Collaborative Design: An Alternate Way

Tasmi Quazi

002Collaborative Design: An Alternate Way, is the title and proposition of an article written by Asiye eTafuleni’s (AeT) Research Officer, as featured in the KZ-NIA Journal 1/2013, from pages 10-13.  It is the feature article in a special journal edition called “Spilt Milk”, an initiative aimed at fostering collaboration and inclusivity between architects and others in the design field.

The online feature was published on June 10, 2013 and can be read here. The article argues that to achieve inclusive development and social transformation at the scale required will require collaborative approaches.  These are some excerpts from the article, and this post includes some additional photos which relate to the content of the article:

Keep Calm and Trust the Process, an AeT Office motto in the realm of inclusive development. Photo: Tasmi Quazi.

Keep Calm and Trust the Process, an AeT Office motto in the realm of inclusive development. Photo: Tasmi Quazi.

“…Within the less familiar context and ‘client’ base of developmental work, it is only sensible that the process is the most critical driver of responsive design. In theory this involves the ability to design without making it the exclusive preserve of the designer but rather letting the end users guide the outcome based on their needs. Glass ceilings also need to be taken into account. This involves being aware of and engaging with the subtle co-dependencies of other disciplines and the broader context.

In practice, the process-driven approach was best affirmed for Asiye eTafuleni through a city commission to implement a pilot project which enhances the livelihood prospects of inner-city informal cardboard recyclers. Through multiple communication strategies such as work experience sessions and continual exposure to two existing groups of recyclers, the design of custom-made trolleys was tailored to suit different contexts and addressed the major challenge of conveying waste recyclables. Just as we thought the simple intervention of trolleys would be done and dusted in a space of few months, the process evolved into something much bigger.

The Herb Market in Warwick Junction as the alternate vision of a hybrid urbanity accomodating the diverse realities of all citizens. Photo: Andrew Griffin.

The Herb Market in Warwick Junction as an alternate vision of development that is inclusive of the diverse realities of all citizens, possible through collaborative design . Photo: Andrew Griffin.

…The integrated approach and multi-partnership collaboration with social workers and relevant local government departments has yielded more positive outcomes that otherwise would not have happened if we had walked away having distributed trolleys alone. Results included significantly higher incomes, increased dignity within the community and improved public perception of the valuable contribution of informal recycling to the city. Most excitingly, it has stimulated thinking about the creative possibilities of integrating this livelihood activity into the city’s urban plans.

The integration of technical and social facilitation skills at AeT, inclusive of other relevant disciplines that advance inclusive urban development. Photo: Richard Dobson.

The integration of technical and social facilitation skills at AeT, inclusive of other relevant disciplines that advance inclusive urban development. Photo: Richard Dobson.

… What is clear is that designers have an increasingly amorphous role within the development domain with its layers of complexity. The need for broad knowledge and skills suggests that collegiality and unique partnerships are the most practical way to achieve transformation at the scale required. This is in light of the numerous examples of limited and unresponsive design interventions implemented by state agencies. Just as the state cannot manage the mammoth task of transformation alone, neither can the design community achieve results at the scale required without a supportive state. Also, collaboration within the design fraternity across co-dependent disciplines and the end user community will better result in contextually responsive interventions. It will in fact give the design community credibility as a whole.”

Page 11 of the KZ-NIA Journal article featuring a picture of the inner-city informal recyclers. Photo: Tasmi Quazi.

Page 11 of the KZ-NIA Journal article featuring a photo of AeT’s inner-city informal recycling project. Photo: Tasmi Quazi.

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