Is this the World’s cheapest solar lamp?

Original article: http://www.designindaba.com/articles/creative-work/world’s-cheapest-solar-lamp

SM100

For the millions without electricity in Africa, basic lighting remains a luxury. Kerosene lamps are expensive. Candles and fires are hazardous and ultimately affects a household’s air quality. Manchester-based design consultancy Inventid’s recent development of what they are claiming is the world’s cheapest solar light could present a solution for this ongoing struggle.

Developed in collaboration with Chinese manufacturer Yingli, the hand-sized lamps retail for around about R63 ($5) and are able to stay lit for up to eight hours when fully charged. Called the SM100 solar light, it is reportedly twice as bright as kerosene lamps and features strap slots so that it can be used as a head-torch or easily strapped to a bicycle.

The lamp was trialled by about 9,000 families in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. It was important to Inventid’s founders that the product’s initial trial be far-reaching in order to best address potential users’ needs.

SM100

“Working closely with charities in Africa we gathered local insights into family routines, the layout of dwellings and environmental conditions,” explains co-founder Henry James. “We listened to the aspirations and ideas of people whose personal experiences have shaped a product that is co-created in Africa.”

Though the SM100 solar light was developed in partnership with charity SolarAid, Inventid have chosen to sell them at cost rather than give them away. According to SolarAid’s founding director, each lamp sold generates money for food and essentials in East Africa.

The recent winner of a silver award in the design for society and design for sustainability categories at the European Product Design Awards, the SM100 solar light can also be bought online for £10 in the UK, with all extra profits going to SolarAid.

The Transformative Business Model

Original article: https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-transformative-business-model

We usually associate an industry’s transformation with the adoption of a new technology. But although new technologies are often major factors, they have never transformed an industry on their own. What does achieve such a transformation is a business model that can link a new technology to an emerging market need.

MP3 technology is a classic case in point. Early MP3 devices represented an order-of-magnitude increase in capacity over magnetic tapes and CDs: Users could carry thousands of songs on a small device. But MP3 players revolutionized the audio devices market only after Apple coupled the iPod with iTunes in a new business model, swiftly moving music-recording sales from the physical to the virtual world.

What, exactly, enables a business model to deliver on a technology’s potential? To answer that question, we embarked on an in-depth analysis of 40 companies that had launched new business models in a variety of industries. Some succeeded in radically altering their industries; others looked promising but ultimately did not succeed. In this article we present the key takeaways from our research and suggest how they can help innovators transform industries.

How Business Models Work

Definitions of “business model” vary, but most people would agree that it describes how a company creates and captures value. The features of the model define the customer value proposition and the pricing mechanism, indicate how the company will organize itself and whom it will partner with to produce value, and specify how it will structure its supply chain. Basically, a business model is a system whose various features interact, often in complex ways, to determine the company’s success.

In any given industry, a dominant business model tends to emerge over time. In the absence of market distortions, the model will reflect the most efficient way to allocate and organize resources. Most attempts to introduce a new model fail—but occasionally one succeeds in overturning the dominant model, usually by leveraging a new technology. If new entrants use the model to displace incumbents, or if competitors adopt it, then the industry has been transformed.

Consider Airbnb, which upended the hotel industry. Founded in 2008, the company has experienced phenomenal growth: It now has more rooms than either InterContinental Hotels or Hilton Worldwide. As of this writing, Airbnb represents 19.5% of the hotel room supply in New York and operates in 192 countries, in which it accounts for 5.4% of room supply (up from 3.6% in 2015).

The founders of Airbnb realized that platform technology made it feasible to craft an entirely new business model that would challenge the traditional economics of the hotel business. Unlike conventional hotel chains, Airbnb does not own or manage property—it allows users to rent any livable space (from a sofa to a mansion) through an online platform that matches individuals looking for accommodations with home owners willing to share a room or a house. Airbnb manages the platform and takes a percentage of the rent.

Because its income does not depend on owning or managing physical assets, Airbnb needs no large investments to scale up and thus can charge lower prices (usually 30% lower than hotels charge). Moreover, since the home owners are responsible for managing and maintaining the property and any services they may offer, Airbnb’s risks (not to mention operational costs) are much lower than those of traditional hotels. On the customer side, Airbnb’s model redefines the value proposition by offering a more personal service—and a cheaper one.

Before platform technology existed, there was no reason to change the hotel business in any meaningful way. But after its introduction, the dominant business model became vulnerable to attack from anyone who could leverage that technology to create a more compelling value proposition for customers. The new business model serves as the interface between what technology enables and what the marketplace wants.

Let’s look now at what features make a business model transformative.

The Six Keys to Success

We selected the 40 new business models we analyzed on the basis of how many mentions they received in the high-quality, high-circulation business press. All of them seemed to have the potential to transform their industries, but only a subset had succeeded in doing so. We looked for recurring features in the models and found six. No company displayed all of them, but as we shall see, a higher number of these features usually correlated with a higher chance of success at transformation.

1. A more personalized product or service.

Many new models offer products or services that are better tailored than the dominant models to customers’ individual and immediate needs. Companies often leverage technology to achieve this at competitive prices.

2. A closed-loop process.

Many models replace a linear consumption process (in which products are made, used, and then disposed of) with a closed loop, in which used products are recycled. This shift reduces overall resource costs.

3. Asset sharing.

Some innovations succeed because they enable the sharing of costly assets—Airbnb allows home owners to share them with travelers, and Uber shares assets with car owners. Sometimes assets may be shared across a supply chain. The sharing typically happens by means of two-sided online marketplaces that unlock value for both sides: I get money from renting my spare room, and you get a cheaper and perhaps nicer place to stay. Sharing also reduces entry barriers to many industries, because an entrant need not own the assets in question; it can merely act as an intermediary.

4. Usage-based pricing.

Some models charge customers when they use the product or service, rather than requiring them to buy something outright. The customers benefit because they incur costs only as offerings generate value; the company benefits because the number of customers is likely to grow.

5. A more collaborative ecosystem.

Some innovations are successful because a new technology improves collaboration with supply chain partners and helps allocate business risks more appropriately, making cost reductions possible.

6. An agile and adaptive organization.

Innovators sometimes use technology to move away from traditional hierarchical models of decision making in order to make decisions that better reflect market needs and allow real-time adaptation to changes in those needs. The result is often greater value for the customer at less cost to the company.

Each feature on this list is tied to long-term trends in both technology and demand.On the tech side, one trend is the development of sensors that allow cheaper and broader data capture. Another is that big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are enabling companies to turn enormous amounts of unstructured data into rules and decisions. A third is that connected devices (the internet of things) and cloud technology are permitting decentralized and widespread data manipulation and analysis. And a fourth is that developments in manufacturing (think nanotechnology and 3-D printing) are creating more possibilities for distributed and small-scale production.

All six features represent potential solutions for linking market demand and technological capability. For example, greater personalization in the value proposition responds to the fragmentation of consumer preferences and the resultant demand for more-diverse offerings. That personalization has been made possible by sensors that collect data from connected devices via the cloud; the data is analyzed by big data solutions and turned into services—such as recommendations and alerts—that are different for each user.

From Innovation to Transformation

In theory, the more of the six features a new business model has, the greater its potential to transform a given industry should be. We tested that hypothesis by analyzing how many features each of the 40 new models displayed and comparing the results with its actual performance.

The taxi service company Uber ticks no fewer than five boxes. Its business model is built on asset sharing—the drivers use their own cars. Uber has developed a collaborative ecosystem in which the driver assumes the risk of winning rides, while the platform helps minimize that risk through the application of big data. The platform also creates agility through an internal decision-making system that responds to market changes in real time. This lets Uber apply usage-based pricing and direct drivers to locations where the probability of finding a fare is high.

Finally, Uber uses a scheme whereby customers rate drivers. Via the big data platform, a would-be customer can see on his or her mobile device the closest drivers and their ratings. The rating system pushes drivers to offer clean cars and quality service, and it also provides at least a bit of personalization. Allowing the customer to decide between the closest car and the one (maybe a bit farther out) with the highest rating may not sound like much, but it is still far ahead of traditional taxi services.

The implication of our finding is straightforward: If you are thinking about changing your business model or entering an industry with a new model, you can rate yourself on how well your model performs on the six features. If you don’t beat the competition on any of them, your chances of success are low. But if your model significantly outdoes the current model on three or more features, you are well positioned to succeed.

Uber has five key features of a potentially transformative business model.

To rate yourself on a feature, you must first define what it actually means in your industry. For example, in financial services personalization may mean tailored loan terms (including interest rates, monthly payments, and loan duration), whereas in retail it may mean customized T-shirt designs or one-off dresses. In education it may mean that the support provided to students changes according to their individual strengths and weaknesses, and in health care it may mean data-enabled, targeted medicine. Only when performance is expressed in such industry-specific ways can a company develop metrics to evaluate and compare its model on the key features and begin to think about how to differentiate itself by using new technologies.

Healx: A Case Study

Informed by our business model framework, we advised (and Cambridge Judge Business School’s business accelerator supported) the tech venture Healx, which focuses on the treatment of patients with rare diseases in the emerging field of personalized medicine. A big challenge for pharmaceutical companies in this domain is that rare-disease markets are very small, so companies usually have to charge astronomical prices. (One drug, Soliris, used in the treatment of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, costs about $500,000 per patient-year.) Some potential treatments are, however, being used for more-common diseases with large patient markets. They could be repurposed to suit the needs of rare-disease sufferers, but they typically work only for people with specific genetic profiles.

Enter Healx, with a platform that leverages big data technology and analytics across multiple databases owned by various organizations within global life sciences and health care to efficiently match treatments to rare-disease patients. Its initial business model hit three of our six key features. First, Healx’s value proposition was about asset sharing (for example, making available clinical-trial databases that record the effectiveness of most drugs across therapeutic areas and diseases, including rare ones). Second, the business promised more personalization by revealing drugs with high potential for treating the rare diseases covered. Finally, Healx’s model would, in theory, create a collaborative ecosystem by bringing together big pharma (which has the treatment and trial data) and health care providers (which have data about effectiveness and incompatibility reactions and also personal genome descriptions).

Healx’s latest business model brings personalization to the highest level.

How did we measure performance along those features? To assess personalization, we compared the amount of drug data currently provided to sufferers of rare diseases with the amount that Healx could provide, which initially covered 1,000 of the 7,000 rare diseases that have formal advocacy groups worldwide. These groups represent some 350 million people, 95% of whom currently get no even reasonably relevant drug recommendations. We measured asset sharing by looking at the proportion of known data on rare-disease-relevant drugs that Healx could access—about 20% in its start-up phase. Finally, we assessed its collaborative ecosystem by looking at how many of the main data-holding institutions participated—about a quarter.

At first Healx struggled to get pharma companies to join the platform; they were concerned that their treatment data would leak to competitors. But the Healx team spotted an opportunity to give companies an incentive. In 2014 the United Kingdom’s National Health Service introduced a new rule for pharmaceutical companies: If an expensive treatment doesn’t work for a patient, the company responsible can be forced to reimburse NHS providers for its cost. The reimbursement amounts were disease-specific and counted in the thousands of British pounds.

Treatment failure is often caused by specificities in individual genomes, and Healx’s managers realized that their technology could help companies predict such failures with high accuracy, potentially saving millions of pounds a year.

More recently, Healx has developed a machine-learning algorithm that can use a patient’s biological information not only to match drugs to disease symptoms but also to predict exactly which drug will achieve what level of effectiveness for that particular patient. The latest version of its business model brings personalization to the maximum possible level and adds agility, because the treating clinician—armed with the biological data and the algorithm—can make better treatment decisions directly with the patient and doesn’t have to rely on fixed rules of thumb about which of the few available off-label drugs to use. In this way, Healx is able to support decentralized, real-time, accurate decision making.

This version of the Healx model has even more transformation potential—it exhibits four of the six features; it has already generated revenue from customers; and in the long term it could empower patients by giving them much more information before they consult a medical practitioner. Although it is still too early to tell whether that potential will be realized, Healx is clearly a venture to watch. It has earned a number of prizes (including the 2015 Life Science Business of the Year and the 2016 Graduate Business of the Year in the Cambridge cluster) and sizable investments from several global funds.

You cannot guarantee the success of an innovation (unless you choose a market niche so small as to be insignificant). But you can load the dice by ensuring that your business model links market needs with emerging technologies. The more such links you can make, the more likely you are to transform your industry.

Which are the World’s most innovative FMCG companies?

Original article: http://www.nielsen.com/uk/en/press-room/2015/Nielsen-analysis-of-8500-plus-fmcg-launches-reveals-18-breakthrough-innovation-successes.html

London, 3 December 2015. Nivea, Robinsons, Strongbow, Vanish and Volvic are among a select group of brands to have successfully launched  products classed as ‘breakthrough innovation winners’ this year – according to Nielsen’s 2015 Breakthrough Innovation Report, which analysed 8,650 FMCG product launches – nearly 24,500 new SKUs – across Western Europe.

To be classed a breakthrough innovation winner, product launches had to meet three criteria: deliver a new proposition (not just a refinement); generate at least £10/€10 million sales in their first year of trading; and maintain at least 90% of their sales in the second year. 18 product launches did.

The Breakthrough Innovation Winners for 2015 are:

  • Ariel: 3-In-1 Pods (detergent)
  • Cadbury: Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations (chocolate)
  • Die Limo: Von Granini (beverage)
  • Dompé: (headache remedy)
  • Garnier: Fructis Schadenlöscher (hair care)
  • Garnier: Ultimate Blends (hair care)
  • Nivea: Cellular Anti-Age (face cream)
  • L’Oréal Paris: Elvive Fibrology (hair care)
  • Lay’s: Xtra (salty snacks/crisps)
  • Robinsons: Squash’d (beverage)
  • Scholl: Velvet Smooth Express Pedi (foot care)
  • Strongbow: Dark Fruit (beverage)
  • Sure: Compressed (deodorant)
  • Tchibo: Barista (coffee)
  • Tropicana: in Turkey (beverage)
  • Vanish: Gold Oxi Action (detergent)
  • Volvic: Juicy (beverage)
  • Yatekomo: (food)

“Three out of four new SKUs fail to generate even £100,000 sales in their first year of trading and are often delisted by retailers,” explains Marcin Penconek, VP of Nielsen’s innovation practice in Europe, and co-author of the report. “Breakthrough innovation is extremely rare but, despite perceptions amongst some, it’s neither random, nor down to luck, nor magic. There are clear patterns behind why consumers pull some products and not others into their lives.”

The report explains why launches succeed or fail, using an approach called “Jobs Theory” – the idea that what causes a person to consume something is not related to that consumer’s identifiable qualities – such as demographics – nor the product attributes, but to the specific circumstances around the job to be done.

Penconek explains Jobs Theory: “It’s the idea that people don’t so much buy products as hire them to perform jobs in their lives . Successful innovators display empathy – they clearly identify the circumstance where consumers struggle or have unmet aspirations and innovate around these.

“Breakthrough innovations are products that solve these issues in a distinctive and compelling way. They communicate it to consumers in a simple way, allowing them to make a clear link between their need and the new product – winners can easily explain their solution to an eight-year old child.”

A selection of winners below illustrates how Breakthrough Innovation was achieved this year:

  • Robinsons Squash’D identified a massive growth opportunity by changing consumer habits around the mature squash category, producing a new portable format so people could flavour their water out of the home. It generated over £11 million sales in 2014.
  • Scholl’s Velvet Smooth Express Pedi came about after listening to women’s unmet needs around their foot care routine. The solution to ‘hard skin’ had hardly changed in 100 years and led to consumers creating their own – potentially harmful – solutions. Scholl found a manufacturer producing electronic foot files in small quantities and, after positive testing results, ended up launching in 48 countries.
  • Sure compressed deodorant cans are a new disruptive technology, the biggest sustainable innovation the aerosol category has seen in over 30 years. Unilever global VP Mariano Sampietro explains: “We identified the biggest areas where, as a category or brand, we had an impact on the environment and society. This turned out to be waste, and within waste, the biggest contributor was aluminium from cans.” The new product contains 50% less gas and 25% less aluminium. The technology was applied to all Unilever deodorant brands and Unilever aren’t seeking to protect their innovation but to share it as wide as possible with other manufacturers.
Mark Schulzig, responsible for innovation management at Beiersdorf – the maker of Nivea’s winning launch – explains: “The ‘magic’ behind big innovations lays firstly in strong insight: find it, activate it and don’t change it. Secondly, you need to deliver a perceivable benefit with the product and not just a story. Thirdly, focus on fewer innovations and sustainably support them for a longer period to finally make them big – no innovation is born big. Lastly, the people behind the innovations make the real difference – with us, innovation always starts and ends with the consumer.”

The full Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Report for Europe is available for free download here.

ABOUT THE NIELSEN BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATION REPORT

Nielsen’s European Breakthrough Innovation Report provides facts, insights and thought leadership on innovation for marketers, based on real observations of impactful launches since 2013. The report is designed to help improve innovation outcomes, and to make every penny invested in innovation go further. The report is based on findings from the launch of 24,353 SKUs, representing more than 8,650 initiatives, from Nielsen’s proprietary ScanTrack Innovation platform, across five key western European markets: UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Breakthrough innovations in other markets, particularly Turkey, have also been reviewed and form part of the overall findings.

SADC: towards a common future

Original article: http://www.sadc.int/issues/science-technology/

Part of the vision of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is to develop a region where science and technology drive sustainable social and economic development, alleviate poverty and disease, and underpin the creation of employment opportunities and wealth. Most of the challenges facing regional integration as identified in Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2003) such as food security, energy, water, transport, communications infrastructure and human resources development will require scientific and technological solutions.

Science and Technology as a cross-cutting theme in the region can be used to develop and strengthen national systems of innovation in order to drive sustained socio-economic development and the rapid achievement of the goals of the SADC common agenda including poverty reduction and eradication.

Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation

A Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation was signed by SADC Heads of State and Government in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2008. It is a blueprint document that outlines the framework of cooperation between Member States within the SADC region. It came about through extensive deliberations between Member States and covers scientific and technological matters of interest within the region. Some of the aims and objectives of the Protocol in the region are to:

  • Strengthen regional cooperation and coordination;
  • Promote the development and harmonisation of policies;
  • Share experiences and pool resources;
  • Promote public understanding, awareness and participation;
  • Promote the value of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and technologies;
  • Attract, motivate and retain scientists;
  • Strengthen institutional capacity and facilitate institutional cooperation and networks;
  • Enhance and strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights;
  • Increase access to the teaching and learning of basic science and mathematics; and
  • Promote gender equity and equality in the teaching and learning at all levels of education.

Read more about Science, Technology and Innovation and their contributions to social and human development in the SADC region.

Relevant Documents

Responsible Unit

Bauhaus: a blueprint for the future

Original article: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/apr/13/bauhaus-dessau-barbican-rowan-moore

Not much united Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist dictator of East Germany for two decades, and Tom Wolfe, celebrant of the splendours and follies of American capitalist excess. Not much, except a loathing of the Bauhaus and the style of design it inspired. Ulbricht called it “an expression of cosmopolitan building” that was “hostile to the people” and to “the national architectural heritage”. Wolfe called it “an architecture whose tenets prohibit every manifestation of exuberance, power, empire, grandeur or even high spirits and playfulness”.

For Ulbricht it was alien to Germany, for Wolfe it was alien to America. Both agreed that it was placeless, soulless and indifferent to ordinary people’s needs. And if the Bauhaus attracted such consistent forms of hostility, that is due to the power and coherence of the image it presented to the world, of disciplined and monochrome modernist simplicity, usually involving steel and glass. Given that it was actually a short-lived and semi-nomadic school of design and art with the usual riot of individualists, visionaries, eccentrics, schemers and geniuses that such places attract, this appearance of unity was an achievement.

From May the Barbican is staging an exhibition of 400 of the Bauhaus’s works, the first in Britain on this scale for 44 years. It will stress the breadth of its output, including paintings by Paul Klee and László Moholy-Nagy, furniture by Marcel Breuer, textiles by Gunta Stölzl, architecture by Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, photography, film, ceramics, theatre, graphics and product design. It promises to portray the central ideal of the Bauhaus, “to change society in the aftermath of the first world war”, as the Barbican puts it, and “to find a new way of living”.

When Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 it was with these aspirations for a new life, and for a multiplicity of creative disciplines, together with a stress on the importance of making things as opposed to just theorising about them. But there was not yet a distinct form or direction to these ideas, and almost anything could be considered as a route to a better future, including new spiritualist religions and a strict vegetarian diet which had to be livened up with plenty of garlic. According to Gropius’s spectacular wife Alma, whose other husbands and lovers included Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka and the writer Franz Werfel, the most distinctive feature of the Bauhaus in its early days was garlic on the breath.

Certain questions were unresolved and intensely debated. Was craft or mass production more important? Could art and manufacturing be reconciled? Did individual expression impede service to society? In 1925 the school moved to Dessau, between Berlin and Leipzig. At the time it was an industrial boom town, the base of the Junkers aeroplane company. The harder-edged, more technocratic arguments started to prevail. The young Marcel Breuer started collaborating with Junkers on making tubular steel furniture of a kind that would eventually become commonplace in boardrooms and forward-thinking homes. Greater attention was paid to the commercial development and marketing of Bauhaus-designed objects.

In Dessau they built, in the extraordinarily short time of one year, the Gropius-designed building that became as famous as the institution it served. With its glass curtain walls and spare rectilinear forms, it crystallised what would become the dominant type of modernist architecture. It was one of the most prodigiously influential buildings of all time, a prototype that would be followed by office buildings, hotels, schools and hospitals in almost any country you can think of. In Dessau, Gropius and his followers could also try out other architectural ideas on the row of houses built for Bauhaus masters, and on 300 low-cost houses built for industrial workers on the Dessau-Torten estate.

In 1932, however, the school moved on again, to Berlin. The next year it fell victim to the National Socialists – another movement that, after the catastrophic trauma of the first world war, sought a new order and expressed itself through memorable visual imagery. Junkers started making Stuka divebombers, not Breuer chairs, and Dessau was all but flattened by bombing in 1945. The Bauhaus building was severely damaged, and only recently has been fully restored. But its influence spread. The Bauhausler diaspora, of ex-students and teachers building in the style they had learned, extended to Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Gropius migrated via London to the United States, where he became a professor at Harvard and designed the Pan Am building above New York’s Grand Central station, much disliked for the way it imposed on the view down Park Avenue. He also designed the Playboy Club in London, prompting a new generation of radicals to denounce him for selling out.

To visit the Bauhaus building now is to be struck again by the extraordinary way in which a single construction in a provincial town could have had so much effect. It is also to see nuances that, inevitably, imitators lost. For years the Bauhaus building was known to the wider world mostly through a few black-and-white photographs that stress its more easily copied details, but miss the point that it was a framework for the creative energy of the school. Its stairs, workshops and balconies were places of display as well as function, and its glass walls made a spectacle of its internal activities. One of the key spaces was an auditorium whose stage is connected to the communal canteen, thereby bringing together performance and life. It also has a subtle colour scheme, contrary to Wolfe’s assertions that the Bauhaus was only interested in black, white and grey. If it looked like a factory it also had properties of a commune, a cult centre and a theatre.

Although it was founded by Gropius, architecture was not at first the main point of the Bauhaus, and its vast legacy extends from graphics through product design to art. But architecture came to dominate the public image of the place, and the style of the building proved easier to record than the events that happened there. What Wolfe and Ulbricht railed against was its impact on the built environment. Which, if you only look at its form and not at its content, does indeed look sterile. Hopefully, the Barbican show will put this misconception right.

As for Alma, she tired of the work ethic of her husband and his school. At least if Tom Lehrer is to believed. As “Alma”, his tribute to her, has it:

But he would work late at the Bauhaus,

And only came home now and then.

She said, “What am I running? A chow house?

It’s time to change partners again.”

The hip-hop architect on how music and the environment can influence one another

Original article: http://brandnudesign.com/new-blog/?offset=1482008769401
Youths fly a kite in a street bordered with firegutted buildings in the South Bronx section of New York City in June, 1977. The Carter Administration has agreed to revive urban renewal projects in an effort to revive the neighborhood. 
AP Images

From its early roots in the Bronx to its current status as a worldwide cultural movement, hip-hop has never lost its street-level sensibility. When writing songs, rappers and lyricists trade in the currency of credibility, constantly dropping the names of street corners, city neighborhoods, even specific buildings and housing projects to connect listeners with the urban environment.

Hip-hop is often about place. And, according to architect Michael Ford, it is place—often poorly designed, underfunded, and cut off from the rest of the city through bad urban planning and structural racism—that birthed the genre. Ford, who has been tapped to design the forthcoming Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the Bronx, has helped coin the term “hip-hop architecture,” popularizing the concept as a lens for looking at the intersections of culture and the built environment.

But it’s not just about looking back at the ways urban planning and housing policy created the environment for new forms of music; it’s how the ethics and ethos of hip-hop can help inspire new solutions for designing our cities.

“I’m looking at the intersection of architecture and hip-hop,” Ford says. “I use hip-hop to look at the impact architecture has had on the community, and the impact my profession has made. Architecture has shaped communities, but we can go back and reclaim them, and reconnect those that have been lost to things such as freeways.”

Michael Ford

Ford, who wrote a thesis about the subject, Cultural Innovation, Hip-Hop Inspired Architecture and Design, while studying at the University of Detroit Mercy in 2005, believes this is a perfect example of the power of narrative. Historical discourse often pushes the idea that the “black ghetto” exists because of the cultural behaviors of its occupants. Exploring and exposing the conscious and subconscious efforts of past members of his profession to shape these spaces, and the effects those decisions have, can inform and inspire more community-oriented design in the future.

1520 Sedgewick Avenue
A Feb. 11, 2010 photo of the exterior of 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx borough of New York.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The Beginning: Moses, Le Corbusier, and Structural Racism

Ford can talk all day about hip-hop, how it started in the Bronx and at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue. But ask him who the godfather of hip-hop is, and he won’t say Grandmaster Flash or Kool Herc. He says it’s Le Corbusier. Of course, he doesn’t mean that literally. But the famed French modernist did create the architectural blueprints for the buildings that would become the cradle of the art form.

“This is not a means of taking credit away from the brothers and sisters who actually created hip-hop, but a method to make a sustaining narrative which links the built environment and hip-hop culture based on historical facts,” he said during a presentation in Austin. “And, to be honest, it’s a subtle jab at modernism and those celebrated as the standard bearers of our profession.”

Corbusier’s famous towers-in-the-park concept—a series of soaring high-rises interspersed with parks—aimed to bring “democracy and equality through the built environment.” He thought “good” or “enlightened” buildings would create good and enlightened citizens. Officials in Paris “thought his idea were crazy,” and never implemented Corbusier’s plans.

Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan
Built in 1942, Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, a Robert Moses project, was an early example of the tower blocks concept
Scott Davies: Flickr/Creative Commons

New York, and its infamous master-builder Robert Moses, had no such reservations, replicating parts of Corbusier’s plan as part of the massive slum-clearance and housing project programs he oversaw in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But, in what Ford calls “a terrible early example of sampling,” Moses borrowed part of Corbusier’s plan—the tall, narrow towers, and dense living conditions—but didn’t include all the amenities and park spaces Corbusier envisioned. The housing projects he created, an architectural sample, then became the standard for public housing across the country.

The construction of these dense towers, and the concurrent freeway construction that cut neighborhoods off from one another, created the spaces that birthed the different elements of hip-hop; DJing, MCing, B-boying, and graffiti. Areas choked of private spaces and arts funding, where creative youth congregated in public parks, towers and basketball courts, and created a cross-pollination of culture.

“People criticized Corbusier’s plans, saying they would ‘create a culture that begs for creativity,’” says Ford. “I call it a prediction of hip-hop culture, almost 50 years before it was born.

These towers had perverse impacts on their residents, says Ford. The physical environments had psychological effects. And it wasn’t just the landscape; social priorities and lack of funding for education or the arts also had a huge impact.

The Project: The Hip-Hop Museum

While Ford and others have published essays and research looking at the historical connections between hip-hop and architecture, he’s also trying to practice a new type of architecture influenced by the cultural movement.

The most high-profile example is his Universal Hip-Hop Museum, a forthcoming cultural institution in the Bronx that not only seeks to share the artform, be inspired by it as well. Instead of a traditional design brief and community feedback loop, the museum’s look was designed in part by a “cypher,” a term that references a freestyle rap battle, and has the support of rap legends such as Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang.

Universal Hip-Hop Museum mobile museum
A rendering of the mobile version of the Universal Hip-Hop Museum

Set to open in 2019 or 2020, the museum will also embody hip-hop’s focus on community. Thanks to funding from Microsoft, the initiative will also build a portable museum that, starting later this year, will travel between major cities in the years leading up to the permanent museum’s opening. A truck-like portable space, which Ford has nicknamed “Optimus Prime,” will travel to Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York, not only allowing fans to visit the museum in their hometown, but also to contribute. In a hip-hop spin on StoryCorps, visitors will be able to add their stories, including text and images, and tag them to a specific place, creating a map of hip-hop’s influence across different parts of the country.

“We wanted to figure out a way to make the museum accessible to people around the country,” says Ford. “It’s like mapping a phenomenon. It allows the pioneers of hip hop to tell their own story, it allows architects, designers and urban planners to fuse their culture with their practice and it allows the community to effectively engage in the design process of developments in their neighborhood. ”

The Vision: Architecture that reflects the community

Ford has described hip-hop as the “post-occupancy report of Modernism.” Referencing the term architects, designers and engineers typically use for their account of mistakes and success after a project is finished, Ford feels the lyrics and language of hip-hop, and the visceral descriptions of the urban environment, can teach his profession important lessons.

Creating spaces for and by the community matters. Using hip-hop as a connector, narrative, and frame of reference can get more people, especially people of color, engaged in shaping and designing their environments, a form of self-empowerment that seems perfectly aligned with the genre’s message. Only three percent of architects in the United States are African-American, says Ford. He wants to see more kids follow President Obama’s suggestion and become literal architects of change.

“Will hip-hop architecture allow minority students and young practitioners to make immediate contributions to the field of architecture, instantly raising the visibility of minority practitioners as a whole? “ says Ford. “I hope that the hip-hop generation will champion this new vernacular, and rely on our love for hip-hop coupled with our architectural knowledge, to build our communities and increase the number of minority practitioners.”

The Music: A hip-hop playlist about the environment and architecture

Consider this the playlist to Ford’s work. Curbed asked the architect to name some of the songs he feels showcase the relationship between hip-hop and architecture; we included a few below, which he recently played during a lecture.

KRS One – R.E.A.L.I.T.Y. – “Rhymes Equal Actual Life in The Youth”

“I used this song to describe hip-hop lyrics’ are reflections of real life in urban communities. If you want to hear a critique of the environment from which the music is made, listen to the music.”

Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five, “The Message”

“This song describes the urban reality of urban renewal.”

Snoop Dog, “Life in The Projects”

“Describes the dismal environments resulting from the modernist vision, Towers in a Park. The monotonous superblocks failed to provide the lush green environments once envisioned by Le Corbusier.”

Ain’t no trees, the grass ain’t green, And when I say it’s all bad, you know what I mean

Wu-Tang Clan, “S.O.S.”

“Wu-Tang member Street Life’s contribution to ‘S.O.S” reveals a deep frustration and level of tension between public housing authorities, architects and the tenants about the cyclical fostering and implementation of injustices upon African-American communities.

Street chronicle, wise words by the abdominal

High honorable, rap quotable phenomenal

Seniority kid, I speak for the minority

Ghetto poverty f*** the housing authority

The West Coast All-Stars, “We’re All in the Same Gang”

“In the song “We’re All in The Same Gang”, produced by Dr. Dre in 1990, featuring the top hip hop artists and rappers from the West Coast. Shock G eludes to John B Calhoun’s research during his verse below. Sociologist John B. Calhoun studied the behavior of lab mice under conditions of overcrowding and controlled resources. People eventually made parallels between the activities of his study subjects to humans, some predicting that overcrowding was in the future for the human race, and based on his research, violence, amongst other things, was an inevitable part of that future if we don’t change the way we design our cities.

I’m in a rage. Oh Yea? Why is that G?

Because other races, they say we act like rats in a cage.

I tried to argue, but check it, every night in the news, We prove them suckers right and I got the blues

Nas, “I Can”

“Nas told your hip hoppers they can be whomever they want to be, including an architect.”

Be, B-Boys and girls, listen up

You can be anything in the world, in God we trust

An architect, doctor, maybe an actress

But nothing comes easy it takes much practice

Why Diversity in Architecture Matters for Communities and the Bottom Line

Original article: http://brandnudesign.com/new-blog/why-diversity-matters

I’m honored to join thought-leaders Gabrielle Bullock and Lilian Asperin in the latest publication by Redshift,  “Why Diversity in Architecture Matters for Communities and the Bottom Line”. This conversation is a continuation of How Music Can Help Solve Architecture’s Diversity Problem and is a short preview of the upcoming South By Southwest panel discussion, Remixing Architecture with Hip Hop Culture, which includes Tiffany Brown of The Urban Arts Collective, University of Michigan professor, Dr. Craig Wilkins and Daniel Guillory, The Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Autodesk.

Photo: RedshiftPhoto: Redshift

What is process innovation?

Original article: http://www.innoviscop.com/en/definitions/process-innovation

“Process innovation means the implementation of a new or significantly improved production or delivery method (including significant changes in techniques, equipment and/or software). Minor changes or improvements, an increase in production or service capabilities through the addition of manufacturing or logistical systems which are very similar to those already in use, ceasing to use a process, simple capital replacement or extension, changes resulting purely from changes in factor prices, customisation, regular seasonal and other cyclical changes, trading of new or significantly improved products are not considered innovations.”

Scaling models through design

A tremendous deal of time is spent on the initial innovation of the product. Much thought should be given to how organisations can scale using innovative models.

This video explores:

  1. Scaling through distributed manufacturing,
  2. Scaling from transaction to collaboration,
  3. Scaling through new behaviours/new markets,
  4. From centralized scale to decentralised scale,
  5. Solving for the system,
  6. Scaling through trust – brand building,

 

Building a weather station

Open Data Durban in partnership with The MakerSpace Foundation hosted International Open Data Day in a dual-charged effort to ignite openness and participation in the Durban community. Together with environmentalists, ecologists, data wranglers, techies and active citizens we built an Arduino weather station. According to Arduino.cc “Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software.”

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How did we promote diversity in the day?

On arrival participants had to select different coloured stickers of what they thought represented their interest and skill set, choosing either a data wrangler; a maker; an environmentalist; techie and more importantly learners.  The latter being an obvious choice to Mondli, Nolwazi and Nosipho three learners from Umkhumbane Secondary School, located in Chesterville, a township on the periphery of Durban CBD. We invited the learners as part of our data club’s programme, where learners will also be building an Arduino weather station which will be rolling out soon.

It was essential that the teams were made up of each of the skill sets above to: ensure the project speaks to the broader theme of informed decision-making through the micro-weather station data; assisting participants assemble electronics; make sure the IoT device is programmed through code; to gain critical environmental insights towards practical use of the tool and more importantly to enable and create a guild of new-age active citizens and evangelists of open knowledge.

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Each team was provided with an Arduino weather kit consisting of dust, gas, temperature and rainfall sensors and all other relevant components to build the weather station. We did not provide the teams with step by step instructions for the build. Instead, we challenged them to google search the build instructions and figure out the steps. Within minutes, the teams were busy scouring the instructions from various websites such as Instructables. This emphasised the openness of sharing knowledge and introduced the learners to open knowledge and how someone from another place in the world can share their expertises with you.

What were some of the insights from the environmentalists?

Bruce and Lee, both retired ecologist and environmentalist respectively were charming in their approach to problem-solving and tinkering with the electronic parts. Although not well-versed in the Arduino toolkit their gallant efforts saw them learning and later tutoring the learners on building the weather station.

Their insights into the environmental status of Durban was unmatched and painted a grim picture of the Durban community’s awareness of the problems that exist.

What were some of the insights from the techies?

Often at our events, we have a number of techies come in who are brilliant at coding but have no concept of data science or how coding can be used to address various issues such as economic, social and environmental. This event helped to introduce techies to how coding Arduino boards and sensors can be used to gather weather condition data and further use to data to monitor the weather conditions in a given area. This data then allows the public to be aware of their weather conditions such as the concentrations of harmful gases in the air. The city can also map out pollution hotspots and identify trends which aid in decision making to eliminate or manage the air quality.

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How did the learners participate in the session? What were some of their learnings?

There were many different languages spoken by the participants which made communication across all groups a challenge however the confidence and enthusiastic wanting to learn prompted the learners to ask some captivating questions for the group members more notably in their pursuit of understanding how things work in the space.

All the attendees were attempting to build the Arduino weather for the first time. The adult attendees were quite hesitant at first to share what they were doing with the learners because they were not certain if what they were doing was correct or not and did not want to confuse the learners. Once the adult attendees were confident with the method of building, they then began to communicate more with the learners.

Outcomes of the day

We eventually saw one complete weather station built by Sphe Shandu who stayed behind after some team members tinkered with other goods in the MakerSpace, minus the LCD component (no team figured this out).

Learnings

  1. Lend an extra hand to students that engage with maker spaces for the first time in an urban setting, they have a natural innate understanding of the moving parts (3D printers, laser cutter, electronics etc) in the MakerSpace and not necessarily the context of new-age manufacturing, practicality and potential outputs.
  2. After lunch, the teams became quite weary. Progress dived down but the teams managed to pull through and complete as much as they could. Long events tend to be vigorous at the beginning and hit a stall towards the end. A possible lesson learnt is to host much shorter events.
  3. Teachers need to be incentivised to attend the programme outside formal school learning.
  4. Parents prove to be the most difficult stakeholders to engage – although involved in their children’s learning they need to be engaged to attend such functions.
  5. Attendance for community events on Saturday are most difficult to rally large numbers.