A crash course in changing the world.
I created a program to fight poverty and social exclusion in my current city Barcelona. I am an architect who is intersted in building for people with limited resources and designing concepts that addresses societal problems as well as environmental. However, I feel challenged to raise awareness of other designers and architects on the impact of their design when those parameters are not taken into consideration. There are few NGO's that probably promote the same ideas and I think there should be alot more. For example, I am already an active volunteer member in Architecture for Humanity Chapter barcelona (AFHS) and I created this long term program and was hoping through several funds we can be active in Spain (as in LaCaixa ObraSocial program 2009's theme was to fight social exclusion and alleviate poverty). Unfortunately, AFHS works as a mediator and not capable of doing the work ourselves.
I have a vision that architecture and design students (all domains including fashion and art therapy) can be easily involved in this project under a focused management of an NGO that I wish to create.
As I have stated before the program is a long term intervention, I quite believe that we can not change overnight so we need to plant cultural seeds more often in order to harvest succesful awareness in the future. It starts by hosting an awareness campaign to the most needy and socially excluded in Barcelona through Empowering the Person Campaign where volunteers will built temporary movable murals and graphically doc**ent on the walls the outcome of their interviews with the public, street beggars and musicians, the homeless and everyone who is willing to cooperate.
Creating food and homeless shelters is directly responsive solution that has been offered by hundreds of institutions, however, I am more intersted in tackling the roots of the problem rather than fixing the outcome of it. The movable walls will be constructed in strategically public plazas where human interaction is high on many levels. For example, In the MACBA area (museum) there is place del angel which is mainly the threshold between the touristic La Rambla street and the popular Raval area that emcompa**** of immigrants, prostitution and drugs. It is cultural, artistic, commercial, touristic.. and alot of homeless find refugee in that area..
The above analysis diagram is more of a summarized personal a****ment. Maslow's Law of hierarchy depicts that the human needs start in the bottom of the pyramid with the basics: food, water and shelter, safety then belonging, esteem and finally self actualization. So with further analysis, I translated Maslow's Law into architectural interventions. As I stated before I am not interested in proposing direct solutions, so the outcome of the different campaigns in different locations should help to a****s and conclude the type of 'healing interventions' that is more of a complementary architectural prototypes of Art therapy centers, workshops and training, street theater, public sport corner...
The first phase will have a dual role in addressing the less fortunate and to raise awareness among designers to promote creative approach and demontrate how being creative can help at least one person as the story illustrated in the upper right column. Barcelona is a city in an Economic Crisis. Yesterday, I heard on the news how the two largest saving banks are crashing in Barcelona due to the crashing of the Real estate. this is a living proof of planning for the sake of investments rather than addressing the needs of the people may probably lead to failure. The urban planning of Bacelona city did not address the needs of its inhabitants but rather allowed big investors and developers to build freely neighborhoods that became deserted. Why? average people could not afford them and the investors gave in their buildings to the banks instead of closing their debts and loans. The outcome is empty apartments no one can afford and average people having to share their apartments with friends /others or stay with their parents.
I instantly addressed the Generalitat department resposible of social housing planning and offered my free consultation.
Before I go back to my program, I once read by a socio-economic analyst here in Barcelona saying "we decided without knowing to have immigrants in Spain instead of children" so I researched the facts and found that an average Spanish woman bears 1.24 children in her lifetime. the birth rates are very low! While unemployment reaches 21%, Spain need alot of immigrants to fulfill a lot of different labor and jobs! so Maybe love and marriage inspirational campaign should address the locals as well :)
Now back to my program, the first phase is on a smaller scale where the temporary walls are built to communicate and address individuals. but the aim is to conduct a study of all the deserted areas, the "once agricultural areas", industrial and slum areas.
Under the second phase, I posted some pictures of a slum area in Barcelona where it is full of stolen goods and DIY dwellings and showers. this inspired me to later address this kind of neighbouhoods by introducing building or craftswork workshops.
Probably people coming from far more problematic countries would prioritize studying far more underserved areas. I agree but now I am here and this is an approach where I am hoping to further elaborate it to address a wider range of neighborhoods. By not imposing structures as most of designers do but rather look deeper into our society and understanding its real needs..
A 1000$ would be used to fund the "Empowering the Person" campaign. It is the first step in intiating an Interactive Dialogue NGO. Coming originally from Lebanon, I would like to think that this NGO can be active in Mediterranean countries. Maybe it can be called Mediterranean Interactive Dialogue NGO (MID) where it promotes awareness among designers by involving design schools in volunteer social work!