Beloved urban advocate Jane Jacobs once said, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Jacobs might have never anticipated the ways in which this powerful idea might be applied in the age of the Internet, but it’s safe to assume that she would have been thoroughly titillated by WikiHouse--a City 2.0 Award winner that spans the globe from London to Rio.
It began in 2011, as an experiment for the Gwangju Design Biennale in Korea. Designers Alastair Parvin and Nick Ierodiaconou started exploring practical applications of their philosophical commitment to a more democratized design movement. Parvin explains, “For too long, cities have been made by the 1% and consumed by the 99%. We wanted to see what it would take to create something that would allow the 99% to make cities for the 99%.”
With this in mind, they created a blueprint that would allow everyday people to build their own homes using open sourced designs and locally sourced materials. They posted their designs and assembly directions online and encouraged anyone to try it out, iterate on it, and upload their own ideas. Since they first initiated the project, five prototypes have been assembled.
Halfway around the world, Anderson França was educating and organizing over 200 youth in the favelas of his hometown of Rio. His philosophy, though applied in a different context, was very much in line with the designers of WikiHouse. He explains, “We’re training kids to become the owners of their own destinies. To do that, they need spaces that are open where their voices can be heard.”
In a beautiful cross-continent collision architected by entrepreneur Jimmy Greer, the designers of WikiHouse met the organizers of Dharma, the organization Franca leads, and they are going to use their City 2.0 award money to empower kids to construct their own communal WikiHouses in the favelas. Their hope is that these spaces will become 21st century salons—places where the largely disenfranchised youth can discuss human rights, teach one another entrepreneurial and communications skills (they are thoroughly hooked into social media), and speak for themselves leading up to the 2016 Olympics when an international spotlight will be shining on Brazil.
“We must find a balance between human rights and the market,” França says.
And echoing him across oceans, Ierodiaconou adds, “The factory of the future must be everywhere.”