In the latest edition of Urchin Freebies, I urged those who can to visit the Design with the Other 90%: Cities exhibit before it ends its run on 9 January. Well, check this out: I took my own advice and went.
This exhibit, the second of an ongoing series of exhibitions that ‘demostrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and saving lives,’ run by the Design Other 90 Network, an open-network database designed to share resources, connect with stakeholders in such fields as architecture and humanitarian aid, and engage a wide audience in developing solutions for those living in poverty.
Design with the Other 90%: Cities focuses on and features sixty projects, proposals, and solutions in combating poverty in what has been termed the ‘Century of the City.’ As the world’s population reaches seven billion, a significant percentage fill cities that simply lack the resources to sustain itself. Cities such as Manila in the Philippines, São Paulo in Brazil, and Dhaka in Bangladesh, have been described as informal urbanisms: crowded urban centres with inadequate housing, insufficient living space, insecure land tenure, lack of access to safe and affordable water, and lack of access to adequate sanitation.
These three cities are just three examples of a large number of such urban centres worldwide. But in every urban centre, there are people working with these cities, doing their best to use their creativity and innovation to solve these ongoing issues. Below are just a few projects showcased in the Design with the Other 90%: Cities exhibit that caught my eye.
A transnational organisation with affiliates in 34 countries, employing what they call horizontal exchange as their main method of strategy. Groups of SDI affiliates from different countries visit each other to share their stories, experiences, achievements, and ideas in an effort to inspire action, form solidarity, and rapidly disseminate solutions to common problems worldwide.
Architect Mohammed Rozwan, working with boat builders from his native Bangladesh, designed floating community lifeboats, specifically for flood-risk communities. These boats, made completely from local materials, feature waterproof roofs with solar photovoltaic panels that can charge computers, lights, phones, and medical equipment. The open-space and high ceilings of the design have enabled these boats to be used as floating health clinics, libraries, and schools.
Instead of using wood and charcoal to cook food, a community-based organisation in Nairobi called Ushirika wa Usafi (‘corporation of cleanliness’) have designed the Community Cooker, a communal oven that uses rubbish as fuel. Residents in the area collect and sort rubbish in exchange for time to use the burners to cook food. Recyclables are sorted out to be sold, bio-degradables become compost manure, and non-biodegradables are burned in the main oven, which employs a water and oil combustion that can burn without releasing toxic fumes. Not only does the Community Cooker cut down on waste and encourage the recycling of resources, but it promotes community at the same time.
Do yourself a solid and check out the rest of these innovative projects, with informative displays and intricate scale models (my favourite) at the Design with the Other 90%: Cities exhibit at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan. Admission is free! And remember, the last day to see it is on 9 January, so get a move on!