Peggy Deamer: Hi. I too real­ly want to thank Damian for this invi­ta­tion, and it’s an hon­or to be includ­ed in this fab­u­lous group and this amaz­ing dis­cus­sion. I feel like I learned much more than I than I give. So I look for­ward to this day.

So just to say, the work that I’m doing is very much part of the work of The Architecture Lobby, for which I am the research coor­di­na­tor. And so I want to acknowl­edge very much their work. Some of the things I’m going to say don’t rep­re­sent every­thing that The Architecture Lobby sug­gests, but def­i­nite­ly the think­ing and the work is very much a group effort, even if I drag them into a direc­tion that they may not want to go.

But just to say I think that most of you know that there was an event at Penn that was orga­nized by Billy Fleming, Daniel Cohen, and Kate Aronoff. We saw the pic­ture with Naomi Klein as part of that event. And at that event I was real­ly pri­mar­i­ly argu­ing for the fact that as archi­tects we need to orga­nize. We do not need to pri­mar­i­ly give a vision of a design future to which we have no respon­si­bil­i­ty and no knowl­edge, and where we actu­al­ly think archi­tects might lead that dis­cus­sion. We need to orga­nize so that we can speak as a unit­ed voice. I real­ly believe in that.

But I do want to sug­gest that, after that there was a lot of dis­cus­sion about the lack of talk about design in that. And so in some way I want to build on that dis­cus­sion and kind of revise the top­ic of my talk today to real­ly insert design and think through design as an orga­ni­za­tion­al but also as a spa­tial act.

So this talk will be divid­ed into three dif­fer­ent parts. One is Organizing Designers, the sec­ond is Defining Design, and the third is Designing Citizenship, archi­tec­tur­al cit­i­zen­ship.

So for the first, Organizing Designers, in some way this is a repeat in a very col­lapsed way of what I real­ly do want to empha­size and which was talked about at Penn. And to real­ly kind of empha­size that what we don’t want to do is sug­gest if we talk about design or you know, think about our work as what I would con­sid­er to be the kind of self-serving idea, or self-satisfied and self-aggrandizing and I think very mis­lead­ing idea of many archi­tects and design­ers about what they are con­tribut­ing to the Green New Deal and the sus­tain­able move­ment. This was a recent pro­mo­tion in Architectural Record, you know, and this was just one of the many projects that then was shown about this new ide­al­ism, the action­able ide­al­ism by this par­tic­u­lar design­er.

So in lieu of this I want to be talk­ing about and orga­niz­ing design­ers in two dif­fer­ent ways. One is reform­ing prac­tice and labor, and the oth­er is redefin­ing resilien­cy and tech­nol­o­gy. In some way what these two things are doing sets off some­thing that I think is impor­tant all the way through, which is if we’re try­ing to refor­mu­late how archi­tects behave and can par­tic­i­pate mean­ing­ful­ly in chang­ing our prac­tice and chang­ing the way we actu­al­ly oper­ate in the world, one is to inter­nal­ly reor­ga­nize our sense of archi­tec­ture with­in the AEC indus­try and with­in the build­ing indus­try. So it’s an inter­nal reor­ga­ni­za­tion, and that’s what the reform prac­tice and labor” is about. But the oth­er is a rethink­ing about how we engage with the pub­lic, with the out­side world. You know, kind of an exter­nal rethink­ing, and that is what the redefin­ing resilience and tech­nol­o­gy is about so.

So, for reform­ing prac­tice and labor, I want to empha­size and I’m going to go through this quick­ly, but I real­ly real­ly want to sug­gest how impor­tant these quick bul­let points are. So, if we actu­al­ly are think­ing about a new prac­tice and a new idea of archi­tec­tur­al labor, we need to union­ize. No ques­tion about it.

The sec­ond is we need to work with and realign with the con­struc­tion unions. And here I real­ly do hon­or Damian’s work in just tran­si­tions. But if we don’t union­ize our­selves and speak as a unit­ed voice, we are not going to be able to work with and rethink and realign with the con­struc­tion indus­tries that are bor­der­line in their com­mit­ment to the Green New Deal to say the least. We need to coop­er­a­tivize instead of com­pet­ing against each oth­er for a small pie, and for again a mis­lead­ing sense of what it means to do green work.” We need to coop­er­a­tivize togeth­er so that we think about our shared research, our shared knowl­edge, and our shared impact. This is not the moment where we com­pete against each oth­er and see oth­er firms as the ene­my, the ene­my is actu­al­ly the cri­sis that is at hand.

And last­ly we need to insert pro­to­cols that derail the market-driven shap­ing of the human envi­ron­ment. That’s the large project and we need to think about that as the ulti­mate goal.

For redefin­ing resilien­cy and tech­nol­o­gy you know, again this is how we need to kind of not just inter­nal­ly reor­ga­nize but rethink our project with­in the pub­lic. You know, archi­tects’ role with­in the pub­lic. We need to reimag­ine resilien­cy and its pro­cure­ment at all scale, which means not think­ing about LEEDs what­so­ev­er, but also I think as Billy Fleming and his fab­u­lous arti­cle that he referred to here, we can’t think about this as a series of com­pe­ti­tions for grants for a small pie, when in fact we need to be orga­niz­ing the gov­ern­ment. The state should be doing the work, not com­pet­ing archi­tec­ture firms for a small piece.

We need to embrace decar­boniza­tion as a social jus­tice issue and not as a tech­no­log­i­cal issue. We need to bridge between com­mu­ni­ties and pol­i­cy­mak­ers to pro­mote just tran­si­tions. We need to make sure that every­body who is affect­ed by this work is at the table; this is a demo­c­ra­t­ic process. Again, this is a large part of what makes the Green New Deal so dif­fer­ent from oth­er dis­cus­sions about sus­tain­abil­i­ty and cli­mate change. And we need to devel­op mod­els for large-scale adap­tive reuse and retro­fitting of build­ings.

So then to move on to the sec­ond part, which is defin­ing or redefin­ing design. And part of that is real­ly to think about design in a sys­temic way. We can real­ly think about a rede­f­i­n­i­tion of design that is in some way a blue­print that under­stands where we are in a very very com­plex sys­tem, and part of that com­plex sys­tem is neolib­er­al­ism and cer­tain­ly cap­i­tal­ism itself. We’re not doing our work if we under­stand our­selves as hav­ing a defined task with­in our par­tic­u­lar dis­ci­pline that has for­mal design as its call­ing. We can no longer do that.

So, again I want to kind of empha­size that there are two parts of this. We’re try­ing to change the nature of archi­tec­tur­al design and what it does. The first is what I would be call­ing diachron­i­cal­ly, which is under­stand the work of archi­tec­tur­al design over a tem­po­ral peri­od. But that’s with­in the dis­ci­pline, so we no longer think of design as giv­en a pro­gram, design­ing it, hand­ing it off, hav­ing it built, tak­ing a pic­ture and going good­bye.” It’s a much longer process. But that’s one that real­ly makes us think dif­fer­ent­ly about our prac­tice inter­nal to the dis­ci­pline.

But the oth­er is syn­chron­i­cal­ly, which is to under­stand how struc­tural­ly, we are embed­ded with­in a much larg­er sys­tem of pow­er, eco­nom­ics, social norms, with­in which we need to be think­ing about.

So, just think­ing diachron­i­cal­ly, I think this is all kind of very obvi­ous. But if we’re try­ing to think about design as not just a six-month [indis­tinct] that we do on our boards but some­thing that tru­ly under­stands where our resources come from, the embed­ded car­bon foot­print, but also the labor that’s involved in many of the prod­ucts that we think are actu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial. This is just an an image of cobalt extrac­tion that hap­pens in Africa. And when we think of our smart phones that rely on cobalt, we need to think about the labor extrac­tion and abet­ted ener­gy, way way way at the front end of our design process before we actu­al­ly put pen­cil to paper. This is an app that is designed by Kieran Timberlake called Tally that allows us dur­ing the design process to under­stand many of those con­di­tions.

So this is at the front end of the design process. At the back and we also need to under­stand post-occupancy. And as long as the pub­lic, the world thinks that we walk away when our build­ings get built and have tak­en our pic­ture, it’s a prob­lem. And one of the things that I think we might think about is not giv­ing any design awards what­so­ev­er until we’re five or ten years out. I have this image here of the Gherkin, Foster’s build­ing that won a Sterling Design Award in 2004. And with­in five years we knew that all of its claims for sus­tain­abil­i­ty were basi­cal­ly untrue. So we need a much longer time­frame to see what’s up front and what’s at the oth­er end of our process.

Synchronically, and again kind of under­stand­ing where our work is with­in a larg­er net­work, one of the things that archi­tects can do when we’re think­ing about a rede­f­i­n­i­tion of design is pow­er map­ping. And I have an exam­ple here. These are just two images of mul­ti­ple ones that were put togeth­er by the Bay Area chap­ter of The Architecture Lobby. This is Ashton Hamm, Alice Armstrong, and Meghan McAllister’s work that is real­ly try­ing to under­stand exact­ly how hous­ing, afford­able hous­ing, is brought to the fore and how dif­fer­ent pow­er play­ers oper­ate with­in that sys­tem, and then try­ing to reimag­ine how archi­tects could insert them­selves in a dif­fer­ent process. So pow­er map­ping is one.

But the same group of peo­ple, again in their work on afford­able hous­ing in the Bay Area, were doing a map­ping of where peo­ple work ver­sus where peo­ple live. And again this is just two maps that iden­ti­fy the infor­ma­tion work­ers, but they did it on ser­vice work­ers and they did it on con­struc­tion work­ers, that actu­al­ly shows exact­ly the dif­fer­ence between what a kind of dream idea of a life is and a dream job is in rela­tion­ship to the dif­fi­cul­ty of where you’re gonna actu­al­ly live and be able to afford in order to do that work. So again, we can talk about mapping—I’m call­ing this dis­place­ment mapping—but that again is part of the work of what a rede­f­i­n­i­tion of design for archi­tec­ture might be.

So then the last thing that I want to talk about is Designing Citizenship. You know, which is to say design does have a role with­in acad­e­mia, and how we teach design in acad­e­mia in some way sets us up to be the archi­tec­tur­al cit­i­zens that will actu­al­ly do the work that we are call­ing for and that the first two parts of this talk have been and done. You have to cre­ate that cit­i­zen who knows that that work is impor­tant, who knows how to for­mu­late it, and is com­mit­ted to that work. This is the role of the econ­o­my, and it’s not hap­pen­ing now.

So again I think there are two ways of think­ing about that cre­ation of the archi­tec­tur­al cit­i­zen and the role of the econ­o­my. One is again to kind of rethink how we under­stand what it means to be an archi­tect with­in the larg­er indus­try, how we relate to con­struc­tion, how we think about research. But the oth­er is then how we actu­al­ly cre­ate an archi­tec­tur­al cit­i­zen who goes out into the pub­lic and thinks about their role and thinks about design in the capac­i­ty of a con­ver­sa­tion with the pub­lic.

So very quick­ly, for the first one where we’re design­ing the kind of archi­tec­tur­al cit­i­zen, this is a project that I com­plete­ly admire. I want to say both these projects that I’m going to show are way before the Green New Deal. They don’t actu­al­ly demon­strate how we edu­cate for the Green New Deal. I do think Billy Fleming’s stu­dio is very much doing that. I look for­ward to see­ing the result of that work. But I think this is an exam­ple of how to rethink what a stu­dio looks like so that we’re pre­pared to do that work.

This is a stu­dio that was called C‑BIP. C‑BIP is [Columbia Building Intelligence Project]. And it was unusu­al in as much as it com­bined a num­ber of things. One, they saw this as hap­pen­ing over three dif­fer­ent years, and so this was­n’t the nor­mal do this in your advanced stu­dio” where you do it for one semes­ter. They orga­nized it so the stu­dents can come in ear­ly on and over their three years at Columbia work on this. It took three crit­ics. They came togeth­er so they had a much larg­er group. That’s what allowed them to actu­al­ly have a larg­er impact with­in the school itself. But they also saw the stu­dio embed­ded with­in what they called the Think Tank exer­cise. And so they held three Think Tanks every year, with­in which the stu­dio was embed­ded.

The way that stu­dio was run was inter­est­ing, which was that indi­vid­ual students—again in these three groups—were asked to design a par­tic­u­lar ele­ment that would in some way help the sus­tain­abil­i­ty and the health of exist­ing build­ings. So two inter­est­ing things about that. It was a com­po­nent, it was­n’t a build­ing; and the build­ings were exist­ing build­ings, so they weren’t design­ing exist­ing build­ings. So they designed those ele­ments, and then those ele­ments allowed dif­fer­ent stu­dents to find strate­gies that they would apply to exist­ing build­ings in New York.

So for exam­ple these are some of the ele­ments that the indi­vid­ual stu­dents designed that had to do with facade work, had to do with ven­ti­la­tion, had to do with how you can actu­al­ly use the facade to grow things, how you can have smart facades. These were all indi­vid­ual stu­dents.

But again those ele­ments, after they com­bined togeth­er to work in a group and left that indi­vid­ual design work, worked in a group to think about com­bin­ing those strate­gies togeth­er on an indi­vid­ual build­ing. Which then looks some­thing like this. Those stu­dents had to come togeth­er— But one of the things that was inter­est­ing is that those orig­i­nal com­po­nents that came with a kind of oper­a­tion man­u­al, when those ele­ments were com­bined in dif­fer­ent strate­gies they had to be mod­i­fied. And so the stu­dents then had to go back to the orig­i­nal own­ers and like an IP con­tract argue for and rewrite the man­u­al so that those com­po­nent pieces could be changed. So in some way it’s a very inter­est­ing mod­el about how one needs to work as a group, but also think about the design as not about a new build­ing but actu­al­ly retro­fitting healthy build­ings and see­ing your design ele­ments in oth­er ways.

The sec­ond one that I’m going to look at here, and this will be the end, is again a stu­dio that was done at Parsons. This was led by a group called Design Agency which is real­ly Quilian Riano’s work. This was a project that he had a grant to do but he was teach­ing this as a stu­dio also at Parsons. And this again is kind of teach­ing the archi­tec­tur­al cit­i­zen to engage with the pub­lic and think about design as an aspect that allows you to com­mu­ni­cate with the pub­lic.

So this was a project in Corona Plaza. And it basi­cal­ly start­ed out with what he called Action 1, which was dia­gram­ming and map­ping, and this was get­ting the peo­ple in the Corona area to think about what mat­tered to them, what func­tions there were, who was allowed in spaces, who was­n’t allowed in spaces, who had pri­or­i­ty. And this was done as group work, so dia­gram­ming and map­ping.

The sec­ond was to have a shared game where the peo­ple of Corona Plaza would begin to par­tic­i­pate in the nego­ti­a­tions of how you real­ly cre­ate a com­mons. If you do this, who’s exclud­ed? If you do that who’s exclud­ed? How do you come togeth­er? So it was lit­er­al­ly a game that peo­ple brought to the orga­ni­za­tion. Here they are play­ing that game, doing the map­ping of that game, think­ing again about the give and take of what that con­ver­sa­tion is like.

And again, that then yield­ing some­thing that is actu­al­ly built in the Corona Plaza, which itself was in some way a pub­lic event that invit­ed the pub­lic to come, but was also kind of at a scaled role a map of all of the con­stituents and all the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents that real­ly come togeth­er when one is think­ing about mak­ing a pub­lic space.

So let me stop here, but I want­ed to say that one of the things that I have been most struck by as I par­tic­i­pate in these var­i­ous Green New Deal symposia—Penn, then there was one at the Queens Museum which was an event that was orga­nized by Reinhold Martin in the dis­trict that AOC was a part of—was very much hear­ing how bottom-up groups one, are the ones that we need to be pay­ing atten­tion to, that this is not pri­mar­i­ly a top-down thing but if we real­ly are think­ing about just tran­si­tions it’s a bottom-up. But that bottom-up com­mu­ni­ties are beg­ging archi­tects to be at the table. Part of me resists this idea that they think that we’re going to visu­al­ize their future for them, which I think is irre­spon­si­ble. But I very much under­stand the call­ing that we need to work with­in the com­mu­ni­ties in order to do exact­ly this kind of work.

So again, I want to sug­gest that the main thing that we need to be doing is work­ing as a dis­ci­pline, as a pro­fes­sion, as a uni­fied voice, so that we sit at the table of pol­i­cy­mak­ing and are believed as not just ambulance-chasers for work for our­selves but as peo­ple with knowl­edge and what­ev­er embed­ded­ness in the com­mu­ni­ty, and our design exper­tise with­in the com­mu­ni­ty is absolute­ly essen­tial. Thank you.

Further Reference

Climate Futures II event page


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