"How do you get black-turtleneck-wearing architects to interact, other than at a cocktail party?" asks Kate Stohr of Architecture for Humanity.
Architects are used to selling ideas, thats how they make a living. And unless they are Frank Gehry or Rem, they do it locally. Sharing ideas? To use an old phrase, "Does Macy's tell Gimbels?"
Kate Stohr and Cameron Sinclair think otherwise. As Cameron told Worldchanging: "By the middle of the century, one in three people on the planet will be living in inadequate, often illegal housing," says Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity. "I mean, think about that! The formal architectural profession does not have anything like the capacity to meet people's needs on that scale. Worse, many of the people working in this space are unaware of each other's work. There's a vast replication of effort, not only the same successes, but the same failures. We need millions of solutions, and we need to share them all across the world."
The Open Architecture Network is an attempt to gather and share those solutions. It is a social networking site with a purpose: to bring together architects, designers and builders to share their ideas across borders and continents. The kind of architects who have supported Architecture for Humanity and want to do more. Who don't mind sharing if they are properly recognized and attributed.
As Cameron told Wired: "When the focus is on social gain and not financial, what's the point in not sharing? Most of the designers I work with are more interested in seeing their ideas being used in as wide a field as possible. Through mechanisms like Creative Commons' Developing Nations License, you can "give away" your idea, while retaining attribution and hold ownership in the first world."
Architecture has always been built on the work of others, and most buildings today are essentially a pastiche of standard details, manufacturers specifications, and building code requirements. For non-commercial, sustainable and innovative housing such resources don't exist. Cameron says "There's no open-sharing mechanism. Many well-meaning individuals are reinventing the wheel because proven and disproven ideas aren't shared."
After playing on the Open Architecture Network, we find it different from other systems like Linkedin or Design:related. The participants are focused, they are not just social networking but are there because they believe that their work serves a social good. The projects uploaded so far are interesting and range from completed projects well known to TreeHugger readers (Like John Quale and the UVA School of Architecture's ecoMOD house) to innovative competition entries like this system built from FedEx packaging by Takuya Onishi, REDEK Thailand.
The People finder is terrific- one can search by profession and area of expertise- this will be a great resource in building teams and linking up across borders. A Resources section does not yet have content; I am hoping it will be a user-built wiki system but it denied me access.
The OAN says "One billion people live in abject poverty. Four billion live in fragile but growing economies. One in seven people live in slum settlements. By 2020 it will be one in three. We don't need to choose between architecture or revolution. What we need is an architectural revolution." Architecture for Humanity and its partners may have just given us all a tool to start one. Join the Revolution at ::The Open Architecture Network.