Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement

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Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement (October 3, 2010–January 3, 2011) presents eleven building projects on five continents that bring innovative architecture to underserved communities. The featured architects address the functional requirements of their designs but also aim to have a broad positive effect on the communities they work in, as partners in social, economic, and political transformation beyond the boundaries of their often modest sites. In addition to new modes of participatory design, the projects on display incorporate pioneering site-specific ecological and socially sustainable practices, including the exploration of both new and traditional materials. Populations that have previously rarely enjoyed the attention of architects are engaged in designs incorporating innovation worthy of the broadest attention. The renewed commitment of these architects and many of their colleagues to socially responsible architecture is reminiscent of the ideals of twentieth-century masters, but these designers eschew their predecessors’ utopian, wholesale blueprints for change imposed from above. Small Scale, Big Change presents radically pragmatic, “acupunctural” projects—limited interventions with wide-reaching effects.

Three Internet-based networks—forums in which community leaders, architects, and nongovernmental organizations share information and experience—are also featured in the exhibition, extending its scope beyond the individual projects to include stakeholders in various areas of practice around the world.

These projects have been selected from an increasingly large number of similar initiatives around the world because they exemplify the degree to which architects can orchestrate change, prioritizing work that has social impact but also balances very real concerns of cost, program, and aesthetics. They succeed in providing communities not only with physical spaces but with opportunities for self-determination and an enhanced sense of identity. As a result, these architects are both designers of buildings and moderators of change. Their integrative methodologies could serve as models for the profession at large.

Organized by Andres Lepik, Curator, and Margot Weller, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.

The exhibition is supported in part by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art. Research and travel support was provided by the Patricia Cisneros Travel Fund for Latin America.

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