Design Workshop:  Social Design

Description of Workshop

Topics: working in developing countries, ‘lessons not learned’
social housing, reconstruction after disaster
Disciplines: architecture, civil engineering
Type: design assignment with lectures
Hands-on: making a solar cooker from campus waste
Field Trip: recommended
Duration: 1 week excluding field trip, easy to extend
Combinations: emergency architecture, alternative construction,
the art of upcycling

Social Design – Improving the living conditions in general.

Social design has become very popular among students and young professionals these days. In this workshop format we can focus on 2 different target groups.

Option one is to look at how to improve the overall living conditions in developing countries. This can include disaster prone areas as well, and can be combined with the use of alternative techniques and experiments. We critically analyze the role of the organizations and aid workers in developing projects and reconstruction efforts.

The second focus is on improving the housing situation for people in marginalized situations. For example immigrant workers, who come from developing countries to work in the more developed world. We need to find sensible, affordable and creative solutions to improve this current and fast growing problem.

The participants are asked to make a design brief for a housing scheme, a school or community building, a rural hospital or an orphanage. These can be located in a developing country or disaster prone area. In small groups the students make an assessment of the particular area and define all the different design parameters, such as topographic, climatic, political and socio-cultural influences.

Overall we take a close look at the different processes and influences that designers and aid workers are exposed to and need to deal with. Other topics include non-engineered earthquake design, building with natural and waste materials, and improvement of the living conditions in general.

Field trips make things more clear; to talk to the people and see things for themselves gives the participants a better understanding of the actual situation.


Aims and Outcomes

This program is quite intensive, but highlights a well-balanced variety of delicate topics, strong messages and surprising outcomes.

The design assignments for this workshop involve many complicated socio-cultural issues, in difficult and sometimes extreme settings, often with huge financial constraints. It is most important for the students to start understanding the complexity of context and that they learn to focus on the actual needs of the recipient.

We will stimulate creative and realistic thinking, and help the students to search for the right solutions, which will lead to a sensible concept.

After completing the module, the student will have a better understanding of the processes, influences and impacts that may occur during a stay in a developing country or post-disaster area.

Regarding the second focus, the participant will have gained more insight in the growing problem of social housing worldwide.


Proposed Lectures and Timetable (example, field trip excluded)

#1. Introduction about the work of Smart Shelter Foundation and explanation of the design assignments to the participants. (30 minutes)

#2. Case Study; Rebuilding after the Tsunami in Sri Lanka; Full description of the design and rebuilding of 170 houses on the east coast, in a post-disaster and conflicted area. (1 hour 15 minutes)

#3. Case Study; Building a school in India with Earth Blocks; Complete story from design phase, to making blocks and masonry in a small village. (1 hour 15 minutes)

#4. Non-Engineered Earthquake Design Principles; The basics of earthquake resistant construction, historic research and testing, design limitations and proper material handling. (2 x 45 minutes)

#5. Case Study; Building Earthquake Resistant Mountain Schools in Nepal; Construction overview for building safe schools in remote mountain areas. (1 hour)

#6. Engineering for the Bottom of the Pyramid; improving the lives of people by designing simple devices for lighting, energy, cooking (product design), tools and machinery (mechanical engineering). Includes making a solar cooker from campus waste. (1 full day)

#7. Movie ‘Taste the Waste’ (1 hour 15 minutes)

#8. Lessons Not Learned; Relief Work and Developing Aid; A Critical View. Why is it difficult to work in developing countries or disaster struck areas, how can we deal with these situations? (1 hour)

Morning Program Afternoon Program
Day 1 #1 Opening + explain assignment
#2 Case study Sri Lanka
#3 Case study India
Start design brief
Day 2 #4 Earthquake resistant design
Work on design brief
#5 Case study Nepal
Work on design brief
Day 3 #6 Engineering for the BoP +
Solar cooker assignment
Solar cooker assignment
Day 4 Work on design brief and sketches
#7 Movie + test cookers
Work on design brief and sketches
Day 5 Finalize design work Final presentations of all work
#8 Lessons not learned


Possible Extensions and Combinations

As this workshop format is quite intense, we encourage you to consider an extension of the program with one more week. This can easily be done by adding elements of the following formats:

  • Design workshop; Alternative Construction (click here)
  • Design workshop; Emergency Architecture  (click here)
  • Hands-on experience; The Art of Upcycling (click here)

If you would like us to make a custom-made proposal, please send us a request by filling in the contact form.