design(ing) for change

Fall 2022/23 | cuhk SoA public lecture series

design(ing) for change: Global Framework. Local Implementation.

Global frameworks such as the UNSDG and the New Urban Agenda bring awareness to pressing urban issues and align actors across different sectors and geography. However, how to ground these concepts with implementation in practice remains to be a challenge beyond discussions at a surface level.

The architecture lecture series set forth to see design as a verb, with a capacity to make transformative changes. Be it at the scale of individual buildings or large-scale regional strategy, the common concern would be how architecture and urban design projects make contributions to the social, cultural, and environmental issues of our society today. Recognizing how connected we are nowadays, impactful architectural projects in a specific location would have a greater global influence. The lecture series intended to bring together scholars and practitioners to share their experiences in designing for change from different parts of the world. It would be an occasion for engaged conversation with professional and student discussants through the presentation of these projects, as an opportunity to consider the role of architects and designers in the face of contemporary urban challenges.

Every other Wednesday – 630pm | Online + Atrium lounge screening


LI Yigang @UN Habitat Nariobi in discussion w/ Prof. Zhu Jingxiang & Prof. Peter Ferreto

#1. The collective making

[synopsis] The presentation outlines selective works from UN-Habitat in recent years, which address the collective solutions applied to transform the territory from the process of planning and design to implementation or piloting on the ground. This showcase package summarizes planning strategies, design tools, assessment approaches, and monitoring frameworks that guide designers, policymakers, and civil society to contribute to achievement of the New Urban Agenda. It unpacks the practices from regional, city, and community scales and demonstrates them from a holistic perspective. It also reveals the mechanisms that facilitate various stakeholder groups to voice for the bottom billion and collaboratively steer the wheel of territorial shaping.


Dr. Geeta Metha

2. Building Social Capital by Design

[synopsis] Rising social and economic inequality is among the most pressing problems in the West as also in the Eastern Countries. Unbridled emphasis on financial capital is depleting the social and ecological capital of communities. The way cities are designed, is a cause and symptom of this. Come and brainstorm with us about how our cities can help heal social and ecological injustice and stem the climate crisis. Are there new ways to live, move, work and socialize? Will we still want to own a car, or property in the future city? Will we live in denser coastal cities, ceding much land to rising seas? Where will the climate refugees and capitalism refugees live? What else should we be thinking about?  How can cities help the shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy?


Mr. Andrew Davies

3. Architect as Change Maker: Taking Creative Action to Solve Social Problems

[synopsis] Difficult social problems that threaten the existence of humanity, such as Climate Change, require unconventional and innovative solutions to enact change. Climate change is an issue of values and lifestyle choices and the solution to building low carbon communities requires public engagement, awareness, and education. To solve new social problems, we need to construct new definitions of the roles and responsibilities of professionals and the work that they do. We need to disrupt and augment existing systems by creating new examples and precedents so that change can occur. The unique multidisciplinary and rigorous aspects of the architectural education can prepare individuals to become change makers. The utilization of design thinking for problem solving employed by Architects can apply to both physical and social issues.  With vision, persistence, dedication, and optimism Architects can become change makers for a better world.


Marieke van den Heuvel

4. Concept Follows Circularity

[synopsis] ‘Concept follows circularity’ is ongoing research into the life cycle of interiors, from program of requirements to end of use, in order to gain a better insight into the unruly practice of connecting the dots. Realising circular designs is challenging when implementing in a linear world. Financial systems, building regulations and the organization of material and waste flows still need to be reinvented while we are quickly running out of time and resources. Where theoretical models on circularity can be formulated with precision, the reality is complex and full of obstacles. Therefore, the method of interviewing and thoroughly investigation of (best-practice) cases has been chosen to map out successful solutions, sometimes inventive and creative, other times utterly practical! Aim is to equip designers with more knowledge on the various phases and ready-to-implement skills for improved circular designs. One of the cases presented in the lecture is Nationale-Nederlanden, a 37,000 sqm office renovation, executed with high ambitions of circularity and Zero Waste.


Dr. Gabu Heindlis

5. Policies, Planning, Popular Agency: Radical Democracy and Architecture

[synopsis] What is the role of an architect in the future? How can we engage in the complexities of socially and ecologically burning issues? A radical-democratic conception of architecture and urbanism connects with the agency of democratic social and political movements. While the planner brings her expertise into alliances with, eg, anti-racist or feminist politics, she enters into such articulations not without critically examining her own role as bearer of knowledge and, thus, authority. What is at stake is a self-distancing of the expert – while taking responsibility and employing knowledge and planning tools, especially when commons have to be defended/expanded against capital takeovers. The speaker will unfold these topics with regard to a) current anti-capitalist struggles over housing and public space in Vienna; b) my work on intersectionality in housing; and c) a publicly commissioned non-building plan which became politically articulated in alliance with a bottom-up urban movement.


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