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.
A New Olympics Just For Nomads Playing polo with a 100-pound goat carcass to save nomadic culture and build national pride in Kyrgyzstan.
New Detroit Program Trades Houses for Literary Excellence Write a House names Brooklyn poet Casey Rocheteau as first recipient of free home in Detroit
A Chance in Hell Yaks, America, and The Apocalypse Up against an $88 billion beef industry, it takes a leap of faith to raise yak in the United States.
Specialty Coffee Retailers Try to Prove They're Good to the Last Drop Searching for the perfect cup of sustainable and ethically produced joe. #NationalCoffeeDay
Metalhead Ballerinas Rock the U.K. Brutal Ballet slayed U.K. audiences last week with the debut of original choreography set to a metal cover of the Game of Thrones themesong.
You’re Now a Two-Minute Video Away from Getting into College
Goucher College will accept video applications in lieu of the traditional essays and test scores.
3 Epic Racial Profiling Blunders from History
Racial profiling not only harms innocent people of color, it can cause law enforcement to lose crucial time in pursuing the true criminals.
10 Overlooked Issues That People are Protesting This Week at the U.N.
The U.N. General Assembly is a magnet for protest from every race, color, and creed. Meet some of the people behind the picketing.
Why We Still Need the Nation State Overshadowed by international organizations, global commerce, and even individual cities, the nation state still has a vital role to play.
Flip-Flopping on Fats Health and sustainability concerns drive the two largest donut chains to change their policies on palm oil.
The Challenge of Branding a Life-Threatening Disease Can mitochondrial disease go mainstream? There are promising developments for mitochondrial disease in genetics and cellular therapies—now, if only it could get some buzz.
A Headdress Ban Disqualified Qatar’s Entire Women’s Basketball Team from International Competition
If the Asian Games really want to be a place where diversity shines, they should’ve opposed International Basketball’s ban on religious headwear.