2010 – The Silos Project

This project seeks to address and explore design solutions against the backdrop of enormous social inequities that exist in South Africa and that precipitate in devastating social inadequacies such as lack of housing and sanitation as well as disasters resulting in fire and water pollution. Students will explore design solutions to water pollution and contamination and to the very real threat of fire within the informal settlement community of Kliptown.

“For most of us, design is invisible until it fails.” (Bruce Mau)

 The richest fifth of the world receive 83% of the world income, the poorest fifth 1.4%.
(United Nations Development Programme)

There are many problems in the world today: consumerism, corporate giants, geopolitical instability, imbalance in wealth, pollution, disease, natural disasters, violence, insufficient food and clean water, etc,.

It is estimated that up to 90% of the world population cannot and do not see the relevance of design, although good design answers a need and solves a problem. Design should enhance and improve the quality of life for all.

The concept behind the design silos’ is in keeping with the mission of Design for the World. Design must play the role of being proactive rather than reactive. There have been many good ideas produced around the world focusing on design for humanity, but unfortunately we have lacked the funding and other necessary abilities to put plans in action when they have been needed, resulting in us acting too slowly and too late to make an impact through design in disaster areas.

The idea is to build regional capacity though involving designers and design schools in particular, (This is a first and Greenside Design Center is piloting this programme) to participate in pooling ideas and intellectual resources to ensure design can make an impact when needed. Good examples where design can impact for instance are in cases like flooding, earthquakes, fires, mass diseases like cholera and HIV/AIDS, air pollution (mostly from deforestation fires) water pollution and the lack of water and displacement of people through conflict.

Different regions obviously have different needs and these should to be identified through research, analyzing problems, coming up with solutions and working within communities to ensure information and results are clearly understood. it would then be possible to have distribution points within a community that act as storage facilities and when disaster strikes communities have immediate access to these depots and can react within minutes. Ideally, is would be good to have some emergency kits in every household, depending on the frequency of pending natural disasters. These storage facilities would also have after care equipment. Very strong channels of communication would have to be put in place in order for this concept to work and would probably require a very strong branding campaign.

For this project over the next month we are going to concentrate on two disaster areas prevalent within our region;

  1. Fires within informal settlements and other community based areas such as schools and markets.
  2. Flooding and water pollution, specifically looking at prevention of water borne diseases like cholera in polluted water.

This project will require very dedicated input from all three disciplines and gives us all a wonderful opportunity to work together in a multi disciplinary design team.

We can make a difference through design interventions

What was the context?
The design study was conducted as a pilot for a community engagement project entitled “10%” – that seeks to find design solutions within the educational and community context. Students were then placed in specific groups that explored specific problems that were identified in the preliminary visit to the community.

Group 1 –documented, photographed and interviewed the residents and gave a human face to the problems faced by the informal settlement dweller.

Group2- Took a preventative stance and designed a house that was constructed from fire retardant material as well as designing an emergency pack that residents could use in the event of a disaster. This pack was to consist of a tent, Life straw and various other life saving elements.

Group 3- This group examined the use of water, accessibility and wastage of water within this community. The students found the problems encountered by the community to be very complex. Students designed a water recycling system and community center around the collection of water as their solution.

All of these design solutions are at a preliminary and exploration stage and will be explored and extended in the coming year.

Who was the community:
Students visited and conducted interviews with residents of the Kliptown community in Soweto. Here the student was able to experience albeit on a cursory level the difficulties and problems encountered by the community. Certain problems were identifies, such as inadequate emergency strategies, inadequate housing, sanitation and water accessibility.

What was the design problem:
What design solutions can be found to address the issues of water and sanitation and fire as disaster management within the informal settlement community of Kliptown.

What was the design solution:
Each group produced documentation in the form of drawings, models and tested experimentation of various design problems. This was then recorded in a presentation in the form of POWERPOINT, A small film,  an exhibition, samples of bricks, model of house and digital renditions of the community water center.