simplicity is the common factor of all good design. In simplicity, elegance appears. Simple forms let materials express themselves, and simple materials express form clearly. Simplicity leads to quality. Especially in architecture, inherently complex, voluntary complexity opens the door for mistakes and breakdowns.

simplicity being easy to understand

Social Enterprise - Architectural Practice For A "Resilient" Future?

by Florian Maurer

For their 2016 annual conference the Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) has picked the theme: " Building A Resilient Future". The word "resilient" suggests something bouncy, like resilient gym flooring that helps the player jump and dunk the ball into the hoop. So when we think of our future as resilient, are we visualizing it bouncing back from gloomy prospects, like resource depletion, war, social strife, poverty or environmental collapse?

They are just different manifestations of the same fact: we haven't taken good care of each other and our home! Let's remember this before trying to make our future resilient, so we don't waste energies on details of little or no effect, like worrying about LEED certifications for the buildings we designed!

Why are we such a sorry bunch? Here is my take: we have become the dominant species on Earth, but the abilities that got us there are still fired up, and we are now turning them against each other. The qualities that made us so successful are the drivers of an economic system that worships competition, aggressive behaviour, and personal gain as the prime motivator of our lives, depends on constant growth and ever increasing consumption, when we all know that our space and resources are finite. We have lost touch with reality, but rush to the edge like lemmings heading for the water.

Whether our demise is inevitable or not we will never know unless we have tried to turn things around! So let's no be too pessimistic: could not the traits that made us dominant include the ability to change our ways of thinking? Here is where we could start: let us stop allowing fear and greed tyrannize our lives, and give the desire to take care of each other a chance to grow and fill our lives with satisfaction. If we could make this a common experience it could change the way we organize as society and earn our living, couldn't it? It is a big task, and we have to start with baby steps and be content with little. I believe practising Social Enterprise (SE) could give us this new focus.

The Proposition

Capitalism needs the desire for personal gain for its survival. The winners use the spoils, the "capital", to leverage an even greater advantage. But resources are finite, disparity widens, social discontent grows, leading to crime, war, revolution, etc.. We are not happy with this and hope some safety nets will maintain a minimum of dignity for all. Where all this fails charity tries to patch over the grossest wounds, as taxpayer funded aid programs, NGO's, private and religious initiatives. It is always too little, and with the world population at 7 billion administering effective aid by donation is becoming less and less sustainable, red tape and corruption let too little value arrive where it is needed. Between the two extremes of maximal personal gain and giving it up for nothing there seems to be no middle ground. It is a tug of war that gets us nowhere.

SE wants to find a balance between these extremes: those who by their circumstances are in a position to generate value will retain enough to lead a modestly comfortable life. The balance of the value created is diverted to causes of common interest and to support those who can't.

Dont get me wrong: I am not proposing anything of regulatory nature, or even "socialism", God forbid! The resolve to practice SE is yours, and so is the decision which causes you wish to support. SE recognizes the efficiency of individual motivation, it only asks us to change the objective. I just want to propose a model to organize, arguments why we should do it and why it would make us happier.

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If we are to build a human society that works to cultivate good, rather than extract value, we must follow the same practices as the natural environment. This means favoring local materials over foreign, minimal solutions over expensive, natural materials over high-energy products, diverse elements over uniform. It means understanding our role as designers—and inhabitants—of spaces embedded within the process that constructs our world.

When designing buildings, we often find it difficult to find simple and well-designed light fixtures at an affordable price, so we began to experiment with our own industrial designs. We use stainless steel sheet metal, welded steel structures, and plexiglass to create kitchen exhaust hoods and light fixtures. Our simple means of manufacture lead to a simple product.