The Curry Stone Design Prize celebrated its three 2011 winners with a two-day festival atHarvard’s Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Mass., the first week in November. An awards ceremony honored Hsieh Ying-Chun for post-disaster architecture, as well as Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée for collective urban architecture, and FrontlineSMS for open source mobile software. The winners are from Taiwan, Paris, and London. The $100,000 Grand Prize went to Hsieh, and $10,000 was awarded to Doina Petrescu and Constantin Petcou of Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée and Ken Banks of FrontlineSMS.
The evening opened with a world-beat performance by Atlas Soul followed by an introduction from Jim Stockard, Curator of Harvard’s Loeb Fellowship, which co-sponsored the event. Stockard welcomed the Prize founders Clifford Curry and Delight Stone and introduced the winners by saying: “Tonight you’ll see three stunning examples of two powerful forces–design excellence and societal engagement–joined together to produce true change in our world.”
Rahul Mehrotra, a former Prize juror and Chair of Urban Planning and Design at the Graduate School of Design, hosted the evening. Mehrotra recognized Prize SecretaryEmiliano Gandolfi, and Founding Secretary David Mohney, then extended a special thanks to Chee Pearlman, Curator of the Prize and herself a 2011 Loeb Fellow, for connecting the prize to the Graduate School of Design. Elizabeth Scharpf, 2010 Grand Prize Winner, and Anna Heringer, a winner in 2009 and a 2012 Loeb Fellow, joined the celebration. Three short documentaries about the winners by Room 5 Films debuted at the ceremony. Before turning the stage over to the winners, Mehrotra said the Prize “really brings together design and society, and I think that is a critical contribution.”
This year’s winners gave short introductions to their work before launching into an informal discussion with Mehrotra and the audience.
The following day winners led standing-room-only seminars at the Graduate School of Design. Hsieh discussed his method of involving communities in a rebuilding process, noting how initially reconstruction projects often seem overwhelming: “Once you encounter a disaster site, you realize you feel very helpless.” Joyce Rosenthal, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, led a discussion with Hsieh and Graduate School of Design students.
Andres Lepik, a 2012 Loeb Fellow, introduced Petrescu, who translated Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée as a “Studio for Self-Managed Architecture.” “This is a very important idea,” she said, “architecture that is self-managed by its users.” She said that Ecobox, she and her partner’s concept that uses abandoned spaces as temporary community centers, served as a model for their latest idea, R-Urban, which integrates many different community spaces. Michael Hooper, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning, led a Q+A discussion following Petrescu’s presentation.
Ethan Zuckerman, Director of the Center Civic Media at MIT, lauded the software for “not being shiny at all,” a recognition of its simplicity. Banks, FrontlineSMS founder, said the software is easily adaptable to a variety of uses by small organizations, non-profits, and individuals by connecting laptops to mobile phones, creating the benefits of an internet connection where Wi-Fi and satellite links are unheard of. Banks said, “It is really about the people and the problem, and the technology comes at the end. I think we have to be very open about that.” FrontlineSMS technology is now being used in many sectors, including health care, government reform, and anti-harassment campaigns.Nicco Mele, Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government led a discussion exploring additional applications for FrontlineSMS.