Christian Long

Cameron Sinclair: Open Source Architecture

In TED Talks on May 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Reflection by MIKE N.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Cameron Sinclair:  Open Source Architecture

Cameron Sinclair starts off by stating that he is going to take us on a very quick journey – in my opinion, one of the best opening lines of any of the TEDTalks I have watched. It very effectively made me feel interested in what he has to say.

Sinclair and his collegauge Kate Store started an organization dedicated to humanitarian work – specifically, getting architects and designers involved in humanitarian work. This organization was created to respond to both natural disasters and systematic issues. The organization believes that when resources and expertise are scarce, innovative, sustainable design can make a significant difference is people’s lives.

I believe that if more organizations and groups adopted this policy – and not necessarily just for design – the world would be a much better place.

Sinclair states that he is an architect that is interested in socially responsible design. The phrase “socially responsible” is a very powerful one, and it had a very large impact on me. Again, I believe that if more people dedicated themselves to being “socially responsible” – or working to benefit their society, not just themselves – the world would be a much better place.

The organization that Sinclair has created follows this belief to the letter. They feel that when you design, you either improve (or worsen) the community you are working in. They are not just building for the residents – the are building to better the community.

Sinclair’s organization began by responding to the housing crisis in 1999 for returning refugees in Kosovo. They used the internet to “put out a call” to people all over the world, and within just a couple of months they had hundreds of entries from around the world. People wanted to donate funds, and architects and designers wanted to help with the crisis. They built a number of prototypes and experimented with new ideas for infrastructure. These new ideas helped to better the community as a whole, and not just the relatively few people that would use them. Sinclair continues and talks about many other projects his organization has participated in, including designing mobile health clinics in Africa to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic – again, aiding the entire community.

Sinclair finishes with an idea and a goal that I believe are the most interesting that I have heard so far on TED:

He wants anyone in the world with a laptop to be able to plug into the system and be able to participate in developing these new designs – and to utilize them.

This is third idea of this talk that I believe could be world-changing. Imagine, for a moment, what the world would be like if companies and organizations everyone adopted this policy of allowing their projects to be ‘open-source’ – allowing anyone to help develop them.

It would be like increasing your company workforce from 500 to six billion.

With these kind of resources, I can only begin to imagine the amazing, mind-blowing achievements we could make – and I am very excited to find out what they will be. All of this thanks to Cameron Sinclair and his talk on how his organization practices open-source architecture.


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