When I proposed the Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement exhibition in the fall of 2008, the housing crisis in the U.S. had just reached its peak. This crisis started from speculation on housing and developed into the biggest economic crisis in the U.S. in a long time, spreading out to many other countries and forcing millions into unemployment, a large number into poverty, and many even into homelessness. To work on an architecture exhibition that would present low-cost and sustainable solutions seemed to be very timely. But with this exhibition proposal, I was not looking for direct reactions to this crisis now—I was interested in showing contemporary architects that have designed projects to have a lasting impact on underserved communities. The message is: good design is not a privilege for the few who can afford it; it can and should reach to all levels of society.
The eleven architects presented in Small Scale, Big Change start with the given conditions of their sites. They begin designing with pragmatism and a deep knowledge of local conditions. They commit themselves to these projects, often for a very long time. And if they don’t work directly in the areas of need, they organize new solutions by connecting existing knowledge and experience via Internet-based platforms. Together, these architects don’t form a group or a style, but they have one common vision: to improve the human condition through practical solutions and good design.
Curatorial Assistant Margot Weller and I will use this blog to post comments and the as-yet-untold stories around the wonderful architecture and discourse presented in Small Scale, Big Change. We also want to use the blog as a platform for the architects involved and to give a voice to outside participants in the field. I hope that you return to Inside/Out to find related posts over the next three months.
To set the stage, here is a quote from Teddy Cruz, one of the participating architects, drawn from a statement made in preparation for the exhibit: “Ultimately, it does not matter whether contemporary architecture is wrapped by the latest morphogenetic skin, neoclassical prop, or LEED-certified photovoltaic panels if all approaches continue to camouflage the most pressing problems of urbanization today.”