Designers can be an instrumental force in improving people's lives, and the Curry Stone Prize is given architects who do the kind of work that normally would not make the conventional design scene, but that can have huge impact. (Last year we were all over the Curry Prize winner MMA for his sandbag housing)
Kate Stohr of Architecture for Humanity, an advisor to the program, wrote to tell us that this year's finalists have been announced. First up are public works in Medellin, Colombia instigated by Alejandro Echeverri and Sergio Fajardo, the former director of public works and mayor, who used architecture and design as one of their tools to clean up the notoriously deadly city.
Parque Biblioteca España
Politicians and bureaucrats don't normally get design prizes, but then they don't usually lead such successful makeovers.
Beginning in 2003, a team of renowned architects led by Alejandro Echeverri, former director of urban projects, and Sergio Fajardo, former mayor, implemented this initiative in consultation with local neighborhood residents. Together, Echeverri and Fajardo, as well as an extensive team of architects and technicians, helped champion and realize this cornerstone belief: "Our most beautiful buildings must be in our poorest areas," as expressed by Fajardo.
Paired with sweeping social programs, including education and micro-lending to small businesses, these projects helped rout the city's deeply entrenched social inequalities. "From the beginning, we involved the people in the activity of using public spaces to solve social problems and to change the lives of the community," said Echeverri.
HANDMADE BUILDING: Anna Heringer
In most countries, when people get a little money they emulate western construction styles that are not necessarily appropriate for the culture and climate. Anna Heringer,Architect and Visiting Professor University of Art and Design Linz, Austria, uses local materials and techniques.
The two-story rather than single-story structures save land for agriculture. And Heringer made traditional mud homes more durable through improved building techniques, including damp proofing and a hardy foundation earth, water and rice-straw. Cows, rather than machinery, do the mixing.
"People are becoming interested now in finding their own solutions, not just copying the West," said Heringer. "What I hope is that we'll be able to set a trend in a fresh and regional architectural style that motivates people to bring their traditional construction methods."
TRANSITION NETWORK: Rob Hopkins
The Transition Network is well known to TreeHugger regulars; see Sami's posts listed below. Rob Hopkins was one of its founders and wrote the book on the movement (literally: The Transition Handbook). Read Sami's review here and interview of Hopkins here.
Hopkins credits the Transition movement's fast-spreading appeal to its purposeful disavowal of doomsday environmentalism in favor of an ethos powered by creative and collective response to a future that has already arrived. "Transition doesn't start out against things," he has said. "Our starting point is that we're all in this situation together - that's how we're able to capture the imagination of so many different kinds of people."
More on the Transition movement:
Rob Hopkins of Transition Town Totnes and Transition Culture
Transition Town Plants Up Nut Trees for Food Security
Transition Town Training - Coming to a Continent Near You
Transition Towns: How Do They Stay Relevant?
Transition Towns USA in the New York Times