“Almost one billion people are living in the informal settlements, commonly called slums. This population is projected to swell to two billion by 2030.” A staggering statistic at the heart of the Cooper-Hewitt’s Design With the Other 90%: CITIES exhibit on display at the United Nations Visitor Center until January 9, 2012. This show expands on the 2007 show, Design For the Other 90%. While that show focused on objects that can change the world, this show focuses on systems. That makes it a harder story to communicate, but curator Cynthia Smith and the exhibit team have put in a valiant effort to tell these complex and interwoven stories of intervention.
Community mapping projects and bootstrapped SMS census-taking are initial themes of the exhibit, pointing out that it is exceedingly difficult to intervene among the uncounted and unseen. After this, affordable housing is front and center, from ingeniously inexpensive durable building materials to complex infrastructure plays. “Incremental Housing” from Chile is a prime example of this. This a program of half-built houses – spines of residential infrastructure that include kitchen, bathrooms, basic structure – while residents are responsible for building out the rest in their idiosyncratic ways. The net value of the property is significantly raised by the sweat equity of the residents.Read more