Given, there’s a universal quality to “good design.” But how far does universal go? When it comes to solving for design dilemmas and implementing these solutions in city-specific ways, does good design really mean the same thing in New York, London, Paris? Across all continents? In the case of SCADpad, World Architecture News answered “yes” when it handed Savannah College of Art and Design its first international award for the SCADpad micro-house community.
Attracting more than 1,300 entries from 72 countries, the WAN Awards are among the largest of their kind, and a barometer for what’s trending in architecture and urban design on a global scale. SCADpad emerged a winner from a long list of submissions from countries as far flung as Singapore and Sydney, Florence and Monterrey.
Why does SCADpad resonate internationally? It goes beyond the three prototypes, inspired by and named for Asia, Europe and North America.
SCAD is a global institution with a presence on three continents and a diverse student body that hails from more than 100 countries worldwide. A natural and regular outgrowth of its composition are projects that transcend international borders and push the limits of what’s being done in design.
That’s a good idea! We have been talking about this for years and here they did it. -WAN Award judge Mark Mimram, Marc Mimram Architects, Paris
Even when SCAD acts locally, as it did when it built SCADpad in its back yard (well, parking deck), its agenda is global. Underpinning that agenda is a belief that design can change the world, and the world view of aspiring designers who are informed by experiences in their home countries, like industrial design student Chung-Hsiang Wang (Taichung City, Taiwan) who created 3-D objects for SCADpad.
I've lived in Bombay and seen the space constraints, especially in the slum area. Micro-housing units could be a solution. - Sharika Menon, interior design student and SCADpad resident
Secondly, when design efficiently addresses a pressing social concern, especially one that is widely held, it sparks conversation. Globally, the urban population is expected to increase to 5 billion people over the next two decades. With half the world’s population already living in urban areas, this increase will squeeze the global housing inventory even more. Simultaneously, the parking garage has reentered the dialogue and presented new opportunities for architectural ingenuity. Think 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami.
SCAD aligned these trends, added a dose of expertise in adaptive reuse, and created a laboratory where 75 graduate and undergraduate students from 12 academic programs - including furniture and interactive design, architecture and design for sustainability - could apply their solutions for the urban housing shortage.
The resulting SCADpads may not have been created outside of the university setting. If urban design by its nature is transdisciplinary, then very seldom do the resources exist outside of a collaborative setting like the academic one to solve for the kind of pressing global issues that rarely see breakthrough solutions.
So, it appears, SCADpad was recognized by an international body as much for the final result as it was for the process behind its creation.
Though it was the only university-sponsored project among WAN’s 2014 urban design contenders, SCADpad is evidence that, just as the world depends on research universities for scientific breakthroughs, we can look to art and design universities to inspire and deliver viable concepts for our most pressing social challenges. We should follow WAN's lead and take a closer look inside these classrooms for the next big ideas.