Best of 2012: New Socially Responsible Designs
This was an important year for socially responsible design—design that is socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable. Design with the Other 90%: CITIES finished its run at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and headed to St. Louis and Portland until January. Look for it in Atlanta in 2013. In February, the National Endowment for the Arts and Lemelson Foundation joined with Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum to convene a Social Impact Design Summit at The Rockefeller Foundation, bringing together leaders in social design to brainstorm ways to support this growing area of design. Spontaneous Interventions: Design Action for the Common Good, the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, opened in August, winning a Silver Medal.
President Clinton brought design to the global stage this September, focusing the Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting on “Designing for Impact.” This year, IDEO.org also graduated its first class of Innovators in Residence. Cape Town, South Africa was designated as the next World Design Capital in November. In receiving this honor, their mayor noted, “Cape Town’s vision of design is based on socially responsible design, sustainability and innovation.” These highlights from the year, along with following list, represent just a few significant examples for this promising discipline.
Mandartola Re-housing Project, Gopalganj, Bangladesh
Designers: Mandartola community with ACHR Community Architects Network
Mandartola is a breakthrough housing project for Bangladesh, where forced evictions of the urban poor is common. Construction begins this month on the community-driven design—dense cluster housing around open space for over 300 forcefully-evicted squatter settlement families on publicly provided land. Designed with the community’s women, a strong disaster-resistant core housing structure is finished in stages using local materials.
Walk [Your City], United States
Designer: Matt Tomasulo
An online open-source design platform for sharing citizen-initiated signage that encourages urban walking. First deployed guerilla-style in Raleigh, N.C., Walk Raleigh indicated the number of minutes to a nearby destination, rather than miles, to engage at a human scale. Spreading to other cities, post-superstorm NYC volunteers were inspired to install an Occupy Sandy wayfinding system to help residents find emergency relief centers within walking distance.
Designers: TOA (Environmental Operations Workshop) and Superflex
This small bio-digester unit has the potential to be manufactured for use in both rural and urban locations around the world creating energy from animal/human waste.
Via Verde, Bronx, N.Y.
Designers: Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects; Lee Weintraub Landscape Architects; Development partners: Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies
Designed to support healthy and active living for residents in the South Bronx, this mixed-use sustainable affordable housing masterfully attends to open space. Garden plots step up the building from grade to roof levels providing gardening and harvesting activities for the residents throughout the year.
Essentialist clothing, New York, N.Y.
Designer: Natalia Allen
World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and fashion designer Natalia Allen is challenging the fashion industry with a new line of clothing made in the USA by robots and designed to outlast a single season. Catering to the “slow purposeful shopper” each piece is crafted without seams from a single piece of sustainable, high-performance yarn.
Contributor Cynthia Smith is curator of socially responsible design at the Smithsonian Institution.
Photos courtesy ACHR Community Architects Network, Walk [Your City], TOA, Dattner Architects, and Natalia Allen. Bangladesh photo via (cc) Flickr user Joseph A. Ferris III. Illustration by Corinna Loo.
Turning Rubbernecking in Bangladesh into a Lifesaving Moment Without 9-1-1 or a reliable ambulance system, one med student and 100 volunteers launch a mobile-based emergency response system
Female Monks Challenge Buddhism’s Misogynistic Tendencies Long relegated to being the handmaidens of the more revered male monks, devout Thai women are now establishing their own religious order
If You Really Love Nature, Don’t Live Anywhere Near It Almost universally, people living in urban locations have a much smaller environmental footprint.
For Ernesto Yerena, Los Angeles is the City of Hustle and Hope Artist Ernesto Yerena’s visual love letter to the City of Hustle and Hope.
Books Stop Bullets at Tragic FSU Shooting A tragic shooting, a confusing profile of a would-be-killer, and a student saved by his library books
These Grandmas Smoke Pot For The First Time. And They Absolutely Love it. They take a few epic bong rips before waxing poetic on the merits of ironing, mistake a vaporizer for a sex toy, and stonily lose track of whatever thoughts they were briefly attempting to articulate.
If You See One Iranian Vampire Western Movie This Year, Make it This One The chador-wearing, skateboarding, vampire protagonist of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night would fit right in to a John Hughes movie
There’s No Reason for Any Nation Not to Vaccinate its Feral Dogs Targeting the semi-wild dogs that roam city streets and rural hamlets all over the world can break the chain of rabies transmission and eliminate cases in humans
The Secret Origin of Neil deGrasse Tyson It took perseverance, intense training, and a willingness to defy expectations to turn a curious kid into the sharp, affable scientist we know today.
VITAMINS 101: Know What You Need Get the dish on your nutrition
Games Theory: 6 Views of a Mockingjay Just how socially relevant is The Hunger Games? Let us count the ways.
Here’s to You A toast to local hotspots around the world The best of the world’s neighborhood nooks.