Blogathon 2009 – Architecture for Humanity (Vancouver)

Blogathon 2009 Vancouver for Vancouver Public Space NetworkThis blog post is part of Blogathon 2009, in which I am blogging for 24 hours straight in order to raise money for the Vancouver Public Space Network, an entirely volunteer-run organization who do advocacy and education on the public realm in my home of Vancouver, British Columbia. Please consider supporting by sponsoring me with a pledge, leaving a comment or contacting me to contribute a guest post.

The past couple of years, I’ve been studying and following the BarCamp movement and its associated spider-movements, but it’s inspiring too to see that other people using similar tools spawn some pretty amazing movements of their own. I’d like to direct your attention to some great friends of the Vancouver Public Space Network’s, the Vancouver chapter of Architecture for Humanity. If you’re not acquainted with what Architecture for Humanity is about, check out this video of their founder Cameron Sinclear at TED in 2006, explaining how AFH came to be and what they want it to become, tidily summed up by the term “open source architecture.”

Architecture for Humanity’s Vancouver Chapter has been shaking things up and living up to their name with various projects both past and on the horizon. I first became aware of the work of the Vancouver Chapter when I attended their forum and exhibition called Living Density, about the challenges associated with laneway housing on a number of levels, from the political and the by-law level, to the financial aspects and cultural perceptions that will need to shift if we’re to foster a less antagonistic relationship with the concept of density – and mean it. (Maged Senbel, mentioned in this morning’s guest post from Farzine McRae did a presentation about the class Farzine participated in as part of the Forum.)

I was also really excited to hear about Groundswell, the Architecture for Humanity Vancouver chapter’s submission for the OAN Classroom Challenge, which they collaborated on with students from Arts Umbrella.

I find it interesting that, in observing Architecture for Humanity (from a distance) and the Vancouver Public Space Network respectively, there’s definitely a bit of a culture and mindset difference that I’m likely to attribute at least in part to the cultures of the professions named in their organizational titles, which also makes its way into the tone of address. The overlap might make some want to define more stringently the roles of each; but I rather like the idea of each articulating then leveraging their strengths, then coordinating them in a way that’s mutually beneficial. From where I stand, there’s an inherently abstract snootiness of architecture that makes it less accessible than the idea of public space, even if that image is still by and large a thing of the past. Public space, by virtue of its inclusion of the word public, almost presupposes the idea of government, even though publics existed long before governments did.

I’m looking forward to participating and lending a hand to AFH’s future activities – like their upcoming Interdisciplinary Themes conference on the topic of The City: Culture, Society and Technology. If you are interested in lending a hand, they are also having a get-together at Shebeen on July 30th to talk next steps.

One Comment

  1. I understand what you mean; however, I share a slightly different view regarding “snootiness”.

    I volunteer that there must be “bad apples” out there making inappropriate claims and sensational statements – but that goes for other professions. I speculate this “snootiness” you describe is the result of a number of things: and the most challenging aspect is the lack of understanding of what architects do. (And that’s nobody’s fault: lack of pr/education and public interest perhaps?)

    Without adequate understanding, one could have similar perception towards any profession: the artist community, musician, lawyers, doctors, et cetera.

    In the realm of city planning, it is probably true that most people would have considerable opinions about public space; in the realm of architecture, same could be said about residential design. Everyone has an intimate relationship and history with them.

    Having said that, it’s always best to put good ideas into action, and ignore the bad apples. The model of our world has always been open-ended, and indeed top-down organization is becoming a thing of the past. We are privileged to have a group of talented and committed designers in Vancouver, like yourself and Pat, volunteering their time to help redefine what the future society could be.

    We can help reshape public’s opinion about the profession along the way, making it more engaging and approachable. Maybe it is inherently difficult to discuss architecture in a young country with a lot of land, but I have always believe that’s a poor excuse.

    Great Job and thank you voicing up.

    Posted July 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

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