and now CEO for RAU, met a former student of his on the subway in Stockholm. She told him that she was studying to become a teacher, but that she wasn't satisfied with the education she was receiving from the university. None of her teachers were actively working outside of the university world, which left her feeling that they were lacking the sort of practical knowledge that she was going to need when she started working.
Sweden has a lot of challenges ahead: Amongst others, the country will be 40,000 teachers short of its needs by 2020; in Stockholm alone, the amount of students will increase from 60,000 to 90,000 Moreover, people who decide to study to become a teacher often are looked upon as if they only chose their field of studies due to lack of any other decision.
Instead of complaining and whining about obstacles, RAU decided to do something about it, they created Rebel Learners as a way to bring a positive and professional voice to the discussion about education as well as to support and lift teacher students, and active teachers, with the help of a vast network of professionals and partners as well as courses, seminars and other events.