27 April 2012

Design challenge winners announced

An innovative idea to improve the use of existing infrastructure and buildings to provide shelter for homeless people has been named the winner of the RMIT Design Challenge 2011: Homelessness.

The winning proposal, Blind, was officially announced by RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, at an awards ceremony at Federation Square.

The annual Design Challenge, instigated by RMIT University's Design Research Institute, brings together researchers and specialists across a broad range of sectors to design creative and practical responses to an urgent and topical issue.

In 2011, multi-disciplinary teams were challenged to generate ideas to reduce the risk of homelessness, improve the daily life of people struggling without stable housing and build new pathways to social inclusion.

Blind was developed by Brendan Jones, RMIT lecturer and Director, Antarctica, and health consultant Ian Watts.

It proposes the creative adaption by local governments and organisations of underutilised public infrastructure and buildings.

"We explored a 'socially-engaged' architecture - an architecture of participation, in which architects and other designers engage with people at the coalface to 'extract solutions' and co-create new models," Mr Jones said.

"When we explored just one location, we saw a constellation of possibilities.

"What are the ways localities could tackle the issue of infrastructure in a way that is 'win-win'?

"The idea was to identify unused spaces in public buildings and turn them into short-term shelter for the homeless parents with small children."

Other proposals selected as finalists for the challenge were:
Almost Home - low cost small portable houses
Backpack Bed - swags for homeless who sleep outdoors
Crisis Housing - combined modular developments for transitional housing and service delivery
emPowerme - an online service designed to connect individual and company donors with homeless recipients
Homefulness - a campaign to raise community awareness with the aim of achieving full housing
Literate Living - a service designed to improve all types of literacy and engagement through common ground
Optimising Accommodation - a way to use interactive parametric design techniques to co-design youth accommodation
Shell - an innovative temporary sleeping/communicating/living capsule
Nomadic Networking - a place for technology and communications access and training

An exhibition featuring all the Design Challenge 2011: Homelessness finalists was held at Riverside Terrace, Federation Square, with proposals featured in three shipping containers.

The winning proposal was selected by an expert jury led by Brandon Gien, Managing Director, Good Design Australia and Chair, Australian International Design Awards and comprising Jenny Smith (CEO, Council to Homeless People), Gerhard Voster (Chief Strategy Officer, Deloitte), Pierre-Yves Panis (Design Vice-President, Legrand, Paris), Michelle Berryman (Principal, Echo Vizualization LLC, Atlanta), Professor Chris Chamberlain (RMIT University), Geoff Fitzpatrick (Director National Strategy, Design Institute of Australia), Rob McGauran (Director, MGS Architects), Professor SueAnne Ware (RMIT University) and Luci Klendo (Program Development Assistant, Lighthouse Foundation).

RMIT Design Challenge 2011 exhibition at Federation Square

The exhibition at Federation Square was held in three shipping containers.

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Professor Margaret Gardner with Ian Watts and Brendan Jones

RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO with challenge winners Ian Watts and Brendan Jones, the team behind Blind.