October 1, 2008
A new generation of design activists is helping to reshape the role of contemporary architects.
Also featuring Bryan Bell, Teddy Cruz, John Peterson, and Sergio Palleroni
In the past decade, a new breed of architect has emerged. There is no grand theory behind their work, or even a major star. They’re not master-planning new “cities of the future,” creating utopian housing prototypes, or designing “revolutionary” building forms. Instead, these architects have set out to improve conditions in their own communities and elsewhere in the world through a series of independent, small-scale efforts. We’ve recognized them individually over the years, but these separate, autonomous projects have now begun to be celebrated in shows such as Design for the Other 90%, a recent exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and Into the Open: Positioning Practice, this year’s exhibition for the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. We asked a handful of leading activists featured in the newly released Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism (edited by Bryan Bell and Katie Wakeford for Metropolis Books) to help us put together a manual for what Thomas Fisher calls “public-interest architecture.” All offered a five-step how-to based on their own experience working with schools, communities, or available technologies to build better homes and neighborhoods. Consider this a sort of field guide for extending the practice of design into the broader world. – Stephen Zacks