Paper presented at the XXXIII IAHS World Congress on Housing, 27-30 September 2005,"Transforming Housing Environments through Design", University of Pretoria.
Amartya Sen demonstrated that the best results in fighting poverty could be obtained by operating directly into the culture of common people instead of waiting for the development of a productive structure; and that culture is intellectual as well as material. In the field of the material culture, designers and builders can aim to experiment with new tools suitable for humanitarian activities. Specifically, self-construction is an argument without interest for industries, craftsmen, and research centres; but the cost cutting has a direct relationship to poverty and social out-casting, which concerns most people in the world. What is the difference between learning by doing and knowing by doing? While learning is referred to something already known which has to be reproduced, knowing is a direction, an aim towards which to proceed. So doing assumes the role of experimentation aimed to improve life and quality of the environment. If ‘doing’ refers to the construction, is it possible to consider building as an opportunity; as a way towards knowledge, a research field, a door opened on the future? In operational terms, a department group (students and teachers) in association with a humanitarian association is developing a construction system suitable for the African context. To build the architectural envelope with its own hands, the workgroup designed a shell made of metal net, covered with a jute fabric soaked in a liquid mortar. The metal net can be easily folded into a shell with a double curvature. The satisfaction of human needs motivates the renovation of practice through invention and experimentation. The invention proceeds in a chaotic way, while the experimentation can fail. The duty of design is to provide an answer to the evolution of environment, economy, culture and society through experimentation.
Authors of papers in the proceedings and CD-ROM ceded copyright to the IAHS and UP. Authors furthermore declare that papers are their original work, not previously published and take responsibility for copyrighted excerpts from other works, included in their papers with due acknowledgment in the written manuscript. Furthermore, that papers describe genuine research or review work, contain no defamatory or unlawful statements and do not infringe the rights of others. The IAHS and UP may assign any or all of its rights and obligations under this agreement.