Design Like You Give a Damn

January 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

The news from Haiti this week underscored again for me what inequalities exist in the world.  The residents of Haiti are already pretty poor, and this set them up for an even more disastrous scenario when hit by an earthquake last week. Architecture for Humanity‘s Cameron Sinclair had traveled to Port-au-Prince prior to the earthquake and estimated that “most if not all buildings have major engineering flaws.” AFH is currently collecting donations for a safe & sustainable long-term reconstruction effort in Haiti.

Actually, I had just finished reading AFH’s book Design Like You Give a Damn. AFH hosts design competitions and organized humanitarian architecture projects around the world, from emergency tents to permanent homes and public buildings.  This book was really thought-provoking in terms of how design impacts daily life and how well-designed buildings (or well-designed anything, for that matter) can improve people’s lives.  Several designers highlighted in the book have hit on the idea that successful architecture is not only safe, durable, sustainable, but also is beautiful and knows how to create a sense of community and individual dignity.

A few thoughts from Design Like You Give a Damn:

– We should make things that are designed to be taken apart and re-created after their initial use, to encourage the reuse of materials and to make the overall product more valuable.

-We should make things that empower people and give people dignity.

-We should make things that let people choose how to use them from many ways – make better raw materials for people to be creative with.

-What we really need to design is a way to reduce our wants, a way to help people choose sustainable, humane products with a high level of craftsmanship over artificially cheap goods.

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