We are presenting some intriguing ideas from The Plan Journal’s themed issue “Design for Social Impact.” In the first article “The Pursuit of Inclusion in Unequal Contemporary Cities, Learning from Cape Town Desegregation,” the author Miriam Bodino argues that “public spaces play a key role in contrasting the process of this growing marginalization.” In the second article “Many Voices, One Project: Participation and Aesthetics in Community-Built Practices,” the author Katherine Melcher explains that “community-built practices suggest that designers in fields such as architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design, should not think of participation and aesthetics as trade-offs but, instead, consider participation as an opportunity to bring new ideas into their work and to develop an aesthetic that reflects the richness and complexity of the participatory process.” In the third article “Unconventional Engagement: Reviving the Urban Marketplace,” the author Ahmed K. Ali explains that “an ease of communication and personal interactions in their shopping experiences are increasingly sought by customers. Farmers’ markets have become both a shopping destination and a preserver of such interactions.”
Finally, we share some thoughts about Design for Social Innovation.
In the article ““The Pursuit of Inclusion in Unequal Contemporary Cities, Learning from Cape Town Desegregation,” the author Miriam Bodino explains:
In the past two decades South Africa has been the subject of many studies regarding inequality and segregation, because of its entrenched history of apartheid and its severe imbalanced income distribution.
Miriam Bodino, photo of the Manenberg Human Settlement Contact Centre’s main façade – on the left – and of the “eco-beam & sand technology” used – on the right. Courtesy of © the Author.
Bodino continues to explain:
The desegregation process of Cape Town has been attempting to use public space as social infrastructure to bridge its divide. Firstly, the shift towards a more inclusive city happened in academic writing. Secondly, the shift also occurs in municipal public space programmes. And lastly, the shift materialized in several innovative projects, which have been carried out mainly in township areas.
In the article “Many Voices, One Project: Participation and Aesthetics in Community-Built Practices,” the author Katherine Melcher describes the role of the professional designer as:
In addition to being a facilitator, a community organizer, and a social scientist, they should strive to be experts in developing a creative synthesis that is expressed in a beautiful or inspiring form.
Katherine Melcher, Sunnyside Piazza Intersection Repair, Portland OR, USA. Designed by the neighborhood in collaboration with City Repair. Courtesy of © the Author.
Melcher continues to explain that “the last part is where designers can truly distinguish themselves as aesthetic experts.”
In the article “Unconventional Engagement: Reviving the Urban Marketplace,” the author Ahmed K. Ali’s research includes two case studies: “[the] case studies [are] in the design and construction of two urban markets in Central Texas, one in the state capital of Austin (population 932,000), and the other about 100 miles to the northeast, in Bryan (population 76,000 and adjacent to College Station, population 106,000).”
Ahmed K. Ali, rainwater collection, outdoor food boulevard, and temporary stalls. Image by Zach Wise. Courtesy of © the Author.
Unexpected solutions to complex problems are offered by architecture in the facilitation of unconventional social engagement. Whether in a major city such as Austin, or a smaller town such as Bryan, the architecture of the marketplace encourages and cultivates inherent social dynamics, provides the opportunity for cultural expression, and promotes community cohesion and economic development.
The recently released, Design for Social Innovation tells the stories of forty-five case studies across six continents that involve designing for social impact. Each case study chapter starts with a roundtable discussion between renown educators and practitioners who set the stage for the stories that follow. Beautifully illustrated, the text describes the transformational power of design in a wide variety of contexts.
About the editors:
Mariana Amatullo – Associate Professor of Strategic Design and Management at Parsons School of Design
Bryan Boyer – Director of the Bachelor of Science in Urban Technology degree at the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and Assistant Professor of Practice in Architecture
Jennifer May – Executive Director for Designmatters, the social innovation department at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA
Andrew Shea – Associate Director and Assistant Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons School of Design, The New School
Published November 30, 2021 by Routledge
418 Pages 221 Color Illustrations
To learn more, check out: Design for Social Innovation
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The Plan Journal is intended to disseminate and promote innovative, thought-provoking, and relevant research, studies, and criticism related to architecture and urbanism. The journal grew out of an awareness that academia is all too often engaged in research that’s disconnected from the real-world challenges that face different professions, and that research is only possible for a small number of professional organizations, and, even then, with limited platforms for its dissemination. The overarching aim of TPJ is therefore to enrich the dialogue between researchers and professionals so as to foster both pertinent new knowledge and intellectually driven modes of practice.
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