All you need is…

In the reading of this week “Needs”, the author, Kate fletcher introduced the Max Neef Matrix, which includes fundamental human needs related with satisfiers. The most interesting thing about it is that it is a universal chart, that means it can be used anywhere around the world, since the needs are present both in rich and poor countries; the only thing that changes is the way the needs are met by the society. I consider that this can be a really useful tool for designers in order to design for what it truly matters, so they can recognize what it is really needed by the society and address it in the right way. However, as well as it happens with empathic designs, this practice is more likely to be applicable in small companies that produce more personal and detailed products, big “fast” companies wouldn’t use these practices as they produce in a massive way.

It has been really surprising to see how many alternative companies and designers have been trying to address these aspects and create a product based on human needs, such as “ The touch me dress”, “ The IKEA flat house”, “ Threadless” and “Solar-powered flat pack disaster relief”. All this precedents and specially the last one have been really useful to me in one of the projects that I am working on about the design of a shack community in South Africa. While all the other designs focused on the ease of construction and cost-efficient design, inspired on all of these great examples of empathic approaches and human need designs, I proposed a customizable shack design, where the future users take active part in it, creating a “homey”, safe and nice place to live with few resources. The idea behind is to provide them with paint, fabrics and wallpaper to create the interior space as they want to, building this way a strong sense of attachment and identity, which are really important aspects in their culture and addressing so the need of housing.

A different concept presented in the reading was social resilience, which is the ability of groups or communities to cope with external stresses as a result of environmental or political change, and this is achieved through relationships. I would say that our social resilience is quite low at the present moment, but I kind of think that it is starting to change. The society, especially the younger generations, are starting to realize for example the climate change with all the climatologic disasters that are occurring in the past decades. In my case, I would say I got more and more conscious about it when I saw all the natural disasters happening all around the world, it seemed that mother nature had been going “crazy” destroying so many places and so many people’s life with it. The main problem is that everyone is intellectually informed, but just a few are emotionally engaged, and those are the ones changing their lifestyles.

Moreover, I really enjoyed the first L.O.L.A show where our classmates presented very interesting aspects and companies related with empathic design, which made me realize that it is a quite widespread concept that is being successfully implemented in several design fields. However, the conclusion I took from all these different examples are that they are very specified practices and some of them quite expensive, so even if it’s a good idea is not affordable for everyone. I think it is a really good start, but if larger companies or design studios would start implementing these practices it would make a huge impact and therefore it would lead to a change. One of my favorite was Teaching design for CHANGE, which is an initiative started by a couple of designers that tried to improve schools in a poor town in North Carolina. They proved all the skills that a designer can have, and teaching can be one of them. This fact really encouraged me to open my mind towards all the things that I could do as a designer and particularly as an architect. I really think that doing such a great job in the community helping people with your knowledge and doing what you love can be more fulfilling that designing any building or space.

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1 Response to All you need is…

  1. Dr. Cosette Armstrong says:

    Excellent reflection and an interesting read!

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