For the first time in history, the majority of the earth's approximately 7 billion inhabitants live in cities. Close to one billion people live in informal settlements, commonly known as slums or squatter settlements, and that number is projected to swell to two billion by 2030.
This incredible set of facts opens the newest Cooper-Hewitt exhibition, Design with the Other 90%: CITIES , featuring 60 projects, proposals and design solutions that address the multi-layered and complex issues facing residents who inhabit these informal settlements. An interesting cross-section of civic and private entites are represented in CITIES; architects, governments, NGOs, community leaders and industrial designers lead the way with innovatie products across the fields of architecture, materials, transportation, entrepreneurship, education, public health and civic life.
Digital Drum, Kampala, Uganda. Devised by the UNICEF Innovation Team. Solar-powered computer kiosk includes information like education curriculum, school-safety guidelines and public health information. The first prototype was made in a car-repair shop using oil drums, basic grinders and a metal arc welder.
A followup to Cooper-Hewitt's 2007 exhibition Design for the Other 90%, this second installation in an ongoing series is most notably mounted at the United Nations headquarters in New York City where visitors and dignitaries from around the world can interact and be inspired by the works. "The United Nations offers an ideal setting to examine these complex issues and connect with stakeholders who can impart real change."
One of the most striking things about the exhibit is the transformative effect many of the tools, systems and services we might take for granted can have when introduced to informal settlement communities. For example, a lo-fi mapping project in Lima, Peru using an inflated trash bag, plastic bottles, duct tape, a rubberband and a digital camera can give a resident of an informal settlement a sense of place in the context of the larger city. Medellin's Metrocable public transportation cable car system physically connects remote informal settlements to the central metro system giving residents a line into centers of commerce and outside opportunity. A recent profile in the New Yorker documents the work of Indian software billionaire, Nandan Nilekani, to build the world's largest biometric database. This national database would give formerly undocumented individuals access to government programs and in a more informal way, a sense of true identity.
Designers are using a human-centered approach coupled with local leaders and resources to empower communities from within. A great example of this is the work of Design Without Borders in Kampala, Uganda. With 75% of hospital-reported injuries in Kampala linked with motorcycle taxi-related accidents, there has been multiple attempts to get the boda boda drivers to don helmets. Using Design Without Borders' human-centered research approach, designers worked with boda boda drivers and local manufacturers to develop the bePRO Motor-taxi Helmet, a lightweight helmet suitable for hot climates using readily available fiberglass composite. The final design is affordable, includes integrated ventilation, holes for hearing passengers, durable closures and graphics from the young Kampala artist, Ivan Bargiye. As Kristoffer Leivestad Olsen, designer with DWB explained, "The shift from export to local production and manufacturing for a potential market of millions is powerful."
Design with the Other 90%: CITIES
United Nations Headquarters, Visitors Center
First Avenue at 46th Street, New York City
Through January 9, 2012
Vertical Gym, Caracas, Venezuela. Urban Think Tank with Architects Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner. Limited land and high crime rates often make it unsafe for children living in informal settlements to play and participate in sports. This four-story facility's flexible design allows for stacked volumes to be reassembled and adjusted for different locations. The prototype structures are conceived as a kit of parts and the latest design incorporates recycled materials, wind towers, solar panels and rainwater collection to reduce operational costs and environmental impact.
Bicycle Phone Charger, Arusha Tanzania. Developed by MIT D-Lab's and Global Cycle Solutions. In Tanzania, the majority of the people live without electricity, yet a third of the country uses mobile phones. The bicycle phone charger generates power when its roller comes in contact with a bike's spinning wheel and is designed using scrap bike and radio parts. GCS has plans to distribute the phone globally.
Community Cooker (Jiko y Jamii), Laini Saba Village, Nairobi, Kenya. Designed by Jim Archer. The majority of Kenya's 40 million people use wood and charcoal fires for cooking which causes respiratory diseases and environmental damage. The Community Cooker uses trash as fuel, burning at a high heat without toxic fumes. Simple, inexpensive, easily built and repaired by local communities, residents collect trash or pay a small fee in exchange for time cooking or distilling drinking water.
Grassroots Mapping, Cantagallo, Lima, Peru. Designed by Jeff Warren, MIT Media Lab. This open-source participatory approach allows communities to create their own maps using inexpensive equipment. Snapping aerial images which are then stitched together and overlaid on Google Maps, the grassroots maps have a resolution 100 times higher than Google imagery. Residents own the resulting images and maps which they can use to support land-title claims or to aid in upgrading efforts.
Urban Mining, Heliopolis, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Designed with ETH Zurich and Sao Paulo's Municipal Housing Authority. Heliopolis is the largest favela is Sao Paulo with 70,000 residents living on an area of land less than a thrid of that of New York's Central Park. The city's Municipal Housing authority has proposed to engage local residents in recycling discarded materials which will be combined with either concrete or polymer to create new prefabricated elements for favela upgrading. The first planned phase for the Urban Mining Program will restructure local waste collection and build a recycling a prototyping center for composite materials and building systems.
Spaza-de-Move-on, Durban, South Africa. Designed by Doung Anwar Jahangeer of dala and Moses Gwiba, street vendor. A redesign of the "cafe-de-move-ons," or coffee carts popular in Durban in the '60s, the Spaza-de-Move-on is an efficient, durable, mobile metal cart designed to give street vendors dignity and convenience.
MEDIKits, Carazo, Nicaragua and Quito, Ecuador. Medical toolkits that enable healthcare workers in resource-poor communities to develop their own low-cost medical devices from locally available, inexpensive parts. The kit empowers "co-designers" to modify and build innovative devices: a nebulizer powered by a bicycle foot pump, plastic toy helicopters convert into asthma inhalers.
10x10 Sandbag House, Freedom Park, Cape Town, South Africa. Initiated by Design Indaba. A structural timber frame using EcoBeam technology combined with sandbags reinforced with chicken wire and finished with plaster and timber cladding creates a cost-effective, energy-efficient solution for construction. The housing solution costs 50,000 rand (US$7,000)—the national government's housing subsidy—to build.
bePRO Motor-taxi Helmet, Kampala, Uganda. Developed by Design Without Borders. Most helmets are not designed for hot climates, and they cover the ears, impeding drivers from hearing customers. Based on research in Kampala with boda boda drivers, the team developed a locally-produced producted using a readily available fiberglass composite. The final design is affordable, includes integrated ventilation, holes for hearing passengers, durable closures and graphics from the young Kampala artist, Ivan Bargiye.
Shack/Slum Dwellers International. SDI is pioneering a set of tools to build more inclusive cities through redevelopment and upgrades. One approach is women's savings networks providing building blocks for poor communities to accumulate and leverage their own resources. Here are individual savings books and a group ledger created by SDI affiliates around the world.
Garden-in-a-Sack, Nairobi, Kenya. Designed by Solidarites International. A low-cost urban gardening system targeting 20,000 households living in Nairobi slums. Households can harvest enough vegetables for four meals per week.