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.
Can Kickstarter Keep It Real?
An interview with Yancey StricklerThe co-founder of Kickstarter on progress, patronage, and potato salad.
The Organization Creating Starry-Eyed Future Scientists Universe Awareness introduces kids ages four to 10 to the wonder of the cosmos.
The Multicultural Power of the Stoner ComedyFans of Cheech & Chong and Harold & Kumar never have to ask “dude, where’s my diversity?”
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American Women Are Finally Talking About Their Abortions
A new online community and a growing chorus of female politicians are de-stigmatizing the controversial choice.
Everything You Need to Know About Cooking with Blood An interview with “blood lady,” Elisabeth Paul The Nordic Food Lab's innovative approaches to a culinarily neglected ingredient
Naming the Worst Thing Imaginable The documentary Watchers of the Sky forces viewers to confront genocide via the term’s dedicated, undaunted inventor.
6 Young Adult Protagonists Who Aren’t White
Teen fiction often relegates characters of color to the margins, if they appear at all. These books help broaden the spectrum.
Heads in the Clouds Take some time to channel your inner cloud-watcher and you just might discover something new, like these citizen scientists did
This Couple Spent Six Months Eating Garbage Premiering on World Food Day, the new documentary Just Eat It highlights American food waste from soup to nuts.
A Street Art Festival that Puts Women on Walls
In Jordan, artists take over public space to empower women otherwise too fearful to speak out against street harassment.