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INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Award-Winning Architect Guy Ailion
Inhabitat: You have 18 awards under your belt already, including the SA National Student of the Year and first prize for the Best Regional Architecture Thesis. Both were awarded in 2009 M. Arch Thesis project. Can you explain the philosophy behind your thesis?
Guy: In an age of instantaneous digital information, the ability to access the world’s knowledge from anywhere is a reality, except for communities on the other side of the digital divide.
With technology becoming cheaper and faster, the “Digital Divide” is more than lack of hardware, it’s a cultural divide. Nurturing information societies in a developing context needs a bottoms-up approach that applies local cultures and methods of interaction to global trends.
My thesis adapts the traditional information platform to a developing world context. The result is an open-information-campus model that provides new ways of thinking about social interactivity, the remix culture and opportunities for innovation.
Inhabitat: Although you are currently in England, you are from and studied in South Africa. What are some of the challenges you faced there as an ecologically and socially aware design professional?
Guy: The South African democratic context is still in its infancy and maturing slowly. There are of course plenty of designers and people of power who champion a local awareness for global and local ecological and social changes, but it is baby-steps for now.
One particular challenge is the current approach to social housing. The notorious 51/9 RDP prototype is what it sounds like: a generic, badly-designed walled box with a leaking roof that does nothing to inspire the occupants. These social housing prototypes are rolled out between election periods with little to no consideration for place-making, adaptability, meeting community needs, or home making.
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