Moved in to a new apartment this week with my boyfriend. It's a two roomer, 37sqm, and it is positioned in the north part of Stockholm's inner city. We have no building blocking the sun in front of the big south facing window so the light is amazing. And the best part is the floor we found after four evening's hard work! We will have painters coming in tomorrow transforming the yellowish walls into a more sophisticated grey tone.
It's in the middle of the exam weeks and with only one last (forever?) exam left I figured that I should take some time of to do something funnier than study; work! Because I got this barn project that is so much more satisfying to work on than calculating thermal convection... Today I finished all documents for the first draft to be emailed to the customer and I'm excited to hear her reaction and comments on it!
I have only one week left in Vienna. A week planned with a great Viennese ball, an exam in Thermal aspects of building performance, several hours of group work for a human ecology class, and some final time to do all the packing. Next move, for a hopefully longer stay, will be to Stockholm!
While coming home for Christmas I took the opportunity to visit two of the projects I've been involved in and start up the newest one.
Villa Sandblad was one of the projects. It is a truly amazing feeling to see how the building starts to take shape and to be able to walk inside the spaces I created in a computer program! Here are some pictures from the building site:
The second project was the 'Digitalt laborativt center' which I got the opportunity to work with during my time as an intern at Fredblad architects. The area was unfortunately closed when I got there but I was able to take a few pictures of the main room from above standing on the first floor:
Before going back to Vienna on Sunday I also took the opportunity to visit the customer of my newest project; to plan a living area in an old barn built in the 1820th. Today we had a start up meeting and she showed me the place which will be an extension of the current living area. The building has still got its old charm and It will be a very interesting challenge to propose a design which will have to keep the unique atmosphere and take advantage of each square meter to the fullest.
Last week I moved to Vienna, Austria. Such a BEAUTIFUL city! I will spend the next 4 month here and study courses in advanced building physics. Hopefully I will have time to start working on the thesis as well alongside with my other project that I've started with two ladies from Stockholm and Helsinki. At least, I'm absolutely not bored!
Time is spent very well so far. After arriving back home from Sweden at 1am I woke up at 6am and took a 35min powerwalk to the 2h long boxing class. I then walked back home again with spaghetti legs and bought food before taking a long hot shower. Now I will try to catch up what I've been missing this week when I took part of the Nordic Case Competition in Gothenburg. Tonight there will be a dinner at an Italian restaurant with some Swedish girls before meeting up the rest, German and Italians, and then together attend a German Opera at Volksopera.
Tomorrow I will have a lovely visit by Christoffer, my boyfriend who comes for a weekend in the white city. After a well planned city tour we will attend a Vivaldi Concert in Karlskirche. On Saturday I will take him to the art museum Albertina to see paintings by Monet, Van Gogh & Picasso. I guess you can't be in this cultural city without taking part of what it has to offer, and that is A LOT.
As I mentioned, I took part of the Nordic Case Competition the first half of this week. The competition is a collaboration between different universities in the Nordic region and it is sponsored by Nordplus and part of Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (click HERE for a link to the website). The idea is to hand pick students from different schools and countries with different interest and within different disciplines. We were divided into teams before the intensive work days started and we were also given a pre-assignment and reading materials. My team consisted of Milla Kallio (urban geography student from Helsinki), Benjamin Alexander Breitenbauch (landscape architect student from Copenhagen), Linus Olausson (Energy power engineering student from Stockholm) and Sturla Sigurðarson (environmental engineering student from Reykjavik).
The idea with the competition is to promote collaboration between the Nordic countries and together work for sustainable solutions when it comes to planning with a social-ecological approach.
"The competition aims at generating sustainable solutions to challenges faced in the development and planning of Lindholmen, an integral part of the Älvstaden development in central Gothenburg, applying the socio-ecological approach. How could social-ecological sustainability be enhanced and developed in Lindholmen? Is it possible to build a dense city district with a human scale environment? How should ecological aspects or challenges brought about by climate change be taken into account?"
Our group decided to tackle the project of a somewhat isolated area, by introducing the concept of 'Stepping stones'. By placing several small activities in the area and building bridges crossing floating islands to the center of Gothenburg, we wanted to focus on the connection both of people and of greenery from one side of the river to the other. Our competition entry, which was awarded by the first prize, will be presented in the portfolio under the tag 'competitions'.
It was a really fun competition and I learned a lot by meeting people with such interesting majors, nationalities and cultures!
During the summer of 2016 I was given the great opportunity of doing an Internship at Fredblad Arkitekter. The studio has its main office in Halmstad (were I was) and another one in Gothenburg. The 20 people working in Halmstad are a mix of architects and building engineers and it is a diverse office when it comes to gender, age and interest.
Since Halmstad is a quite small city, the office designs all kinds of buildings ranging from kindergartens, fire buildings, apartment buildings, villas, city planning, schools, row houses etc. This diversity of projects gave me the opportunity to try out many different design areas. I was immediately introduced to a housing competition which we later won and are now going to be constructed already next year.
Besides that project I got the opportunity to do an interior design project for Halmstad's University, and it was not a tiny one! They were refurbishing a big area of the school which were about to be transformed into a Laboratory digital center. I did everything from picking out materials and colors on walls and floors, choosing textile for the furniture and creating a room description together with a building engineer. The builders were working the same time as I designed and the area will be opened to students in November 2016. I'm really looking forward to see the final end result!
Besides these big projects I also did several design proposals of how to refurbish different offices and also prepared and sended in some building permissions.
After the summer vacation I got the great opportunity to design a villa together with one of the main architects, for a very exclusive customer. With very little input to start with we created a design which apparently were spot on and that was a perfect way to end the internship. Of course I'm a bit sad that I couldn't continue develop the project until the end phase, but it was still a very fun assignment and I'm happy they had confidence in me to handle it.
The bigger projects I was involved in are uploaded in the portfolio under the tag 'Internship' and I wish to update them when the buildings are finally built.
A survey of three scholarly arguments about how everyday practices aiming towards sustainability have political implications and how these can be constructively dealt with
Design as Rhetoric
”Rhetoric is an art of shaping society, changing the course of individuals and communities, and setting patterns for new action.” (Buchanan 1985, p.6)
There are three verbal types of rhetoric. The first one is oriented to the past, like a lawyer in a court that tries to persuade the audience with evidence from the past. The second one is oriented in the future and is very much used by political actors trying to persuade us with promises for a better future. The last verbal type is called demonstrative rhetoric; it grows out of information from the past, acts in the present and suggests possibilities for the future. It is in this last category that Buchanan places the rhetoric of things. (1)
Buchanan argues that design is not just about making an object; it’s about creating a persuasive argument which comes to life in the hands of the user. When a designer creates an object he or she creates an intended audience by which the object is suppose to be used. The object is designed in a way to either please, instruct or inform his or her audience and becomes a mediating thing between the designer and the user. To persuade the audience the designer can use three different design arguments; either give technological promises which tells that the thing will be useful and work, or, persuade the customer with a character that convince them that the product has credibility in their lives (it can for example be a cultural or a familiar thing that you show concern for) or, by making the object emotionally desirable by playing on our soft spots for curvy edges and symmetry. In other words, good designers by using the rhetoric of things can give us a ‘need’ for something we probably didn’t know that we needed.
When buying new things costumers have expectations on their new objects. It can be a new pillow for the couch that will transform the living room to resemble the beautiful ones from an interior magazine, a TV that promises an extraordinary screen for the football game or a kitchen that will encourage home baked bread and big family dinners. Material artifacts are not just passive objects, they configure the users and as Shove writes in her book ‘The design of everyday life’; “This way of thinking introduces the possibilities that consumers’ actions and aspirations are somehow structured by the objects with which they share their lives”(Shove 2007, p.23)(2). Continuing on this thought; “The house objectifies the vision the occupants have of themselves in the eyes of other and as such it becomes an entity and process to live up to, give time to, and show off to” (Shove 2007, p.5).
If an object can shape the way we live our everyday life, the way we represent our lifestyle and values, designers have, with the rhetoric of things, a very important role to play in the shaping of a sustainable future. In this essay I will survey three scholar arguments that concern how everyday practices, aiming towards sustainability, have political implications and I will finish with a discussion of how these implications can be dealt with in a constructive way. The three scholars I have chosen treat three different areas. In the first one, Ramia Mazé is arguing for sustainable design and how design can take a ‘micropolitic’ role in our everyday life. The second scholar is written by Madeleine Akrich and it concerns how technology is influencing our lives and our values. The last scholar takes the focus away from objects. It is a critique against physical formal squares and wants to open up a discussion for the usage of unused spaces for the public. By inviting people out from their homes and into the streets the authors Constantin Petcou and Doina Petrescu wish to trigger politic discussion amongst people in their everyday life. By choosing three different topics I wish to consider all scales from small items to public squares and how designers and architects can affect the political values of people in their intimate everyday life by the use of design.
Design as politics
In the beginning of the book ‘Critical perspectives and dialogues about design and sustainability’, where Ramia Mazé is one of the co authors, they write about how design operates within a sort of everyday ‘micropolitics’. (3) Design mediates consumers’ control and access over resources by being a step in between them and the resource providers. With control over resources, designers can make tangible certain values and terms of sustainability that are put into the hands, homes and lives of people with diverse values and norms. Design is not only about creating objects but also creating systems. With an increasing need for sustainable solutions, designers have taken the role to represent and advocate on the behalf of social practices such as car pools, food co-ops, retrofitting, refurbishment and urban gardens. The sustainable and social practices is something that Mazé picked up in her chapter “Who is sustainable? Querying the politics of sustainable design practices”. (4)
Mazé writes about design as a discipline that synthesizes knowledge from the field of natural and social sciences and applies it to complex technical and social problems. When the challenge now is to change peoples’ behaviors into more sustainable ones, designers have got an important role and the new title ‘sustainable design’ has been established. To do ‘sustainable design’ is already to be political since you are taking a side by choosing not to do ‘unsustainable design’. Sustainability itself is inevitably and essentially a matter of the political since it ranges a lot of political questions about who gains, who lose and who benefits. Design very much concerns our everyday practices and by doing ‘sustainable design’ you will have political implications since you will be forced to make a political standpoint. Mazé takes design for sustainable consumption as an example. Sustainable consumption is to reduce domestic consumption of water, energy and other resources and it is a field where design plays a big role. It is engaged in mediating how resources will be distributed, by whom and for whose interests. There is a big opportunity in terms of sustainable consumption to use the discourse of micropolitics and see how consumptive practices of everyday life can be shaped by design and create a new norm.
Micropolitical dimensions, when it comes to sustainable consumption, involve ordering ‘good behaviour’ and ‘proper conduct’. The focus here is about changing the norms in the existing system of consumption and production. This is made by, for example, making people aware by green labeling in stores and installing meters connected to screens to show people how much energy and water the building is using in present time. Raising awareness has become an important part in our modern lives since we happen to take important, but for us nearly invisible systems, for granted such as electricity, heating and fresh water. By making something visible makes it political.
Mazé presents ways of how to make these systems more visible in her text by bringing up practical examples from her own work. She argues that “In the hands and homes of consumers, these designs make the sustainability of individuals’ practices visible to them, within and as a household, and even to neighbours” (Mazé 2013, p. 92). To make the usage of electricity, for example, visible through good design creates awareness amongst people and makes them feel that they are able to take part in the category of ‘sustainable consumers’. This is one way for designers to implement political norms of sustainable consumption into the everyday life of a person.
One example where electricity was made visible was in the project “Static! Energy Curtain”. Mazé and her team explored how they could make energy visible in a way that required ongoing reflection and daily, hands-on action. They developed a curtain that could store sunlight during the day and make it visible during the night. The user then had to make a conscious choice whether he wanted to save energy by closing the curtains, and collect the sun energy for the night, or leave the curtains open and let the energy go lost. The curtain was installed for several weeks in Finnish households and the darkness of the winter days made double visible by the lack of light in the curtains. The study of the project showed that to get everyone involved in the politics of sustainable design is not simple. The notion of what it is to be “good” or “proper” is open to interpretation; some users even cheated by charging the curtain with electrical lamps. This shows that design is complicit in how sustainability is formulated, by, and for whom it becomes practiced, normalized and institutionalized.
So how will designers reproduce the behaviors that have become normalized into bodily and social practices in the time we grew up? The answer to be found in Mazé’s text would be through open-source processes; to open up the discussion between designer and user instead of putting all focus into production and the designer’s own vision of the Utopian future. Instead of thinking about market consumption and scale of economy the recycling and sharing economies should be in focus. “Such design may look more like art, social work, pedagogy, or activism, but it may also be understood as design, reformulated in theory and in practice, from within. As ‘critical’ or ‘political’, such practices are not only positioned in opposition to but as perhaps necessary alternatives and potential futures of design.” (Mazé 2013, p.110)
Technical objects with political strength
Madeleine Akrich argues in her text ‘The De-scription of technical objects’ that technique and science are two very different discourses. Science goes beyond human while technology is a mix of many different forces. It is made for and by humans and it’s is controlled by more than just a physical force. For example; “The strength of the materials used to build cars is a function of predictions about the stresses they will have to bear. These are in turn linked to the speed of the car, which is itself the product of a complex compromise between engine performance, legislation, law enforcement, and the values ascribed to different kinds of behaviour.” (Akrich 1992, p. 205) (5). One other good example on this is the creation of a building; the shape of the final outcome is not just a product of the architect’s design but it is shaped of the various other forces such as legislations, load bearing capacity, limits in construction, and energy performance, etc.
A technical object consists of an inside and an outside. ‘The inside’ is described as the way a technical object constrain us in the way we relate to the object and to one another, the internal meaning of it. Let us take a mobile phone for example; the inside of the object is communication, but you can only communicate in the way that the technology allows. ‘The outside’ is the character of the actants and their links. It’s the extent to which we are able to reshape the object, and the various ways in which the object can be used. In the case of the mobile phone it’s the physical object and it allows us in some extend to change the shape of it by adding a shell to make it more personal.
Sometimes this outside and inside doesn’t match which can be a result of the design phase where the real users have been left behind, which is a problem that Mazé as well points out. Akrich describes an example where demand and supply was poorly matched and names the heading; “The Photoelectric Lightning Kit: Or How to Produce a Non-User” (Akrich 1992, p. 209). A photoelectric lightning kit was introduced in Africa as a result of a government agency’s wish to promote new energy sources for a more sustainable future. This lightning kit would also help the French photoelectric cell industry to create a market. The designers involved where receiving all information from the network of the agency and the French industry which resulted in a circulation of certain kind of resources and exclusion of others. The end design was very simple and it consisted of only three functional elements; a photovoltaic panel, a battery for storing the energy and the lamp for consuming the generated electricity. When the kit arrived to Africa the people responsible for installing and maintaining the system were confronted with several difficulties. The first one was that the wires linking the parts together were in a fixed length and because of a non-standardized plug the local electrician couldn’t adapt the length to fit rooms of different sizes. The second set of difficulties came when it was time to replace items with short lifetime such as the right appropriate fluorescent tubes and the watertight batteries. The local technician lost control over the installation even though it was a major element in his environment. The third problematic factor was that the contractor, who had installed the lamp, forbade the user to turn to a local electrician in case of breakdown. The idea was instead that the contractor should visit the area twice a year and repair faulty installations and the reason for this was because they were afraid that the locals would damage the sensitive technique used in the solar panel.
These difficulties were not a result of chance or negligence but were actually carefully chosen decisions from the designer which made perfectly sense within the design criteria they had received. The length of the wiring had to be limited so that it wouldn’t reduce the performance of the system and both the watertight batteries and nonstandard connection was chosen to prevent people from interfering with the system and potentially cause damage. These decisions where intended to ensure that the kit would work under all circumstances which was an important consideration in the negotiation between the clients and industries. In this case the important connection between designers and the actual users where lost. The users here did not interest the manufacturers; they where only important because they made it possible to get money from the ministry of overseas development for a product that did not yet have a market. It wasn’t the technology here that was the important actor but the users. They were in this case treated as an instrument for building a relationship between the government and manufacturers.
Technologists, as designers, define their objects by making up a world to which their object is to be inserted. “Like a film script, technical objects define a framework of action together with the actors and the space in which they are supposed to act.” (Akrich 1992, p.208) Akrich as well as Mazé proposes co design as an option for the designer to better understand the ‘real’ end user and not just their own projected one, ‘between the world inscribed in the object and the world described by its displacement’. The word ‘de-scription’ in the title of the paper, refers to the analysis of the mechanisms that allow the relation between a meaning and a form to come into a being by the use of technology.
In one example, Akrich writes about how electricity once was introduced to a community. Before, the small town didn’t have outlined boarders between the families, they all shared the land. It was not the inhabitants’ themselves that suggested that electricity should be installed into their homes, but a former citizen who had become successful and moved away, took the role to speak for everyone. But the inhabitants didn’t protest, they believed in the better future that would come together with electricity; a chance for better school and better health care. To connect to the grid the electricity company had to know which property the building belonged to so a property system had to be developed. Within this new system the government took the opportunity to make some properties state owned. This later opened up a new door for other projects such as highways, medical services, introducing a water authority, education systems, etc. In this case technology started to define the city, the space and the interaction amongst people. It established economical procedures and political negotiation. With electricity came the meter which alone determined the relationship between the user and supplier. The meter is not just a tool for the electricity company to see how much energy the customer should pay for, it also provides data which can be exported and used by economist concerned with price for electricity or GNP consumption. Technology is close related to economy and that is why Akrich draws the connection also between technology and politics. Objects in their creation are defined by subjects and subjects are defined by objects. It is not until the object is established that it’s possible to separate the object from the subject. With this in mind, technology together with humans is shaping the future.
Street as political generator
Technology and design indeed shape our lives and the way we interact with one and other. The internet has introduced a space where we can be anonymous (or not) and it gives us the courage to express our political standpoints. As a critique to the technical society, Petcou and Petrescu wrote the text ’Acting space’. They claim that all communication means and media has transformed the home into an absolute center of the consumerist culture.6 We do not longer need to step out of our home to consume, whether it is communication or items. The authors here want people to regain ownership of the public areas, to go out and meet other people and reintroduce “political dimension” in everyday space.
Petcou and Petrescu point out that most of us human beings lack instruments to act; we keep going by the same lifestyle, reducing ourselves to roles that are expected from the society instead of taking a critical and active social position. But there is also others who are more politically active, that organizes demonstrations, sign petitions and publishes information on internet, but their reactions seldom makes it to the streets and instead stays at an abstract level. If their voices do makes it out to the street it most of the times leads to no outcome or any constructive proposals.
To change this behavior and trigger people to be more political the authors suggest that people should go out to the street and ‘dis-learn’ their capitalism usage and instead relearn a new singular usage for those areas, a usage that the inhabitants of the area collectively agree on and can all be a part of. This would be a reaction to the gradual disappearance of space devoted to public use which is more and more being appropriated for informal use. The informal use is caused by the increasing limitations, regulations and norms that prevent people to use the public space in the way they want. You are, for example, in some countries not allowed to sell items or food on a square without permission, play music or consume alcohol in some areas, or beg for money in a the city centro. But there are some thresholds where the law has not yet reached and those are the ones that the authors here argues for that we collectively need to regain ownership for our own public use. An example of such a project is the ECObox.
Atelier d’architecture autogeree is the firm behind ECObox and they started by introducing a small temporary garden construction in an unused space. They made boxes out of recycled materials that either was used for pathways or used for the sake of growing plants. When more and more people got involved the garden grew and became a platform for urban criticism and creativity in the neighborhood. The boxes are mobile and come in different sizes so they can be adapted to the space provided. This way of using public space resembles the idea of communicate ‘on our doorsteps’. By overcoming the anonymous condition we find ourselves in when we leave our house we can contribute to reshape public space: “From these spaces, proximity can acquire a familiar character; we meet familiar faces, we say hello to some passers-by, we exchange words and phrases with neighbours. Acting ‘at one’s doorstep’ allows one to find a local anchorage.” (Petcou & Petrescu 2007, p.32) By finding this local anchorage and getting to know our neighbors the authors argue that this will be the start of reintroducing the political dimension in everyday space.
Implementation of implications
Design, technology and public space is all a part of our everyday life. When we see an object that ‘speaks to us’ we want to buy it but we don’t (always) reflect on why. As Shove points out, objects define who we are and how we want others to understand us. It can be the way we dress, an expensive diamond ring on the finger or the car in front of our house and the use of technology can also be adopted as a lifestyle. Are you a Mac or a PC person?
Modern technology has opened up new ways of communicating; you can choose whether you want to call, send a message, or, post your life on social media. When technology opens up new ways to communicate it is not just helping us with performing a practical task but it also creates a set of norms and opinions. Opinions which later opens up for political discussions; should it be legal to post everything on social media, what should be censored and why? There is also these kind of people that reject the technical development, who tries to stand against the need of material things and protests against the capitalistic society, a category where the last text about ‘Acting space’ can be inserted. Where instead of the addiction to material things and the isolated communication in our homes, we should feel that the public spaces are ours to use which also raises political discussions among both the people claiming space and those making the rules.
What if we could use this knowledge gained about human consumption and, by the use of design, persuade people to live a more sustainable everyday life. Is it possible to trick people into making more sustainable choices without them thinking about it? And what is more interesting, do we have to trick people or would they choose the sustainable alternative anyway? As an answer to the last question the conclusion from the sun catching curtains would make a good point. The word ‘sustainability’ has different meaning for different people. For some people, choosing an ecological and nearby grown cucumber will give them such satisfaction that they think they deserve buying a banana shipped across half of the earth as a reward for their good choice, and for others, charging a sun catching curtain with an electrical lamp which will after all give back the light later when the lamp can be switched off, is one way to be sustainable.
When it comes to my first question “if it’s possible to trick people to make more sustainable choices”, it is not just an ethical question but also a subjective one. Who are we to tell what the utopian sustainable future will look like and how the perfect way would be to reach it? We can only establish guidelines and laws which will later force designers into the same working patterns and it will end up with all the new objects looking the same way; which is already happening in the field of sustainable architecture. A passive house will always have thick walls, triple glazed windows, big openings to the south, and nothing that points out of the sealed envelope. This is not always the best way of constructing a building in the most sustainable way but we have to follow the regulations for how a passive building should be constructed if we want to put a label on it and raise the value. The problem here is that the regulations are not site specific. They are similar to a technical object in the sense that it consists of a package of functions which will perform differently depending on the final destination and the way it is actually used; it’s not until the objects are put into a context that it will start having a function. Therefore, what makes an object sustainable is not only limited to the production but also the way it is used and in which environment.
The communication between designers and customers is a crucial part of the design phase. An architect can achieve a very sustainable building, taking into account all the necessary building regulations, choosing the right material and position on the site and even establish a hyper sensitive ventilation system to keep the envelope of the building tight. Later on when it’s handled over to the owners, if they are not informed, they will come in and start open windows, because it’s his or her norm, the way they have learnt how to ventilate a building and then the sustainable passive strategy will fail.
I argue that we can change people’s behavior by the use of conscious and good design, technology and physical spaces. We have the knowledge of creating innovations that can persuade people into buying even the weirdest things. A designer or architect have the authority to indirect shape the way people chose to live their lives, they have control over resources and the items’ production. But, as we come to understand, everything is not only about the creation of things but it is also about the usage of them and therefore the interaction between designer and customer is very important to ensure that the items are used in the right way.
As pointed out through the first two texts, there is often a lack in the relation between the designer and the ‘real’ end users. By making the design phase visible and also the creation of an object visible it might get people more interested in what they are actually consuming. By doing this we hopefully don’t need to ‘trick’ people into making, what is for the designer, a sustainable decision but the customer gets the information and can make the ethical choice themselves.
To make people feel that they are able to take part in the category of ‘sustainable consumers’ by creating an awareness amongst people, either by showing them their true consumption or creating spaces for people to meet, could be one way for designers to implement political norms of sustainable consumption into the everyday life of a person.
1. Buchanan, Richard (1985) "Declaration by Design: Rhetoric, Argument, and Demonstration in
Design Practice", Design Issues, vol. 2, No. 1: 4-22
2. Shove, Elizabeth (2007) "The design of everyday life"
3. Mazé, Ramia et.al (2013) "Critical perspectives and dialogues about design and sustainability
4. Mazé, Ramia (2013) "Who is sustainable? Querying the politics of sustainable design
practices" In Critical perspectives and dialogues about design and sustainability, edited by Mazé,
Ramia et.al, 83-122
5. Akrich, Madeleine (1992) "The De-Scription of Technological Objects." In Shaping
Technology/Building Society, edited by Wiebe Bijker and John Law, 205-224
6. Petcou, Constantin and Doina Petrescu (2007) "Acting Space." In Urban Act: A Handbook for Alternative Practice, edited by Atelier d’architecture autogérée, 290–299
It's already March and spring is almost here! Well, at least in my head. I'm looking forward to the next coming weeks. During easter my boyfriend will visit me from Stockholm and we will take a daytrip with ferry over to Tallin since I figured that I can't live in Helsinki without visiting Estonia. The week after that the flight goes north to the winter in Umeå where I will visit my old classmates and school. A week later the travelling continues down to my home village in the south west of Sweden where I will spend almost two weeks before the train leaves for a weekend in Stockholm before going back to Helsinki again. It's going to be a really good April in other words.
The courses I'm taking right now are mostly home based so it opens up for a lot of own project possibilities. Right now I have hooked up with Laura from Trondheim (Norway), which I collaborated with before when making the Nordic Built Challenge competition entry, and we are working on a cabin for a competition based in Canada. It's a fun and limited brief where we will make a year-round cabin in maximum 17sqm by using as sustainable material and construction as possible. Since Laura had a more simulation based education within sustainable architecture I'm learning a lot from her when it comes to climate analyses and what strategies to use. I think we make a good team, even though we're only talking and designing over Skype.
The summer is still unknown. I was selected as a nominee to apply for an Erasmus exchange at TU Wien next autumn. I wanted to go there and make my last courses in the field of architecture before starting with my thesis project. Austria has always been a leading country when it comes to passive strategies in housing and sustainable technologies so it was an obvious choice for me to apply there. It's a technical university and hopefully I learn more hands on strategies which I, together with my artistic bachelor degree, can combine to create an interesting thesis.
In the spirit of "I hope I will be accepted" I cancelled my apartment here in Helsinki and have therefor no strings attached to anything this summer. I have applied for internships but the down side of studying architecture is that most of the offices close down during the summer months. As a back up I applied for some interesting summer courses, both at Stockholm University and others that are solely online so I can move around and visit friends and family.
For some weeks ago I was asked to join a project with a goal to release a sort of self-help interior manual. A book which will help people how to plan their homes with the viewpoint from an interior designer, a hobby interior designer and an architect, with me writing as the last one. If this will truly happen, then I will join the interior designer to check out showrooms and pick out furniture for photo shoots and start writing on the book this summer. Since it all sounds too good to be true I'm still doubtful, but if it actually happens this will be the best summer so far!
After three weeks of system thinking class I found myself thinking about how resilience my student economy has been during the last eight years; while I at the same time was making my yearly how-will-I-survive-summer budget. Resilient in the sense that it never tips over the line to minus but that I every time manage to get it stable again. Mostly by coincidences like for example when a woman accidentally hit my car with hers and it turned into such a bad shape so they couldn’t fix it and I got all the money back for it which was, convenient, just as much money I needed in that specific moment. (That was a very tragic story actually since it was a Beetle from the 60s and I bought it two weeks before the crash) All the tragedies of stolen cell phones and crashed cars keep my economy stable. Very secure...
Anyway, the group having the last lecture also talked about resilience. It’s a topic that keeps popping up everywhere since I started this Creative Sustainability programme. In this lecture it was in relation to socio ecological systems, which is a system approached developed by Gilberto Gallopin (1). Social ecological system is the system in which human centred and nature centred worldview comes together and creates a balance between the two; which is not always the easiest since we all want to grow in our own directions.
Back to resilience; according to Carl Folke (2), a researcher at Stockholm Resilience Center, there is three types of resilience concepts:
1. Engineering resilience
2. Ecological/ecosystem resilience, social resilience
3. Social–ecological resilience
The engineering approach is when you assume that there is only one equilibrium and the system will always recover itself. How high resilience a system has is measured in how long time it takes for it to recover. This is a very naive approach and doesn’t work when we for example overfish the ocean or taking down the rainforest. It will not sustain itself to the original state but will instead make a paradigm shift and try to stabilize itself in this new paradigm: resilient concept number 2. Here the resilience is measured in how many hits a system can take before it collapses. Every time the system gets a shock it loses flexibility to bounce back. Like a steel feather for example or when you bend a steel wire too many times.
Social ecological resilience is the capacity of how well the ecosystem together with human societies can reduce vulnerability by learning and adapting to each other. This resilience reflects the degree to which a complex adaptive system is capable of self-organization.
With this said I can declare that my economy is for now an engineering resilience problem, I wish it would make a regime shift into something better or maybe I should team up with nature, move out from my apartment, start eating berries and we’ll all be happy, right ? ;) Since happiness is the driving force of development
We are right now working with the poster that will tie my group’s subject about dialogue together with all the other system concepts that we have discussed in the last three weeks. I did the graphics yesterday night and I will post it here after Friday’s presentation. But here is a taste of my new illustrating skills ;)
1. Gallopín, Gilberto. 2003. A systems approach to sustainability and sustainable development. Economic Commision for Latin America and the Caribbean 64. United Nations Publications
2. Folke, Carl. 2006. Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change 16, no. 3 (August): 253-267
Okej, this may be complicated.
Banathy (1) wrote about evolutionary system design. He describes a system where there are several agoras (teams) discussing about their future in a generative and strategic way, connected all together in a ‘linkage agora’ which are basically a platform in cyberspace where the agora groups can share their processes. The discussion in the agora groups should be agenda free, no expert allowed and you should pick members that you would like to share a future with. By not having an expert the participants have to contribute with their own visions and perspectives. This creates several perspectives on what an amazing future might look like.
Then we have complicated and complex systems. In today’s presentation the group referred to R.Stacey (2) when describing the two concepts, which are also said to be one of the hardest parts within system thinking. As I understand it, a complex system has hierarchies and a complicated system consists of parts with no interconnection. The complicated system is easy to predict since all parts are separated and not interrelated with each other. A complex system is hard to predict since there are so many variables and levels in the system. In the class they said complexity is magic.
I’m a planner. Based on the first lecture and Russel Ackoff’s (3) theory of The Four Basic Orientations to Planning, I am a preactive planner. I’m constantly trying to predict my future; If I would do that, then this will happen which leads to this and opens the opportunity for that and so on.
When I was 13 year old I wanted to become an architect. Every step there was planned and set. In high school of Sweden you choose a subject that will prepare you for either a job or continuing studies at collage. I applied for a school with architecture as the main subject. I got good grades so there would be no problem for me to be accepted and I started to think about my next step three years later in choosing the right college. That was when my first planning failed me. The school had too few students and couldn’t start so I got accepted to my second choice which was a programme focused on design and technique.
I didn’t know anything about this school; I was so sure that I would be accepted to the other one. It turned out that the school had everything for me to offer. Now when I think back I probably wouldn’t even have been qualified for collage in the first school. New school meant new plans. Which courses did I have to take to reach my goal, which schools are out there for me when I graduate?
When I reached the final year in the age of 18 I realized that I needed a break. Or so I thought. The government had decided to extend the technology studies with one optional year for those interested. We would after that year be graduated as lower level engineers and was granted jobs within a construction company. I thought; why not? So I applied and got accepted.
150km away from home I had my own apartment and a new life! So the planning began; what would I do next year? Take the granted job or start college? After half of the studies I realized that this was fun and in one year I could start earning real money, work and then later on go back to college, maybe. The school grated us internships on construction sites and I ended up 600km from home for six weeks. It was there I rediscovered that; I should be the architect! The apartments where really bad planned and no one on that construction site cared, they just tried to figure out how the #!*” architects where thinking when blablabla (related to building techniques rather than planning).
So the planning began, what school, how can I get there, what do I have to do?
I’m not living in the moment; I prefer living in the future.
1200km north of my old city I started my new life, again. And I started planning, again. Where do I want to do my master, what am I interested in and how can I get there?
One night I found myself writing a letter to a company in Vietnam, asking for internship. Since I never thought they would answer I started to prepare my portfolio for master application all around Europe. When my plan was all set I got an email from the firm in Vietnam asking me when I want to start and for how long I want to stay. By then I already made my application for Aalto University and I thought that; why not send it and see if I have what it takes to be accepted? So I did and here I am. I had to reduce my time in Vietnam from 6months to 50days and start planning for my new life in a new country.
For 2 weeks ago I had a plan for the next year and beyond, next week unforeseen things happened and a new plan was shaped. Yesterday I met a person that made me rethink my plans once more.
I wonder if I can divide my life into agoras. Each part has its own future goal and all the perspectives in that moment shapes the outcome. I can’t decide which people I want to have in my team but I have to try to make the best out of it right there and then. All these parts (lives) are then part of me. I am the link to all of them and they all contribute with inputs of how we (myself and all my past lives) should plan our next move. It’s an evolutionary planning of my own evolution. ?
If this is so, is my life then complicated or complex? Are all unforeseen changes in my plans part of the magic or just parts of a big mess?
(1) Walton, Douglas C. 2004. Designing within: Dr Bela H. Banathy's contributions to the self-organization of public discourse. Systems Research and Behavioral Science 21, no. 3: 281-293
(2) Allen, Timothy F. H., Joseph A. Tainter, and Thomas W. Hoekstra. 1999. Supply-side sustainability. Systems Research and Behavioral Science 16, no. 5: 403-427
(3) Ackoff, Russell L. 1981. Our Changing Concept of Planning. In Creating the Corporate Future: Plan or Be Planned For, 51-76. New York: John Wiley and Sons