open design for architecture

Open Design for Architecture
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If the open-revolutions of other sectors offer any indication of the possible paradigm shift for architecture, we can anticipate similarly radical shifts in values, structure and products. Imagine an agile, intelligent, human-centred architecture driven primarily by quality-of-life concerns over the formal, aesthetic and financial.

Intense urbanisation, volatile financial markets and changing demographics have transformed society’s relationship with the built environment: cities across the globe are struggling with critical shortages of quality housing and public space, while ageing and inefficient buildings and skyrocketing retail vacancies have made blight and abandonment fixtures of the contemporary urban landscape. Architecture, in this context, has mostly failed to respond proactively.

 

Traditional practice is driven by market forces and thus primarily serves the interests of monied developers. But those interests quite often do not align with those of the users who will eventually inhabit or make use of a built project, nor do they necessarily take into account larger quality-of-life issues. Accordingly, architecture’s focus, and therefore its major innovations, are skewed towards its most lucrative applications and a vicious cycle is perpetuated.

 

Nevertheless, the emergence of open design, crowdfunding and digital participation platforms are in the process of revolutionising design: they have effectively demonstrated that profitability and inclusion are not mutually exclusive. And perhaps more importantly, they have proven reliable wellsprings of innovation. Nevertheless, similar shifts within architecture have not yet materialised. While a few notable practices around the world have managed to meaningfully embed users into the architectural design processes, there is as yet no participative framework in which valuable generative feedback from users can be effectively leveraged.

 

Architecture’s inherent economic, technical, temporal, regulatory and cultural conditions are radically different from, for instance, those of industrial or software design: each building occupies space, whose scarcity is positively correlated with its value. Policy and regulations dictate function, typology and size, from which a developer or client sets a brief which professionals must then execute. Any drastic shift is therefore contingent upon corresponding shifts in an intricate puzzle. To add users into the mix in any meaningful way means both making a case for its value and determining where input could be most beneficial. Nevertheless, the combination of new digital participation platforms, persistently sluggish economies and unmet demand for cost-effective and efficient spaces may at last create opportune conditions for more widespread applications of participation.

 

Furthermore, a litany of recent insight reports have cited some version of user-driven architecture as having a significant impact over the next several years. Witness the emergence of space-centric crowdfunding platforms like Spacehive (http://www.spacehive.com), excellent resources for open source and alternative architecture such as Wikihouse (http://www.wikihouse.cc) and Spatial Agency (http://www.spatialagency.net/). So, with both cultural and economic impetus behind it, user participation stands a chance to make inroads with both developers and less progressive practices. If and once its utility and value for architects, users and developers have been more firmly established, it will inevitably become a much more widespread component of architectural practice.

 

If the open-revolutions of other sectors offer any indication of the possible paradigm shift for architecture, we can anticipate similarly radical shifts in values, structure and products. Imagine an agile, intelligent, human-centred architecture driven primarily by quality-of-life concerns over the formal, aesthetic and financial.

 

Meet other experts on the topic, and check out their ideas in the following video: http://bit.ly/12CBKJ4

 

Interested in finding out more about building a creative economy? Be sure to attend the MA Innovation Management Grad Show June 19-23 at Central St. Martins College of Arts & Design.