Dallas, TX (www.eandhweek.org): The 2012 Living Village at Southern Methodist University (SMU) is being dedicated to the Cooper-Hewitt’s Curator of Socially Responsible Design, Cynthia Smith, in honor of her passion for people emerging from poverty and marginalized communities, her commitment to research, and her ability to spread knowledge through creative educational exhibitions. Two such exhibitions are “Design for the Other 90%” (2007) and “Design with the Other 90%: CITIES” (2011) which she curated on behalf of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
“When I first saw ‘Design for the Other 90%,’ I was so taken by the breadth and depth of knowledge it presented,” said Engineering & Humanity Week founder Stephanie Hunt. “It served as our inspiration to create the first SMU Living Village during Engineering & Humanity Week last year.”
The Living Village is a hands-on exhibit, open to the public, on the Southern Methodist University campus adjacent to the Lyle School of Engineering, April 15-20. The village will showcase the latest shelter technology, transitional and quasi-permanent structures, that serve displaced and impoverished people around the world. Photos and descriptions of all shelters are posted at www.EandHweek.org.
“The village has changed lives and so have the ‘Design with the Other 90%’ exhibitions,” says Hunt. “Cynthia’s work has influenced countless people and inspired action and change in so many ways. It is an honor to dedicate this year’s Living Village to her.”
Cynthia Smith realized how design is playing an increasingly important role in solving some of the world’s critical issues. The “CITIES” exhibition examines growing informal settlements, more commonly known as slums or squatter communities, in the global south. Currently one billion people live in dense, unhealthy informal settlements, with limited basic services, projected to grow to two billion by 2030. “Ultimately, the exhibition is about improving people’s lives. That’s always a goal for me – to support and engage people emerging from poverty around the world and to inspire people who work in this area of design… to help them approach design differently. People living in informal settlements have ideas about how to solve problems of poverty, housing and basic services; and when there are reciprocal exchanges of information between designers and residents, the result can be some of the most innovative design solutions,” said Smith.
Using funding provided by the Rockefeller Foundation she traveled to 16 cities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America throughout 2009 and 2010 to gain a hands-on understanding of the people who live and work in the urban settlements. The exhibition was pared from close to 300 projects, products and proposals to 60. Her studies spanned two years – a very compressed research timeline in museum terms.
Smith talked about her research, meeting with people living in the informal settlements and the designers and NGO’s working there; she organized a global advisory committee, whose insights and expertise helped define the form of the exhibition, providing ideas of what would be particularly important for people to understand. “The exhibition was conceived to broaden the exchange of design information,” she added.
She also used social media to further the conversation, authoring a blog and tweets about socially responsible design to reach a larger international following. She engaged young researchers interested in marginalized communities who wrote guest blogs.
“Design plays an important role in bringing form to ideas, and engaged designers are helping to define more inclusive and sustainable cities by gaining first-hand knowledge of the people served by their designs,” she said. “There is vibrancy and culture in each of the informal settlements and both should come through planning and design.”
About the Exhibition
“Design with the Other 90%: CITIES,” which debuted at the United Nations in fall 2011, is the second in a series of themed exhibitions by Cooper-Hewitt that demonstrate how design can address the world’s most critical issues. The exhibition features more than 60 projects from 23 countries around the globe.
“CITIES” explores design solutions to the challenges created by rapid urban growth in informal settlements, commonly referred to as slums. Close to 1 billion people live in informal settlements, and that population is projected to swell to 2 billion by 2030. This accelerated urban expansion will take place primarily in developing and emerging economies in an increasingly climate-challenged world.
The exhibition is now on tour and will travel to the West Coast and the Midwest in 2012. The Hunt Institute intends to bring the exhibition to Engineering & Humanity Week in Dallas in 2013. International interest has also been expressed.
About the Living Village at SMU
The Living Village is open to the public throughout the week with a special evening to recognize refugees who inspired students in Dr. Faith Nibbs’s anthropology class to develop products that can ease and enhance the lives of people living in refugee camps. This event, Cultural Sustainability Night at the Living Village, will take place Thursday, April 19 and is hosted by the Anthropology Department at SMU at 6:30 p.m.
Students from SMU will be sleeping overnight in shelters and will be available for interviews to share their experiences. There is a video on line from last year’s participants at: http://eandhweek.org/video/
For further details, to attend any of the events or to interview speakers, please contact:
Linda Mastaglio – 903.312.8651 – [email protected]
Alternate Contact: Tracy O’Day – (206) 200-5160 – [email protected]
About the Hunt Institute
The Hunter & Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity is dedicated to using the power of engineering, collaboration and the free market to develop and implement solutions to the problems of the poor both here and abroad. The institute is committed to identifying and creating technologies beneficial and affordable to the world’s poorest people, while also educating engineering and non-engineering students in the design and distribution of those technologies to accelerate global development.