FORCED FROM HOME – DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS

On my way home from work yesterday, an elderly gentleman asked me for directions. Pointing at the metro map we realized that we were going to the same stop. I asked where he was from and he said Afghanistan. He came to the USA as a refugee after losing most of his family in the war. “Peace and health,” were most important in life, he said.

Strangest thing is that I was refugee from Afghanistan just two days prior, as part of the Doctors Without Borders Forced From Home interactive exhibit on the national mall. The exhibit immerses you in the experience of a refugee. First you are handed a card with a nationality and then your journey begins. There was an amazing 360 video that sets you right in the middle of refugee camps in Lebanon, Tanzania, Mexico, and Greece. You can see some of them on their website, such a powerful exhibit.

Then you line up at  your given country, learn a bit about the history, and are asked to pick 5 items you would take with you on a treacherous journey if forced to leave your home as an army is approaching. I picked a motorbike, water, blankets, clothes, and cell phone, realizing only afterwards that a motorbike was not going to fit on the boat piled full of others also fleeing. “Over 100 people were found on a boat slightly larger than this one,” our guide, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders said, to our group of roughly 20 people who were not even able to find a seat in tiny boat we were looking at wide-eyed.

Once making it through your journey you learn what it is like to live in a camp. How heavy a jug of water is to carry for even a short distance, how small a tent can be, how a short time turns into a long time for many refugees, how the sick receive medical attention in these challenging settings, and how common it is to fall sick when your are forced from home.

The traveling exhibit will be in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia over the next month. I highly recommend registering for a tour. Learn more about Doctors Without Borders and their traveling interactive exhibit Forced From Home.

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MOSQUITOS, ALEJANDRO ARAVENA, & THE 2016 VENICE ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE

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Paul David’s “Inverted Ruins” (Italo Rondinella) courtesy of LA Times website.

Heading to Italy? Well this year you should check out the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale directed by Pritzker prize winning architect Alejandro Aravena. Aravena is a Chilean architect known for his affordable housing projects and activist architecture.

“The only animal that can defeat the rhinoceros is the mosquito, or a cloud of mosquitos, actually. Architects often think they are too small to make a change, but together they can smother the big animal,” says Alejandro Aravena.

The beast in question is the capitalist machine, responsible for the slew of “banality and mediocrity” in our built environment. It’s one of the battlegrounds Aravena’s biennale aims to tackle, along with migration, segregation, traffic, waste and pollution, and a host of other “urgent issues facing the whole of humanity”, as he puts it, “not just problems that only interest architects”.

Continue to read more here from Oliver Wainwright’s article from the Guardian.

NEW COMMUNITY DESIGN CENTER OPENS DC OFFICE – BUILDING COMMUNITY WORKSHOP

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Image courtesy of [bc] website showing project Crossing the Street | Activating Ivy City

Texas based nonprofit community design center, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, or [bc] for short, has brought their talents to Washington DC. The organization seeks to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making.

We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our cities where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work.

Read more about their DC-based project Crossing the Street | Activating Ivy City.

NATIONAL TREASURES DESIGN COMPETITION – REGISTRATION NOW OPEN!

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The Open Architecture Collaborative – Washington DC : Resilience by Design Committee is pleased to present the National Treasures Design Competition (NTDC) to promote mitigation in National Capital Region.

NTDC is an open design competition aimed at developing proactive mitigation strategies for low-lying waterfront areas of the National Mall. Participating teams are encouraged to be multidisciplinary with members from architecture, landscape design and/or engineering disciplines.  Project proposals are intended to be creative and visionary. The competition will culminate in a reception where innovative ideas will be shared, discussed, and evaluated with a diverse group of stakeholders, city representatives, and design professionals.

See more on the competition website here.

A GARDEN VARIETY HERE IN DC

There are so many great gardens with public access in the DC area. With spring finally here it’s time to venture outside and visit one of these lovely spots for a picnic or tour.

My 4 favorite gardens:

1. Dumbarton Oaks: Nestled in Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks is a 1920s garden with many distinct areas to tour like the informal Lover’s Lane Pool and more famous Pebble Garden designed by landscape architect Ruth Havey. Garden tickets $10. Museum free.

2. Hillwood Gardens: Just off the bike paths of Rock Creek Park and only a 15 minute walk from the Van Ness metro, the Hillwood Gardens is a transit friendly escape. Tour Marjorie Post’s house and grab lunch at the cafe or bring a picnic and sit at one of the many tables overlooking the Japanese garden. Suggested donation $18 for house and garden, includes tour.

3. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens: On the river and across from the Arboretum these aquatic gardens have a different look with lily pads and bridges. Snack alongside colorful dragonflies which are the garden’s natural mosquito control. Entrance is free.

4. Brookside Gardens: A little further away in Maryland, just off of the Northwest Branch Trail are the Brookside Gardens. One of the bigger gardens, there is lots of variety here with hiking and walking paths. During colder days their conservatory houses seasonal exhibits. Entrance is free.

DESIGNING A BETTER WORLD

IDEO

IDEOorg

image from IDEO.org’s website

IDEO.org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities through design.

We’re an interdisciplinary mix of designers, storytellers, businesspeople, and systems-makers, a team of creative problem-solvers that is tackling the world’s biggest challenges through design. We partner with NGOs, governments, foundations, and nonprofits, going big in areas where we think design has something serious to say to the challenges of poverty.

The organization was formed in 2011 out of IDEO, a global innovation and design firm. They have created several guides and tools which can be found online in effort to spread their knowledge and the impact of design. IDEO.org’s latest online publication is Impact: A Design Perspective their first impact report. They also partner with Acumen for Human-Centered Design courses which you can read about in this previous post.

Visit IDEO.org for more online material.

 

WINNERS OF THE DC AFFORDABLE LIVING DESIGN COMPETITION

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image courtesy of DC LBCC

Last year the DC Living Building Challenge Collaborative organized a design competition for an affordable housing project in Washington DC. The competition was for 10 affordable single family homes in the historic neighborhood of Deanwood in Washington DC that are designed to meet the International Living Futures Institute’s rigorous sustainable requirements of their Living Building Challenge. Award winners will be presenting their work February 1, 2016 at Catholic University.

1st Place: The “Urban Grapevine” team was Mike Binder (Binder Regenerative Design,) Marcie Meditch (Meditch Murphey Architects,) Thomas Serra (Independent Engineering,) Lael Taylor (Meditch Murphey Architects) and Jenny Wienckowski (Rain Underground, LLC.) The project excelled in all of the Living Building Challenge v3.0 petals:  Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Material, Equity and Beauty.

2nd Place: The “Deanwood Market” team was made up of William Teass and Charles Warren (Taess Warren Architects,) Ryan Moody and Jason Reibold (Moody Landscape Architecture) and Chris French (District Homes.) This project also excelled at all of the petals, most of all energy and place.

Honorable Mention: The “Coming Together” by team 521 composed of Lindsey Falasca (Hickok Cole Architects,) Elin Zurbrigg (Mi Casa Inc,) Paul Totten (WSP in the USA,) Daniel Moring (IBC Engineering) and Apryl Webb (Skanska.) Bethany Bezak of DC Water thought this project was the most innovative in its water treatment. This project also incorporated a workplace strategy for the community.

RSVP for the event. See more from the award winners and their submissions on the DC LBCC website.