Cantilever in the trees

June 29, 2015. By Ryan. 1 comment(s).


River House Framing

May 15, 2015. By Ryan. 0 comment(s).

The house we are building on the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, TX is moving along at a steady pace now. The major structural steel is up and we are in the midst of framing.  

It took quite some time to get the first floor framing set up properly- each pile driven steel pier had up to a 3" tolerance so none of the steel is actually square. We had to square everything with our joists, which is no small task when you are 15' in the air and don't have much to work off of. 

We've essentially finished framing the guest room portion of the house and now we are working on the main spaces. You can see how our design weaves through the trees and maximizes views to the river

A view from what will be the living area. Its amazing to see the difference between the foliage from late winter to late spring.

View from a corner bedroom:

Its been raining quite a bit this spring, which is great for this part of Texas, but not so great for construction.  


Makers for Productive Cities

February 3, 2015. By dk. 0 comment(s).

Two terms now trending in design are "makers" and "smart cities". I've written previously on the latter—asking, "Who own's a smart city's intelligence?" And we have spent much of the past year thinking about the formerdeveloping the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform with Panurban, a strategic design consultancy based in Paris. In November I tried to connect the two: giving a talk called "Makers for Productive Cities" for the Citisense conference, organized by the World Bank ahead of the annual Smart City Expo in Barcelona.

Citisense 2014

Partly the aim was to demystify the whole idea of "making" and show that it is less something new, and more part of a longer-term continuum of the human drive to make tools (most recently, the Back to the Earth and DIY movements). And partly we tried to tell the story of AMP—which has been an amazing journey: networking the energy, drive and intellect of the many young people who have participated in the makers' collective plus hundreds more in Agbogbloshie who are not online.

Watch the talk for an overview of the five lessons I shared from our experience: 

1. It's your nature, to be a maker.
2. Making today is manu-digital.
3. Making as a process is community-driven.
4. Maker spaces are emergent.
5. Maker cities are mesh networks.

Plus it was a welcome chance to give shout-outs to some of our friends and the awesome groups doing amazing things that inspire us: the Creativity Group at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana (founded by Jorge Appiah); the WɔɛLab hackerspace in Lome, Togo (founded by Sename Koffi); and Maker Faire Africa (founders include Emeka Okafor, Jennifer Wolfe, Erik Hersman and a bunch of other incredible people); and Open Source Ecology in the USA and world-wide (founded by Marcin Jacubowski). (There are also video highlights from a panel discussing the "Internet of Everyone" as counterpoint to the "Internet of Things".)

We're in the final stages of prototyping the AMP makerspace. Will post updates as possible.

Participatory Design in Africa

October 24, 2014. By dk. 0 comment(s).

A couple weeks ago, we were part of the "Industry Day" panel at the 2014 Participatory Design Conference (PDC) held in Windhoek, Namibia. It was an honor to meet the other panelists and the moderator, Jeanette Blomberg, a senior researcher on innovation at IBM and a titan in the field. Much thanks to the organizers of "Industry Day" at the conference: Penny Hagen, a design strategy consultant based in New Zealand (plus ferocious Tweeter -- who first looped us into the PDC community via a Tweet two years ago), and Daria Loi, a UX innovation manager at Intel, for thinking to invite us and making it possible to participate.

What is particularly interesting is that, as a methodology and school of thought, participatory design -- unlike design thinking or human-centered design -- places fundamental emphasis on restoring balance to power dynamics. While the increasingly popular (trendy?) tools of design thinking seek to identify human needs in order to solve them and spur innovation, ultimately the goal is to drive profits for business. In a certain sense then, although no one really talks about it, beneath the surface, the new hipness of design thinking for business has serious potential to drive not only consumerism, but also economic exploitation. However, the alternative regime of participatory design, which emerged from a movement to integrate factory workers in decision-making through "cooperative design" approaches, offers that unequal power relations should be challenged by means of design process.

Thus an intriguing debate developed through the panel discussion, which is that if on one hand participatory design practitioners must extend their activities beyond the domain of pure research, on the other hand, if they embed themselves in industrial organizations they run the risk of abrogating their fundamental responsibility to restructure power dynamics on behalf of the underprivileged. How can designers successfully remain advocates for social and economic reform once they are contractually charged to advance the interests of a specific business enterprise?

We presented our on-going work with the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform, a social R&D start-up incubated in partnership with Panurban, a strategic design consultancy. Despite the fact that we view this project as in a way an "anti-industry" -- given that it is a bottom-up, grassroots initiative to empower youth workers in Ghana's informal sector e-waste industry to remake themselves as a distributed network for sustainable recycling of high-tech material and digital fabrication -- as the project scales it inevitably becomes part of a larger industrial ecosystem. We have not found the answers yet, but are excited to continue exploring the role of participatory design by deploying theory in practice, on both sides of the Atlantic.

See 'Exploring the potential for participatory design in Africa' in the conference proceedings.

Anam City at Clinton Global Initiative

October 24, 2014. By dk. 0 comment(s).

We were excited to see that Anam City featured again at Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, this year in a plenary session exploring cities as innovation labs at the urban scale. Watch Mrs. Gesare Chife, Executive Director of the Chife Foundation, explain in a separate interview at CGI how the superblock model developed for Anam City can serve as a flexible prototype for new forms of human settlement in Africa (from 3:30):