Paper presented at the XXXIII IAHS World Congress on Housing, 27-30 September 2005,"Transforming Housing Environments through Design", University of Pretoria.
At a global scale, architects and planners are involved only in a small part of the physical transformations happening in nowadays towns. Most of them are driven by individual decisions which tent to act on single aspects. Are the conventional planning tools still appropriated? Recent researches tend to recognize the complexity emerging from this continuous overlaying of individuality as a value to work on instead of seeing it as a matter of chaos or disorder to contrast. Understanding some of the systemical rules behind space-users behaviour and about disposable resources should allow to use these same rules in order to act with so called “virtuous impulses”. We think that non-experts such as end-users, students or non specialised volunteers play a central role in this framework and are leading some experiments to verify this. On one hand the direct contribution of non-specialised manual work, helps to cut the investment costs normally required for the introduction of new technologies, on the other the non-experts are – at the same time – holders and vectors of precious information to be considered in construction processes and thus in the transformation of the urban or natural habitat. These self-organizing processes require “rules of the game”. The present paper shows two experiments involving citizens of a rural community in North-East of Brazil and youngsters from a secondary school in Southern Italy. The information-resource which composes the said rules is given by simple algorithms consisting in cutting patterns, assembly procedures or similar detail solutions; they guarantee certain aims such as feasibility, lightness and sustainability without actually fixing a formal end result.
The actual form emerges in progress as a result of the described technological inputs and the complex framework of local requirements or desires. One of the main focuses of our research is on the possibility to use design for positive influence on this processes without restraining the final spatial quality.
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