Global Design and Resiliency: Collaborative approaches towards innovative solutions

Published by: RoseMary Botti-Salitsky

Problem In recent years many natural and human generated disasters have forced the design profession to rethink how we approach design and start to incorporate planning for resiliency early in the design process. ASID issued an Industry Statement on Resilience, signed by a coalition of America’s design and construction leaders, defining resiliency as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events” (ASID,2015). This requires a new integrated method of planning for resiliency as part of the students’ thinking, being proactive instead of reactive. This may sound idealistic but it is an imperative paradigm shift as we educate the next generation of designers, to be mindful and have the skills to participate in global initiatives. Rodin (2012) outlines five main characteristics to be resilient. To be aware, adaptive, diverse, integrated, and self-regulating (p.13). Strategy In Spring 2015, a multidisciplinary pilot course was offered to undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Business and the School of Design. The course intent was to enable students to develop proficiency in the methods to document and interpret the cultural, historical and resiliency of communities. The course incorporated a one week travel component to Prague and Berlin that included a service learning civil engagement component, fulfilled by collaborating with another institution in Prague. Often, when thinking of service learning the first thing that comes to mind is some sort of volunteering; however this approach was an academic-based experiential education to address a social issue of community, see Appendix A (Carnegie Foundation, 2011). The collaboration was an intense studio charrette experience that explored a local park with ongoing homeless occupants and developed solutions to allow them to continue occupying the site. Resiliency and integrating the occupant’s needs were part of the challenge. This discussion of human resilience was also accompanied by a tour and lecture of a squatter community in Berlin; as well as Teepee Land, an alternative (homeless) community along the Spree River. Analysis Although the emphasis of this course was based on resilience in the built environment, a great deal of discussions and research was committed to the importance of resilience in all facets of a community. Many students made reference in their Reflection Papers (Appendix C), as to how they can begin to interpret resiliency in their given major and implement strategies. A key factor in Gensler’s 2015 Design Forecast is “wellness and resilience are getting widespread attention, not least because of the global threats posed by epidemics and climate change” (pg.1). Appendix B are examples of infographics created by the students, addressing various research focus areas. The R!SE Initiative is an ambitious United Nations initiative to a daunting global challenge. “It is a new way of collaborating, on a global scale, to unlock the potential for public and private sector actors who are ready and willing to make a step forward and take leadership on disaster risk reduction”(UNISDR, 2015). The overall goal of generating collaboration across private and public business sectors to identify and create effective disaster risk management strategies by the year 2020. Rodin president of The Rockefeller Foundation states, “We need to stop lurching from crisis to crisis and by focusing on resiliency we can unleash new opportunities that we have not yet imagined” (2014). This course was just one small step to expose students to collaborating in a multidisciplinary global environment. Business, Architecture and Interior Design students have skills that can contribute and impact resistant strategies in both the US and internationally. The true test will be inclusive operating models that incorporate facets of the society and built environment to problem solve, create and implement resilient strategies.


  • ASID. (2015). Interior Design 2015/2016 Outlook and State of the Industry. Washington DC: ASID Research
  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2011). The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, 2010 edition, Menlo Park, CA: Author
  • Rodin, J. (2014). Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong the Resileence Dividend . New York: PublicAffairs- Perseus Books Group
  • Rodin, J (2014,November 15). Safe, Resilient, Strong: Planning for Tomorrow’s Cities. Speech New York
  • UNISDR. (2014). R!SE, Disaster Risk-Sensitive Investments. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction