Estudio Abierto / Open Studio is a platform for collaboration between design and allied disciplines, a platform for critical rethinking and action—practicing empathic urbanism for the anthropocene.
Q. I am not sure what you guys really do. What is it that you do?
A. We provide design and research services to specific clients as well as to the public, with a strong emphasis on social agenda. We design not for but with clients and communities, without sacrificing design integrity and excellence. We foster discussion and formulate design thinking regarding the architecture and urbanism's role in providing a built environment which allows for happy and healthy communities. In a way, we merge applied theory and reflective practice. A lot of firms/organizations do that, but what we bring uniquely to the process is a deep empathy for the immediate user community, the citizens of the place and the future users. The basis of any of our project is a mutual collaboration between built environment professionals, an interdisciplinary mood that is against the disciplinary silos existing today. That's why we find it hard to draw lines between architecture, landscape, ecology, infrastructure, urban design and city planning, and that is why we think the key to any successful design is 'true' collaboration (a horizontal collective intelligence and not superficial show of consultants).
Q. This all sounds very good, but I don't think you guys have any chance competing against real designers in the real world. Am I wrong?
A. Well, we think there is a demand for the way we are thinking of architecture and urbanism. Architects as of now are not known for their social role, but given the environmental conditions, the social injustice and mental ill-health all across the globe, we feel it is time to reinvent the role of the architect as a combined designer, artist and activist. As Steve Jobs said, no one needed the iPhone until it was invented, we deeply believe that we can shape the future market by providing services that is not there right now despite the need.
Q. Can I hire you guys to do my house / our city plan ?
A. Indeed you can. Our idea is to collaborate in each project based on its nature, and we can tackle any project that you throw at us. In addition to just building and city planning projects, we provide a host of services that usually a design practice will not provide such as pro-bono services. Click here to see a full list of our services.
Q. Who are your clients?
A. We offer a broad spectrum of services to individual clients, government agencies, NGOs, and especially the public (even if they don't pay us). We work with other architecture practices providing conceptual design support. We work with NGOs to design orphanages and shelters. We work Urban Rights groups to facilitate activism. We provide workshops to design students. As you can see, it is quite diverse.
Q. So, are you guys a non-profit?
A. We are both for profit and non-profit, in the sense that the profit we make from commercial projects are re-rolled into the organization to expand research, events, publications and pro-bono works. We operate across these hard-drawn lines and operate other revenue generating services.
Q. What about all the research work?
The research work is funded partly grants and partly by the profit we make from the commercial projects. Some of the research is specifically for certain conferences and symposiums but there is a metanarrative underlying all research, which is to regain the social and political relevance of architecture and urbanism, keeping the design excellence and pursuing technological advancements at the fullest simultaneously.
Q. Hmm. Interesting. Can I collaborate? How so? Whats the eligibility?
A. As you can guess by now, this studio is open.
If you are an architect/ planner / designer / artist / (basically anyhow profesionally related to the built environment), we are looking for exciting ideas / research agendas / design ideas that you might be mulling over. We welcome proposals and initiatives.
If you have an established firm / practice, we can collaborate as a peer agency and offer our design / think-tank support in furthering your project.
If you are an academic in allied fields (urban studies, sociology, social psychology, anthropology), we urge you to come forward with your insights regarding architecture and the city and collaborate with us to inform design practice.
If you are a client / NGO / govt agency / citizens, we see you as collaborators as well, and you can come forward with your ideas/ plans for a project and together we can take that forward.
If you are a student of any of these fields and would like to contribute in anyway, know that we are very open to ideas from you and we will offer support to mature those ideas towards something conclusive.
All that is needed for collaboration is a sincere interest in creating a more healthy, equitable and just built environment (and the suspension of ego).
Q. What's my benefit (most importantly, financial)?
Money alone won't help. Think of making others happy, and you will see how your life improves in that process. If you want to make money, this ain't the place! Click here to go to a more suitable place.
Q. Who are you to call the shots?
We feel we can no longer be blind to the 'real' world and we cannot afford to pursue our own petty disciplinary goals, awards and accolades (i.e. limelight of being starchitects or the aura of the distinguished chair). The built environment shapes human lives and in turn all other life form, hence, whether we acknowledge it or not, we are the professionals who are responsible. At the same time, we aren't naive. We know we can't prescribe design that will create a garden of Eden, but what we can do is to be more critical of our practices and only attempt to create certain affordances towards sustaining a healthy and happy human society. Due to this, we cannot use our profession as a playground for our artistic impulses and personal goals. We are deeply concerned at the state of human civilization (we as a species are in deep shit, if you haven't noticed).
As human beings, we have a responsibility to take care of each other and our habitat in an equitable way and as architects/urbanists we have the added responsibility to be the vanguards towards that goal—to be the stewards of our habitat. Estudio Abierto / Open Studio is our attempt to do exactly that from the standpoint of built environment. Given the enormity of the task, we believe, we need to create a collective intelligence network of designers working locally with the community and yet thinking and sharing design resources globally—a platform for collaboration. That is why this studio is open.