ecology, identity, and the future of work

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“Apple, your products are amazing and often make me feel like I am holding the 21st century in my hands. But your built environment legacy is straight out of the 1980’s. If you’d asked your employees (maybe especially the female ones) about what their work days look like, or what would make this place feel welcoming and productive, you wouldn’t have made this blunder. Instead, you let your–mostly male, I’m guessing–design team build a tech bro Valhalla with a 100,000 square foot fitness center, but no child care on site. In your suburban island that will now cause parents to make four stops a day in silicon valley rush hour traffic. You selected a site far from major transit investments and just assumed the city will be grateful for your descent upon them. I hope I never hear you carp about how difficult it is to hire women in tech. Or about how “the city” (said with disdain) never does anything to solve the traffic nightmare at your doorstep. You get the workforce you build for and workplace you design.”

Jess Zimbabwe, 2017 (founding Director, Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use at National League of Cities)

Terminal Studio, January-June 2018

TOPIC Final year architecture students are responding to popular critiques of recent tech headquarters buildings (Apple, Amazon) with speculative proposals for 35,000-70,000 sf workplaces for global tech cities that contribute ideas for the “future of work” in terms of ecology and identity (race, class, gender).

PROCESS In the winter term, students  identified a site within a global tech community (such as Shenzen, Pittsburgh, Sunnyvale), developed a bibliography on topics of ecology and identity according to their particular interest (such as ecogentrification, environmental racism, ecofeminism), analyzed the sites in terms of those frameworks, and wrote a design manifesto for the “future of work” at these sites.

This spring term, students are proposing building designs that manifest their design positions as a way of testing the potential of their frameworks and also to demonstrate their ability to design a building for human experience and environmental/social impact in 1) site design, 2) environmental control systems, 3) structural design, and 4) space planning.

University of Oregon Department of Architecture

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Gary Aquilina, CAS Architects, Jeremy Monroe, Freshwaters Illustrated, Lori Stephens, Broadleaf Architecture, Florian Idenberg, Solid Objectives, Joyce Van Den Berg, City of Amsterdam, and Cassandra Keller, Clarke Keller Architects for generosity of time and expertise.

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OUR Collective Future Project


OUR Collective Future Project (September 2017) was a collective experience in imagining an alternative, ecologically whole urban future. The design used text, film, spatial design, and the idea of fortune telling to provoke thought and interaction. The experience centered around a 12-foot high matrix of fragrant solitary bee nesting blocks, freshly cut from Oregon Douglas Fir mill ends and installed in the foyer of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. During the event, participants who gathered in the lecture hall were invited to each randomly choose from one hundred numbered tabs that would direct them to a description of a moment in their own future. Shortly after, participants were guided in a procession to the nesting block matrix in the foyer to find, remove, and read a written description of a fictional future moment in their own life. The placement of the text in the holes of the nesting blocks and the grid design of the structure were meant to organize the group into shared spaces as they considered together what their individual and now collective futures could hold.

Just as the space of a city is never experienced as a whole, but only as the aggregation of a series of moments in a series of places, these individual texts can only be read one at a time and never as a whole. At the same time, a video scrolling the numbered texts one at a time did offer a glimpse of descriptions of related future moments.

At the conclusion of the event, participants took home the solitary bee nesting blocks to install in their own far flung home cities, a longer-term chance to consider the nature of the individual and the collective in our shared future and to consider what it might mean to live an ecologically whole urbanism.

OUR Collective Future Project was commissioned by the Dhillon Marty Foundation for the 2017 State of the Community Symposium, UNESCO Management of Social Transformations Programme, Paris, France September 12-13, 2017 and was conducted by FLOAT architectural research and design (Erin Moore, design and fabrication; Kathleen Dean Moore, text; Chris White, logistics and installation; Serena Lim, design and fabrication intern,

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OUR collective future project in IDN UN insider

Critical Thinking, Civic Values, Urged for Sustainability

“Our Collective Future Project” in collaboration with author and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore, is a “framework made of nesting space for the larvae of solitary bees that houses the collective ecological future of the city as written in the futures of 100 individuals.”

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