The Virtual Exchange Program got off to an energetic start yesterday at the University of Minnesota College of Design. Richard Neill and I traveled to the campus to run a workshop with architecture professor James Lutz. What is the Virtual Exchange Program?
During this active production time for Shelter we are meeting architects and engineers all over the world who are designing for good. We also meet people everywhere who would benefit from good design. We started to think about how to bring them all together...
The Virtual Exchange Program (vXp) is an open source forum for sharing design expertise and knowledge. It fosters dialogue among architecture, design and engineering students and people in developing nations and elsewhere who would benefit from an exchange of ideas.
I've spoken with architecture and design deans and professors at Pratt, Parsons, USC and other schools. Uniformly, the sentiment from them is that it's often not practical to travel design, architecture and engineering students around the world to connect with faraway people. Although travel programs can be costly, worldwide dialogue about design is necessary. (vXp) fills the need for design sharing and distribution with a new take on international study.
Since we make media for a living, we can create engaging videos that share humanitarian design projects in storytelling form.
What makes this different is that we burst beyond traditional methods of communicating design, architecture and engineering projects by using video and audio. We open an online communication channel for people needing life-saving design solutions. They are heard by the best and brightest students who are in a position to answer the call and create those designs. Media is the 'virtual' part of the exchange. The dialogue (vXp) creates can lead to actual people getting on actual planes. But at this stage of the project, opening the dialogue is what counts. Look at a prototype video that I just finished editing from our Haiti production.
Here's the plan. Wherever we go to film Shelter, we find architecture, engineering and design students in developing regions of the world, or in disaster recovery areas, and ask them to voice their needs for humanitarian design. We record them and make a short video. Then, guided by architecture, design and engineering professors, we show the videos to students here and ask them to respond with viable projects - projects that resonate with the needs expressed.
Yesterday in Minnesota we piloted an early version of (vXp) in a workshop we conducted at the invitation of Thomas Fisher, professor of architecture and dean of the College of Design, and James Lutz, the professor of architecture mentioned above. Jim led a group of graduate architecture students to Haiti last March.
We split the workshop between exploring design for good projects that we've filmed and talking about process of making short videos to promote, explain and propagate student projects.
While on campus, I interviewed Tom Fisher, who is a big picture thinker in architecture, design and policy. I will post some clips of that interview soon, but for now, have a look at Tom's blogs on the Huffington Post.
We're looking forward to bringing (vXp) to other colleges and universities.