‘Reflexive Design’ and the ‘Second Modernism’

A few weeks ago Robert Cowherd, a colleague at Wentworth Institute of Technology, invited me to participate on a forum discussion for his Design for Life seminar along with Manuel DelgadoBill BoehmOscar Grauer,  Jota (Jose Jaime) Samper, and Patrick Haughey (MIT HTC and Wentworth faculty).
We discussed the essays that Robert and his students produced and put together into the following book:
Edited by Robert Cowherd
Student/authors: Geoffrey Hackett, Michael Modoono, Ian Downing, Rebecca Connors, Julie Beach Scheel, Michael Holmquist, Aidan Lindh, Benjamin Guertin, Bob Williamson, Valeri Tzvetkov, Matt Christiani, Rebecca Leroux, Michael Paganetti, Nikolas Pappastratis, Nicholas Greene, Stephanie Rogowski, and Timothy Stewart.
I highly recommend downloading the pdf and reading the essays. In them the students struggle with some basic and prescient contemporary issues: unsafe and informal urban sprawl, climate change, economic inequity, political instability, etc… While speculating on the changing role of architecture (and the architect) in the context of all these challenges.
While in the panel we spoke a lot about ‘bottom-up’ vs. ‘top-down’ processes and infrastructures as rigid opposites. During the conversation I said that this dichotomous way of looking at urban infrastructures is not helpful. New urban infrastructures, such as the ones that Robert and the students look at in Medellin, Colombia, try to work within larger systems (the metro and cable carts) while allowing and even encouraging flexibility and change over time.

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