Fisher urges public-interest design in Places article

Dean Tom Fisher (Architecture) cites the United Nations finding that since the 1950s, "the number of weather-related disasters like droughts and floods has increased over nine-fold, geological disasters like earthquakes have quadrupled, and biological disasters like epidemics have, amazingly, multiplied by a factor of 200," in an article, "How Haiti Could Change Design for Places. And this trend will only continue. Fisher, recognizing that it's impossible to predict when the next natural disasters will occur, maintains that it's entirely possible to "predict where they will likely happen and what effect they will have." Because the world's poor -- a population growing at the rate of 25 million each year -- live in "inadequate shelter on marginal land, often in seismically active and drought- or flood-prone regions, we can predict where the largest disasters, in terms of loss of life, will next likely take place," writes Fisher.

Fisher advocates that designers turn to a public health model of practice, public-interest design. Instead of serving individuals, Fisher says, architects need to start working, as Buckminster Fuller always said, to serve the greatest number. Fisher states his case plainly: "A prevention-oriented model of design practice would involve a more entrepreneurial way of operating, in which architects would not wait for commissions to come to them, but would instead proactively approaches communities or even entire countries with appropriate and affordable ideas of how to avoid the next likely disaster. Design fees would become less a cost and more a form of insurance, a current investment to protect against future losses."