Architects must act as citizens, from within, if they hope to adequately judge the needs of a community

Guest editor - Sarah Broadstock

One thoughts on “

  1. We probably all agree that there are increased calls today for collective action to face the challenges of the future. While governments and institutions take too long to act (see for example the failure of the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009), many initiatives start at local scale and form networks that gradually reach bigger scales. Transition Town movement is one of these examples which aim for a global coordination of locally scaled initiatives to achieve resilience. As you know, resilience is a term that has emerged in the current discussion about sustainability. In contrast with ‘sustainability’, which focuses on how to maintain the status quo of a system by controlling the balance between inputs and outputs, without necessarily addressing the factors of change and disequilibrium, resilience speaks more about how systems can adapt and thrive in changing circumstances. A city, for example, will never become resilient without the active involvement of its inhabitants. To stimulate this commitment, we need tools, knowledge and places to test new practices and citizen initiatives. The architects could play an active role on this. Where should we start? We can start there where we are: in a community, in an office, in a school, etc. What should we design? Rather than (only) objects, we should design agencies, networks and assemblages. WHile we design 'local' projects, we should also design their possibility to expand and disseminate at a bigger scale. Paradoxically, in the ECObox project, the pallets were good enough to do this. After few years there are at least 10 more projects in the area and 500 more people involved in gardening and other eco-practices (compost, rainwater collection, green energy), there are 2ha of space in the city which are collectively managed and 500 people who know how to do it. But also, and the most important is that an experience could be transmitted and disseminated simultaneously at different scales: with this project as reference, there are thousands of people (including architects) around the globe who feel empower to start unsolicited projects without waiting for a commission or a client. They will all bring new contributions, will evolve the system and will improve the initial premises. A critical mass of such projects will eventually create some change at bigger scale. And yes, the making of the future could probably start with pallets and post-it notes, if the use of such derisory means is skilfully and carefully designed.