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What's Next: Cameron Sinclair
Cameron Sinclair, 28 Dec 06
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-- Embracing the leapback and an open approach to innovation. --

If you have access to the tools for creating physical change in your community chances are you live in a privileged and highly networked community. For most of the world there is an innovation divide that continues to grow, not because of the lack of creativity or passion but the barriers surrounding the ability to share ideas, collaborate and to adapt existing solutions continue to spiral out of the reaches of those who need them most.

In living in a connected society and the ability to travel the world I get to have a unique opportunity to discover the incredible ingenuity happening in areas the media have cast off as ‘hopelessly in need of saving’. The reality is that when improving your surroundings becomes a matter of survival the level of creativity and sustainability far exceeds anything that could be found in western design world. From pot-in-pot clay fridges designed by Mohammed Bah Abba in Northern Nigeria, used water bottles that have been recycled into makeshift flip flops in Sri Lanka (also seen in eastern Kenya) to illiterate rural villagers turned barefoot solar engineers in India these local innovators should not only be supported but we should seek out ways to adapt their solutions for a myriad of regionally based issues is vital to improving our planet.

More importantly these new hybrid technologies can be adapted to tackle issues affecting our communities – this is the birth of the leapback.

The end of the top down imposed solutions is coming and hopefully by this time is 2007 we will see the global community for what it really is – global.

If we can connect the world to learn and be inspired by all these incredible localized solutions there is hope that we can tackle the next big hurdle for a sustainable world – scalability. This issue has been plaguing the entire design and development community, not only those living in the many unplanned settlements around the world. For years the standardized ‘magic-bullet’ approach to intervention has left a litany of failed projects, leaving communities picking up the pieces long after the well meaning NGOs and government bodies have left. In order to bring an idea to scale on a global level, it must be allowed to be adapted, refined and evolve.

This brings us to the launch of a new place for all who are interested in improving the built environment, the Open Architecture Network. This network has a simple mission: to generate design opportunities that will improve living standards for all. Designers and inventors of all persuasions will be able post their projects, browse projects posted by others, comment and review projects, discuss relevant topics, contribute to shared resources, collaborate with each other and access project management tools to support their work. This site will not only helps create, support and implement ideas, but also a place that fosters sustainable, replicable, adaptable and scalable design solutions.

In time projects could be adapted and changed based on cultural, climatic and topographic differences as well as local needs. A simple housing solution may, over many generations, create a family tree of adapted versions that will affect tens possibly hundreds of thousands of people. Think of this as a genealogy of design.

This network was developed out of the 2006 TED Prize wish and will launch in 2007. We invite ALL of you to join.

image of pot-in-pot by Tomas Bertelsen

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I will most certainly support the "Open Architecture Network". There are so many traditional dwelling touches that "modern" architects scorn on, it is about time we sttempt to incorporate them if they have merit

The village of Gaviotas (written up in worldchanging earlier) in Columbia 30 years ago has a venerable list of low tech / low cost innovations and one in particular matches the pot-in-a-pot brilliance. It is to lay (loosly) a second sheet of corrugated tin roof on the first one with the whole roof having a small pitch. The hot sun heats up the air between the sheets causing it to rise and escape from the top while drawing cooler air into the gap from below. Bingo, the hot sun beating down is put to good use and the shanty room below stays cool. A single tin sheet roof in 90 degree weather is a nightmare. This will work equally well in Mississippi in summer as in India or other desert climes.

I hope the Open Architecture Network is a little more accessible than the esoteric "Architecture for Humanity". Finally ideas like Tibetan homes herding their livestock beneath the floor for heat or the fact that Los Angeles had 90% of homes fitted with solar water heaters at the turn of the century or that an experimental home built of bamboo was uneffected by hurricanes might gain currency. There is an entire university in India that has "Open Air classes" - Shantiniketan built by Rabindranath Tagore half a century ago and along with Kalakshetra in Chennai can serve as low cost model for world class education, especially when coupled with distance learning.

Thanks for pointing out the barefoot college - I am going to check it out in detail.

Posted by: Subbarao Seethamsetty on 28 Dec 06



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