Review: Design and Landscape for People

Design and Landscape for People: New Approaches to Renewal by Clare Cumberlidge and Lucy Musgrave


The world is facing some pretty big challenges in this next century. From issues of pollution to climate change to growing inequality to overpopulation, the list goes on on and on. Many are adamant that using large scale policy instruments to affect change is the best solution to our problems.

But what this remarkable book outlines, and quite clearly I’d like to say, is that many people often forget that there are many examples of inventive, small scale solutions to these issues at the local level. Across the world, non-profits and governments are coming up with reliable solutions to difficult problems. This book is a carefully collected sample of these projects.

The book was divided into five sections by topic. I’d like to highlight one project from each section.

  • Utility: Playpump, South Africa – This product brings drinkable water to poor, rural South Africans that is powered by a play wheel for children, providing both drinking infrastructure and recreational infrastructure for children. The project goes to show that innovative, cross-disciplinary designs can be used to address real problems.
  • Citizenship: CLEAN-India, India – This program taught young Indian students the principles of environmental monitoring and management, while also giving them resources to use these principles in their home towns. This empowered young people to be activist-agents over their environments and become advocates in their communities.
  • Rural: Nelson Mandela Museum, South Africa – This was one of my favourites in the book. The Nelson Mandela Museum radically changes the way we perceive a museum, from being a static shrine to achievements, but into a living component of the community. The buildings can be used for community events and job programs are provided to local residents.
  • Identity: OASIS, NYC – The OASIS (Open Accessible Space Information System) enables citizens and non-governmental organizations to interact with and add information to mapping infrastructure that the city directly uses to make informed decisions. It was really fascinating to hear about a product that clearly enables a more participatory democracy.
  • Urban: Project Row Houses, Houston – Taking dilapidated row houses in Houston’s poor Third Ward, they were renovated into artist residences, low-income housing, and transitional housing for young mothers. A great project that provides local improvement without furthering gentrification.

It is this slew of projects that really show that smaller projects can do great. big things in their communities. The smaller scale also allows for the cultural context and local identity to incorporated which would not be possible in some large scale solutions. It is this type of thinking that I think politicians and governments everywhere can learn a lot from.

I would definitely recommend this book if you work in public policy, international development, architecture, or urban planning.






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