Monthly Archives: March 2012

Proposals for a Resilient City: Christchurch Design Ideas Competition

Design ideas are sought for Christchurch, that address any or all of the following concerns:

Regeneration:
Activating regeneration of the built and social fabric of the city, building social capital, encouraging economic activity.

Memory:
Recognising the earthquake sequence and its effects as a part of Christchurch’s future history and identity. Proposals for Christchurch’s future may different to a business-as-usual approach, due to the unique situation of the post-earthquake environment and the collective experience of its people.

Resilience :
Enhanced resilience of buildings, urban fabric, and communities. Resilience against future natural disasters, providing social benefit through resilient communities; and as a leading example for other cities in NZ and around the world to follow.

The designs may be addressed from the perspective of a range of disciplines, including but not limited to: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, Engineering, Social science, and Event and Performance Design. They may be at any scale, and the site(s) must be in Christchurch City or its suburbs.

Documentation of real world projects under way are also acceptable as entries.

Entry requirements and conditions:

1. Entries are required to be single A1 landscape format. Digital and paper versions are required. Digital versions can be pdf or jpeg, sent by email or file transfer. 10MB max file size. 150dpi maximum recommended resolution.
2. Entries should be predominantly visual, and contain no more than 150 words of paragraph text.
3. Entries due by 4pm Wednesday 11th April 2012.
4. Open entry, group entries accepted.
5. Winner and runner up determined by a panel of four expert judges. Entries will be judged anonymously, and will subsequently be displayed with entrants name, location and affiliation.
6. Prize money $1000 winner, $500 runner-up. Special honorary commendations may also be made.
7. Entries will be judged according to how the proposal convincingly addresses one or all of the stated concerns of Regeneration, Memory, and Resilience.
8. Entries will be displayed at the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering Conference, Canterbury University, Christchurch. 13-15th April 2012; and published online. Entries may also be displayed at other additional locations following the conference.
9. Paper entries are unable to be returned.
10. Copyright remains with the author of the work, and the organiser has the right to display and publish the entries, crediting the named authors of the work.

To register contact luke.allen@gmx.com providing your name(s) and email address, location (town), and any affiliation you would like to state. You will be assigned an entry number to be displayed on the work, and given the address to send paper entries to.

This information is also contained in the competition website http://conference.nzsee.org.nz/designcomp.htm

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Letter from Kenya (five)

First she peels them, and then she grates them. She is *Faith the “house help”. Kenyans don’t like skins, she explains. Actually, she tells me, Kenyans don’t eat chopped carrots. She says that in her own family, as well, she would have to grate the carrots in order to cook them – even though carrots are grown here, she defends. She’s young, maybe 25, but has rarely been outside the kitchen. I am surprised that she is working in this particular home because she is from a different tribe than the family. Perhaps the mother is from the same tribe, but I can’t discern. A girl is from where her father is from until she gets married, at that time her husband’s homeland becomes hers. Names are changed easily, going back only three generations. Oral history carries more weight.

She tells me about her older brother, gentle, intelligent, went to university. He died at a young age, but was a very finicky eater – never eating carrots, greens, or onions. Once Faith was old enough to cook, she learned how to burn the onions so that he could easily identify them and pick them out.  Until he left for university, she recounts, they never ate greens in the house and only grated carrots and black onions.

*Name changed for privacy.

Nicole Rademacher is a currently in Kenya until the beginning of May doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

 

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Make-Space for Architecture : Draft One

On March 28 we’ll be unofficially opening the doors on a shifty new architecture dedicated gallery for Sydney named Make-Space for Architecture. Unofficially. Officially we open in May – and not a day sooner with all the work still to be done – but in the meantime we’ve been generously offered a space in Sydney’s historic Rocks to (confusingly) pre-open in.

We’re setting up this gallery to be an independent venue promoting the agency of architecture in Sydney, focussing particularly on engaging the public in thinking and talking about architecture. We’re also playing with – at least initially – making the gallery mobile so that it can temporarily inhabit various places around Sydney.

In line with our tentative developmental state, we’ll be ‘not opening’ with an exhibition called Draft One – an informal series of events loosely forming a month long conversation about contemporary Sydney, architecture, what Make-Space could be and who would like to be involved (this involvement invitation extends to all freerangers, of course). Documenting this will be an on-site drawing (inspired by Byron Kinnairds wonderful ‘The Institution of Architecture’) collating Make-Space’s draft documents with anything that gallery visitors feel compelled to add around 3 themes: The Way We Live, Architecture/Make-Space and Utopia.

A series of small events will provoke and support this conversation:

  • An evolving 3-dimensional drawing that engages the public and visitors in 3 topics: The Way We Live, Architecture/Make-Space and Utopia.
  • Online conversation occurring across Facebook and Twitter
  • 3 public conversations with local experts: Politics in architectural production, Ethical/Critical Praxis and Experimentation
  • A series of public meetings discussing organisational aspects of Make-Space
  • Hosting screenings for BLDBLOG’s Breaking Out and Breaking In Distributed Film Festival
  • Continuous streaming of videos and podcasts about architecture
  • Hosting student design studios

We’ve also compiled an over-ambitious and broad set of goals to simmer and reduce over the next four weeks:

MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE : Agility to respond. Support diverse and pluralist points of view.

CATALYSE CREATIVITY : Seed creative moments through events. Unlock creative potential.

NURTURE CRITICAL PRACTICE : Use design as a tool to challenge the status quo. Explore the extremes of practice modes.

FOSTER PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT : Engage and inform communities and the public about the agency of design and architecture in the city.

AGITATE POWER STRUCTURES : Publish and support alternative positions on established power structures.

DEMYSTIFY DESIGN PROCESSES : Open up the priorities and processes of architectural production to public view and scrutiny.

RECALIBRATE VALUE : Explore alternative value structures within the city.

SUPPORT URBAN EXPERIMENTATION : Learning through failure. Incremental development.

EMBRACE DIVERSITY : Retain an inclusive and diverse platform of opinions. Examine pluralism in urban society within a framework of rigorous debate.

POLITICISE DESIGN : Expose the political nature of design and it’s use in the manifestation of ideologies.

If you’re in Sydney in April, come visit us in the Rocks – otherwise our progress can be tracked here (www) and here (twitter) and here (spacechook)

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Calling for expressions of interest for Freerange Vol 5: Dangerous and Wrong!

Expressions of interest to our guest editor Nick Sargent by the end of March please! nick@projectfreerange.com

The topic of Freerange Vol 5 is Dangerous and Wrong! – a phrase lifted from the angry rant of passionate moralists, concerned parents, confused bureaucrats, environmentalists, anti-drugs campaigners, presidents and other generally authoritative but well intentioned souls. Its emotive double negativity strikes beyond reason to a land of certainty. The person wielding this phrase is powerful, she understands! Someone actually know what’s going on! Praise!

Dangerous and Wrong has a magnetic appeal. In mathematics a double negative becomes a positive. The mythic folk hero always travels to lands that are ‘out of bounds’ to learn a lesson that can only be brought back from beyond the horizon. As adventure tourism operators understand, in the dangerous death is summoned into being to reveal life. Just as it is often pleasurable to do things dangerously, it is also not always wrong to be wrong.

But lets not be subtle about this. For this issue and this issue alone we extend a warm welcome to subjects that should probably be avoided. I want to read things I don’t want to read. Go wild or get tight … say it like you wish you hadn’t.

Some starting points may or may not be:

cannibalism / the war against drugs / science fiction / disasters / communism / moralising / guns / TV / God / aetheism / sharks / coffee without caffeine / narcissism / vaccination / monsters / the man / silicone implants / riches / copyright / conspiracy / iPhones / terror / BP / erections / occupy / hate / shadows / the nuclear family / nuclear weapons / doe-eyed girls / charity / scented toilet paper / death / happy endings

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Online Organising – Harnessing People Power

Anyone who occasionally glances at a computer or even a news report these days will no doubt have come into contact with the phenomenon called “online organising”.  The term is a relatively crude one which encapsulates everything from a facebook petition campaign started by a 13 year old to see their favourite band play in their town to an efficiently organised multi-national advocacy campaign targeting the United Nations by international groups such as ‘Avaaz’.  Like it or not ‘online organising’ is fast becoming a vital piece of democratic infrastructure for the 21st century.    A new wave of organisations has emerged in over last decade in an attempt to harness and co-ordinate this power for real change offered by new technology.  However, the community behind such movements are their real source of power and the more such organisations can do to engage communities, the more effective they are in achieving their goals.

The fact that there is a proliferation of such online organisation worldwide really indicates a strong desire among citizens to increase their engagement with traditional democratic structures.  We find ourselves in 2012 in a moment of political turmoil, across the world citizens have challenged entrenched power, inequality and the erosion of their standards of living. These events have inspired a hunger for more meaningful opportunities for citizen engagement and a thirst for open, dynamic, and truly progressive politics in 2012.  Effective online organising has helped Barak Obama to the US presidency in 2008 and assisted with the organisation of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements in 2011.  The widespread sympathy to the many online movements around the world indicates that there is at present a serious disconnection between the will of the masses and the actions of the Government and corporations.   Such a disconnection suggests an endemic lack of citizen involvement in decision making which effects us – a key tenet of the concept of democracy as originally conceived.

We as responsible citizens of democratic nations must use all the tools available to us to ensure that our collective voice is heard and this connection between our desires and the actions of our leaders is re-established. The traditional tools with which progressive individuals and movements have attempted to impact society in the past have been political parties, trade unions and NGOs.  However, political parties’ are losing members and relevance at alarming rates – for example in Australia online organisation Getup.org claims over 500’000 members which makes it a larger political force than either of the major political parties while Avaaz with over 10 million members is the largest NGO in the world.  Trade Unions in Western nations have been in crisis for years after the affects of globalisation and competitiveness have to weakened labour laws and decreased their power.  Most traditional NGO’s are issue specific and generally use a large chunk of their budget (often sourced from Government or corporations) on maintaining the organisation and justifying its relevance.  Some notable exceptions are emerging with Greenpeace and 350.org effectively using online organising tools to mobilise the masses and source funding for actions in their areas of interest.

In contrast to most traditional organisations tools, the key aspects of the new generation of online organisations are that they are multi-issue based, nimble, flexible, people powered and most importantly independent.   These organisations allow activists and ordinary people to come together and share knowledge and to assist to directly decide and fund the operations of the organisation.  The best online organisations and movements are essentially acting as a rallying point for citizens who aspire to a society which values social justice, economic fairness and environmental sustainability. They are Independent and democratic, and co-ordinate both ‘online’ and ‘offline’ action to hold governments and business to account. The fact that such organisations are decentralised and independent of Government and political funding means that they are highly independent and responsive to their members’ collective voices rather than those of external funders or governments.

These organisations effectively enable tens or hundreds of of thousands of citizens to pool their efforts to create progressive change in politics, business and society by providing honest information and strategic leadership.  The underlying assumption is that the majority of citizens wish to be more engaged in democracy, but face three major constraints: With busy work and family lives, they don’t have much time to give, with so many problems, they don’t know where to begin, with so many different interest groups and points of view, they don’t know who to trust.  The benefits of online organizing is that is can provide citizens with a way to effect change that will require only a small time commitment, focus energy by targeting the worst problems in the with effective ways to impact them at moments of great opportunity and can earn the trust of its members by not being manipulative or only presenting one side of the story.

Successful online organisations

Arguably, the most successful organisations so far have been those following the ‘New Organizing model’ which started in 1998 with MoveOn in the USA and soon spread to Australia with GetUp! Launching in 2005.  In 2006 the first truly Global online organisation ‘Avaaz’ launched  internationally and now has over 10 million members.  In 2009 38 Degrees launched in the UK    and there are currently well advanced plans underway for launching such organisations in NZ, India, Canada, France and Ireland.

MoveOn www.moveon.org

Since its founding in 1998, MoveOn has mobilised more than 12 million people to affect political change. Over 10 years MoveOn volunteers have organised more than 100,000 local events and contributed over US$200,000,000 to fund various progressive campaigns. In 2008, MoveOn members endorsed Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary, raised over $58,000,000 for his campaign, recruited over 933,000 volunteers, and registered over 225,000 voters to help secure his historic nomination and ultimate victory.

GetUp www.getup.org.au

In 2005, the MoveOn model spread to Australia. GetUp launched at a time when the conservative party of Prime Minister John Howard had gained control of both houses of Parliament for the first time in decades. Within two years, GetUp had grown to over 230,000 members. It ran the largest independent electoral campaign in Australian history, helping return balance to the Senate and sweeping a progressive government into power in Canberra for the first time in a generation. Since the 2007 elections, GetUp members have successfully pushed Australia’s largest bank to drop financing for an environmentally disastrous new pulp mill, put serious reconciliation with the indigenous population at the centre of national debate, and developed a ‘People’s Agenda’ to hold the government accountable to progressive priorities.

38degrees 38degrees.org.uk

38 Degrees launched in the UK in 2009 and now has over 800,000 members working together for change. 38 Degrees members use a variety of different tactics to bring about change, like signing petitions, emailing and phoning MPs and donating to fund newspaper ads about campaigns. Among other achievements, 38 Degrees has helped to stop the government’s plans to privatise ancient national forests, and encouraged the government to sign up to the EU Directive on Human Trafficking

Avaaz www.avaaz.org

Avaaz launched in 2006 with the aim of using the new online model to empower people across the world as global citizens. Since launching, Avaaz has grown by an average of over 20,000 new members a week, with over 10 million members now spanning all 192 countries. When the Burmese Junta launched a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy monks protesting in Rangoon, Avaaz members leapt into action. Massive global pressure squeezed the Junta’s few viable international relationships and forced them to scale back the violence. Avaaz raised over $2.4 million online to help Burma rebuild the democracy movement, and to support monk-led aid efforts to help victims of the cyclone that devastated the Irrawaddy Delta.

Criticisms

Online orgainsing have not been immune to criticism with many commentators simply writing them off as promoting ‘clictivism’ or ‘slacktivism’, meaning that they do not really engage people but simply detract from real action.  In its simplest form this is true, as simple online petitions as run on facebook and many online petition sites arguable have very little effect outside of awareness raising.  Such approaches are more of an online communications tool than real organising tool.  In his article Engagement Ladders: Building Supporter Power, Steve Andersen describes this core difference between online communications and online organising as moving a supporter toward bigger goals and ideally toward unlocking their greater potential.

Probably the most coherent criticism of online organising has come from Malcolm Gladwell in the article Small Change – Why the revolution will not be tweeted which poses interesting questions for the future direction of such organising.  In examining the grassroots tactics that have historically triggered major political change, Gladwell concludes that online organizing has no role in facilitating comparable activism today. He argues, all Internet-enabled activism only “makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact.”

However Ben Brandzel of Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL), offers an excellent deconstruction of Gladwell’s arguments in the article “What Malcolm Gladwell Missed About Online Organizing and Creating Big Change”  Brandzel points out that Gladwell suffers a serious misunderstanding of how people actually use online tools and confusion about the theory of change behind the historical tactics as well as their modern equivalents. According to Brandzel this article misses the facts that social media tools allow people to communicate and collaborate with entire networks of close friends much faster than ever before.  He also states that by making it possible for just about anyone to receive and broadcast information about personal choices, social media makes our personal networks a far more focused and powerful source of power and courage than ever before.

The future of online Organising

Brandzel does agree that the phenomenon Gladwell and Anderson describe is a real, growing and serious problem and that while the Internet is great at enabling action through information-sharing, it is quite poor at pushing people to do anything they do not want to do.  Brandzel states that a ‘service’ oriented approach to such organising, can greatly increase member buy-in and enable leaders to engage in far more ambitious planning than would otherwise be possible.  In this approach, campaign guidance emerges from membership through carefully measured response metrics and formal input channels.  Taj James and Marilen Manilov also state in their article Movement Building and Deep Change: A Call to Mobilize Strong and Weak Ties that while social media platforms offer new ways of engaging and sharing organisational, national or global stories, they are no substitute for face-to-face engagement and community building.

A growing number of motivated organisations and individuals are starting to treat engagement as a science and really getting serious about finding ways to engage citizens both online and offline. For example groups like the New Organizing Institute (NOI) and Citizen Engagement Laboratory (CEL) now offer a range of excellent trainings, evolving curricula and project incubation resources. NOI, for instance, convenes an annual “Roots Camp” where practitioners honestly share results and refine strategy.

People all over the world are realising that the democratic systems we have inherited are not necessarily built to solve our problems and that change will have to come from either a dramatic reform of this system or from outside the system altogether.  The reason these fundamental flaws in our democratic systems are unlikely to be corrected in the short term is that our elected officials are reluctant to legislate to essentially limit their control and relevance in the modern political sphere.  By decentralising power over everyday decision making, we as citizens would gain more democracy but the traditional political complex would lose all relevance and is naturally doing everything in its power to prevent such decentralisation.  However, withstanding a complete global technological meltdown or serious limitation of online freedoms, online organizing appears to be set to play a huge part in the re-growth of citizen involvement in politics and society.  The key matter to be kept in mind as we move forward is that the technology enabling such movements is simply a tool or a means to an end and that the real power behind such movements is the people themselves.

Further reading on online organising available here:

http://www.echoditto.com/blog/looking-what-works-best-online-organizing-reads-2010

 

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Letter from Kenya (four)

*Esther washes all the clothes on Saturdays. “I don’t have help come in, so Saturday is the only day that I can wash everything.” Almost immediately she retracks the “everything” and explains that the heavy clothes are washed on Saturdays, but the other clothes, the “light clothing”, is washed during the week – “a bit every day”.

Assuming that she does not have a washing machine (I have yet to see a machine in even the middle-class homes), I try to calculate in my mind how long it must take her to wash the clothes and bedding for a family of three, by hand.

Everything is scrubbed with brushes, and many of the women who come in as housekeepers scrub too hard and ruin the clothes; this is why she prefers to wash everything herself. Esther has a 23 year-old daughter and shows me a photo of her on her smart phone. She tells me that she is finishing her studies, but she requires her to wash her own clothes. The loads are getting lighter, but I am still having a hard time calculating the hours it must take.

When I arrive at her house for the first time, it is a Sunday evening – after church. We enter the metal main door of the building and make our way up the dimly lit concrete stairs. Turning left at the first landing, I am greeted with, at least, one woman per doorway scrubbing and dunking, scrubbing and dunking, scrubbing and dunking. Clothes are hung on thin rope strung between walkways. A lulling chatter fills the hallway, accompanying the scrub-dunk rhythm kept by the same busy ladies.

The socialization built into the lives of Nairobians keeps me bewildered. I have been conditioned to segregate, categorize, and compartmentalize, making time for everything through strategic decision.

*Name changed for privacy.

 

Nicole Rademacher is a currently in Nairobi, Kenya until the beginning of May doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

official website • Nicole’ blogfollow her project on Facebook

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Letter from Kenya (three)

In Nairobi, you can make time stand still. I’m contemplating the stationary second hand on the watch of the woman next to me. She quietly stares at the people who are not frozen; the men with wide gaits moving swiftly, and the women passing us less hurriedly in pairs or groups of three unassumingly chatting in their dress suits and heels. They will all most certainly get to their homes before we do, but our existence has been suspended on the #40 Citi Hoppa bus to Ngumo.

I am surprised that I don’t hear Hot 105 pumping through the speakers promoting “1 second can win you 1,000 bob” (Kenyan slang for Kenyan schilling). Instead my attention is shaken from the motionless second hand by the jangle of coins in the conductor’s hand. I look up and he tells me, “40 bob” in little more than a whisper. Despite the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, the capital city can be quite taciturn using gesture to communicate. He collects our fares and passes me 2 tickets separated by a perforation.

As I hand her her ticket, I steal a glance at my neighbor’s watch, but the second hand is stubborn; the bus driver turns off the engine and activates the parking break. The woman across the aisle sighs as she turns the page in her book about the habits of being efficient. The man in front of her relaxes further into his seat as a breeze cuts through the bus bringing with it the exhaust from the other cars and buses in the parking lot that is sometimes Valley Road.

I close my eyes so as to attune my ears to the murmur of a conversation behind me, hoping to glean a detail or two about their lives.

 

Nicole Rademacher is a currently in Nairobi, Kenya until the beginning of May doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

official website • Nicole’ blog • follow her project on Facebook

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