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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Louise Shaw talks 'Design with the Other 90%: Cities'

Yerwada Slum Upgrade: Yerwada slum settlement community, SPARC Samudaya Nirman Sahayak, and Pune Municipal Corporation; with Prasanna Desai Architects and SDI affiliates: SPARC, National Slum Dwellers Federation, Mahila Milan. Mother Theresa Nagar, Sheela Salve Nagar, Wadar Wasti, Bhat Nagar, Netaji Nagar, and Yashwant Nagar, Yerwada, Pune, India.
  • © SDI
  • Yerwada Slum Upgrade: Yerwada slum settlement community, SPARC Samudaya Nirman Sahayak, and Pune Municipal Corporation; with Prasanna Desai Architects and SDI affiliates: SPARC, National Slum Dwellers Federation, Mahila Milan. Mother Theresa Nagar, Sheela Salve Nagar, Wadar Wasti, Bhat Nagar, Netaji Nagar, and Yashwant Nagar, Yerwada, Pune, India.

The David J. Sencer CDC Museum is now showing Design with the Other 90%: Cities through May 24. The traveling exhibition arrives as the second episode of a two-part show exploring public-health design around the world. The first exhibition, Design for the Other 90%, visited the CDC in 2009 and explored a movement among designers aimed "to create low-cost solutions for everyday problems." This spring, the exhibition focuses on community solutions to public-health gaps in slums, including water access, sewage disposal, safe shelter, and the like. There's also a bicycle that charges a cell phone, a garden in a sack, and giant balloon for DIY aerial mapping.

In tomorrow's issue, critic Lilly Lampe takes a look at the exhibition. CL also caught up with curator Louise Shaw to talk about the exhibition. See the conversation after the jump.

Creative Loafing: The first episode was Design for the Other 90%. What's the difference between "for" and "with"?

Louise Shaw: Design with the Other 90%: Cities exclusively looks at architecture and design benefiting people living in informal settlements, or what we commonly know as slums. Because it's about the built environment, it's much more about collaborating with communities. To me, some of the most exciting things were developed by the people living in the countries.

Integral Urban Project Architects: Marines Pocaterra (Venezuela), Isabel Pocaterra (Venezuela), Silvia Soonets (Argentina), and Victor Gastier (Venezuela), PROYECTOS ARQUI 5 C.A.; hydraulic engineer: Ahmed Irazabal; road designer: Freddy Iriza; geologist: JosÈ Francisco M·rtinez; structural engineer: JosÈ Luis Garcia Conca. Client: CAMEBA. San Rafael-Barrio Unido sector in La Vega settlement, Caracas, Venezuela.
  • © PROYECTOS ARQUI 5 C.A.
  • Integral Urban Project Architects: Marines Pocaterra (Venezuela), Isabel Pocaterra (Venezuela), Silvia Soonets (Argentina), and Victor Gastier (Venezuela), PROYECTOS ARQUI 5 C.A.; hydraulic engineer: Ahmed Irazabal; road designer: Freddy Iriza; geologist: JosÈ Francisco M·rtinez; structural engineer: JosÈ Luis Garcia Conca. Client: CAMEBA. San Rafael-Barrio Unido sector in La Vega settlement, Caracas, Venezuela.

CL: Is your background curatorial or public health?

LS: I came here, and I had no background in public health. Now I get it. We do art exhibits, history exhibits, science exhibits, and we do a lot of documentary photography exhibits. Whatever we do, we have to relate it to the work of the CDC in some way.

Wearing my art curator hat, my favorite things include "Reveal," by a French artist named JR. He's been going around the world doing a project called Women are Heroes. They're photo murals.

Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn
  • Haas&Hahn for favelapainting.com
  • Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn

This [painting by] Joroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. They came up with painting this favela in Rio.

Does this have practical implications? One could argue from the strictest CDC perspective, maybe not. Is it really a solution - a long-term, systemic solution - to slum issues? No, it's not. But it is uplifting. It's a public art piece. There are plenty of people here with huge imaginations who get it.

CL: What about the relationship between public-art projects and psychological health?

LS: The World Health Organization has certainly done studies - as well as the CDC to some extent - about the stress of living in poverty. If you wake up every day and you have to walk three hours each day to get water, if you live in a country where are you not part of the dominant culture, and you have to deal with those issues every day, that impacts your health.

CL: On the other hand, I'm thinking of redevelopment projects, like high-rise apartments in former slums, which end up isolating people.

LS: Well, look at what happened in the city of Atlanta when public housing got torn down. Not that [people] weren't living in pretty awful places, but these communities had a long history, and basically they've just been dispersed.

CL: Do the designs exhibited here change that pattern?

LS: I think that the real key at the end of the day is community involvement, getting community buy-in. You know the big controversy we just had in Atlanta with the murals? That was a great example - Living Walls. God bless them, because they've done great work, but public art 101 is, you go and talk to the community.

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