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CO-CREATION: Dissecting the Anatomy of the Ward Method

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Co-Creation: The Lost Art of Creating a World Together.

lost-art

New Zealand Students and Otara Youth working together on the Otara Project

In the Autumn of 1973, when I was teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, I was approached by a group of students wanting to take advantage of the Arch 191A (12 credit) course that had been designed in the aftermath of the strikes associated with Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State killings. The course had been designed, along student demands, to provide an integrated undergraduate programme of work and study that they could direct and evaluate themselves over an extended period. By that time, the course had been running for a year, and previous projects had been very successful. Previous projects had included the design of a Mercado by a group of Hispanic students, the design of a residential Architectural Education collective, the design of a sustainable community using combinations of solar, wind and micro-hydro power systems, and, in the last project, the design and construction of a house for a client in Santa Cruz, California. That project had been very successful, but not without its problems, as students who were unaccustomed to co-creativity and group decision-making struggled with the conflicts that such a complex project inevitably brought to the surface. Now, one year later, these students wanted to repeat the process. They wanted to design and build a house, with their free labour, if they could find a client who would provide them with a site and the building materials. I accepted their challenge, and what follows is an extended and analytical record of the story of that project. The Woodside project continued to exert an influence on my work and teaching until the present. What I learned then I have applied over the thirty-five years since that time, and almost always with great success. I will always be deeply grateful to the students and client on the Woodside project for the things they taught me.

The act of co-creation is never easy. We are not taught, in school or out, how to create beautiful things with others. All of our training is directed, on the contrary, towards competitive individualism, possessiveness, and sometimes envy. The students on the Woodside project taught me to understand that it is possible to move beyond these culturally determined ethics and mores, and to attain a skill and an ability to make a better world in the company and with the help and support of caring others. That, for me, has been the most important learning in my life, and one that I now hope to pass on to others so that we can confront the problems and difficulties that face us as a community, and in so doing create a world fit for our children and their children.
 

 

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