At first glance, scarcity would appear to be a shortage of raw materials or resources. Understood in this way, scarcity primarily demands of designers that they provide more economical and efficient designs. But raw materials and resources are more than just goods that exist in isolation and inevitably run out at some point. They are part of complex networks, in which shortage is largely a relational concept.
Three leading international urban thinkers and designers from different generations - Jeremy Till, John Habraken and Axel Timm - share their insights in the ways in which scarcity is constructed. They will shed light on the role of scarcity in the design of the built environment and will present their own design approaches that creatively transform the notion of scarcity.
Separating the idea of scarcity from the classic quantified, material definition allows us to understand it as an expression of a relation between human needs, local circumstances, technical possibilities and political decisions. Thus, we can differentiate between the reality of scarcity and an ideology of it. The reality of scarcity is an objectively assessable condition in which demand exceeds supply. But where does demand come from, and how does supply come into being? By investigating these questions, we can disentangle and make visible the entire network of connections between material, technological, economic, political and cultural realities. This vastly increases designers’ options for responding creatively to scarcity.
Jeremy Till (UK) is an architect, writer and educator. He is head of Central Saint Martins and pro vice-chancellor of University of the Arts London. He is the initiator and project leader of SCIBE, a European research project exploring scarcity and creativity in the built environment. Jeremy Till is the prize-winning author of Flexible Housing (with Tatjana Schneider, 2007), Architecture Depends (2009) and Spatial Agency (with Nishat Awan and Tatjana Schneider, 2011). With Sarah Wigglesworth, he designed the “Straw Bale” house and office, a prime example of radical ecological and sustainable architecture in Stock Orchard Street in north London.
John Habraken (NL) is an architect, educator and theorist. His major contributions lie in the field of mass housing and the integration of users and residents into the design process. In his seminal book Supports: An Alternative to Mass Housing (1962), Habraken proposes means of giving inhabitants a meaningful participative role in the design process. In 1960, Habraken designed the World Bottle, or “WOBO”, for Alfred Heineken. A stackable beer bottle that can be used to build walls, the WOBO is a pioneering example of industrialised recycling and adaptive reuse of materials.
Due to personal circumstances John Habraken had to cancel his participation for the evening. His presentation will be taken over by curator of Het Nieuwe Instituut, Hetty Berens. The programme of the evening will stay the same.
Axel Timm (D) is a founding member of Raumlabor, a Berlin-based network of eight collaborating architects working at the intersection of architecture, urban planning, art and urban intervention. Raumlabor is committed to working with places on their real scale, and to discovering and using what they find within the conditions of the site. Raumlabor does not solve problems but rather initiates processes that give actors the opportunity to know, understand and use the city and its dynamics as well as its possibilities. They strive for an architecture in which space can be merged with individual experience, uncovering new qualities and leading to new images of the city in the minds of its users.