Media Reflection + Comment WM-03 | Salon B | Summer 2018

Salon B
Post Your Media Reflection + Comment at the Bottom ↓

Salon A Salon B

Integrative Writings Based on All of Your Media Reviews

For each Module: Read, view and absorb the Theory + Practice video’s, readings and / or  slides located on that workshop module page. 

  • Post by 11:59 PM (midnight) on Saturdays an integrative written reflection on all of the theory + practice videos, readings and / or slide decks for the active Workshop Module. 
  • Post your reflection online in the comment section located at the bottom of the page 
    • Theory – Write about 250 – 300 words / Post a thoughtful + integrative reflection narrative supported by least two quotes from authors or speakers + 4-5 key words or phrases.
    • Practice – Write about 75-100 Words / Identify and connect issues in RELi to your project / If the section includes a review of RELi Requisites + Credits, identify at least [3] that relate to your project. Briefly describe that relationship.

On Reflection Posts 

Reflection Post Comments: For each Module read, view and absorb the Reflection Posts for at least (2) other workshop participants.

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  • Write about 125 -150 words for each comment / Start with posts that have no comments / From there, please feel free to comment on comments.
  • As always, refrain from using inflammatory language or pejoratives.


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Keywords: Inequality; Relativity; Approximate Knowledge; Social capital; Superchicken

This week’s media once again allowed me to see my environments differently in terms of systems and parts and the relationships of various agents within this systems and their effects on each and every single other object or agent within in. I really loved Wilkinson’s presentation and defense of the data he presented, proving the effects of relative social inequality. Much like the data that has been presented in past weeks about the reality of climate change and global warming, it is hard to “unknow” this and ignore it, given the clearness of the data. Especially given our current political climate and the state of the US, looking at the successes of other countries in the context of how we as Americans fall short, is sobering and important. Brown and the Mondragon example both show distinct examples of solutions at work. Though at a small scale, they are representations of what could be… and within our discussion of systems…here is a quote from Brown, “If you can reverse any element in the system, the entire system follows and the entire system can be reversed and propel itself upward.”

Additionally, I really appreciated the comments from Heffernan. Not in the context of sustainability, resiliency, or systems in particular, but actually it hit home with me specifically about our own office culture and some of my complaints with the way things are run in our New York Office. This was hands down one of my favorite TED talks of all time, independent of this exercise. It was helpful to hear her perspective and insights period.
In general, I found that the tone of each of these pieces of media was more hopeful than those of the last few weeks and that was really refreshing. Change can be overwhelming to consider, especially since we are just one of many. But the concept that our actions [relationships] will affect the immediate adjacencies but in turn affect every piece of the system, is a powerful and empowering notion.

Within the Turken house project, CV 3.1, 3.3, 3.7 apply. Given that this is a residential project, the other credits are less realistic.

Hey Matt – nice and succinct as usual. I agree with you wholeheartedly on your response to MHeffernan’s piece. I felt she spoke so well to emotional intelligence so needed these days in work, especially our unique design studio scene. Sorry to hear there’s less than good vibe at NYO. Be patient, perhaps the new MD hasn’t had time to get a feel for what’s working or not yet to aid in upping the quality. So, back to topic … at first I was a bit put off by MHeffernan not specifically speaking to resiliency, yet in short shrift I remember that we are talking about systems-thinking, and the interdependency of relationships between others, processes, and other systems is what binds the wonderful web of living phenomena together. The soup became richer and far more tastier once I let the broth linger a bit longer.

Hello Matthew,

Very well summarized. The video also helped me see my environments differently in terms of systems and parts and the relationships and effects of various agents within this systems. I also loved the talk by MHeffernan. She spoke to aptly about emotional intelligence. I was attracted towards her “Culture of Helpfulness” – when we share and teach we are at our best.

By Jessica Florez

Key Words:
Social connectedness
Social capital vs. rivalry
Approximate knowledge
Time builds value
Not super chickens

Quotes I really liked:

One of the characteristics of a flawed system is that it tolerates errors. Is poverty an error?

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the many who are rich.

There is a continual flow of matter through a living system, while its form is maintained; there is growth and decay, regeneration and development. Hence, the understanding of living structure is inextricably_ linked to the understanding of metabolic and developmental processes.

This module covered material very close to my heart and personal interest in my career. I often say that social capital IS capital, but hearing about data and studies to back that concept up was extremely insightful and inspiring. I had 4 “aha!” moments:

1. Income inequality is positively correlated to health and social problems, as well as social trust. I was surprised to hear this. I think most of us intuitively know that the lack of a solid middle class in any society leads to lack of social cohesion and other issues, but to think of it in terms of health and trust was news to me. I found the data incredibly revealing and worth exploring more. It reminded me of a quote from Mayor Fischer of Louisville: “We are only as resilient as the least of us.”

It is very important in the projects that we do to think of how we use them to help bridge the gap between the wealthy and the poor. Affordable housing, for example, should not be seen as a quota to fulfill, but as an imperative in building a resilient society. This is a conversation that most people are still not willing to have, especially when working with developers from out of town as it is hard to sell the idea of a more resilient city to people who do not have social investment in the city they are working on. It is important that we as professional offer that bridging voice. I know I have not always done it in the past.

2. We are suffering from lack of knowledge as we fight poverty. According to Jim Brown, workers-owned cooperative are 3 times more successful and productive than other companies. That was news to me. To understand the mechanics and to educate people on the benefits of workers-owned cooperative seems like a plausible step in fighting poverty. Whether we fight poverty through these types of cooperatives or other systems is up for debate, but the importance of the message to me was that: a) There are cycles and systems that need to be reversed. b) The right systems need to be in place for societies to fight poverty. c) Ownership is key in productivity and success. d) Only flawed systems tolerate errors.

3. Social capital is compounded with time. Though this was referenced in terms of a company, it can and should be applied to larger systems and organizations, such as neighborhoods and cities. In Atlanta, the social disruptions we are seeing through gentrification and we have seen in the past through urban renewal has devastating consequences. Displacing families takes them back to the basics of survival (having to relearn habits, rituals, etc.) as opposed to allowing them to succeed. Every time one of us takes a step back, we all take a step back.

4. The concept of approximate knowledge.

I really appreciated the quote you cited from the Mayor of Louisville: “We are only as resilient as the least of us.” It’s a very instructive concept. It’s obviously similar to the “weakest link” idea, and reminds us that our solutions need to address not only our immediate context, but also the bigger picture within which our projects sit.

I was also intrigued by the workers cooperative example. I too am interested to know more about the way that kind of company works. What are some examples here in the US? What are the impediments to establishing that kind of company?

Your reflection seems to be cut off. Is that why it is missing any discussion of the Practice portion regarding how the CV credits may apply to your project?

Hi Jessica,

I like the way you have put down your reflection with 4 “aha!” moments. I won’t say I was surprised to hear that income inequality is positively correlated to health and social problems. I did find the data revealing and worth exploring more. It was interesting to hear the quote from the Mayor of Fischer of Louisville. To educate people on the benefits of worker-owned cooperative seems like a possible solution but not sure if these kinds of cooperatives can alone fight poverty. Social capital is compounded with time – should be applied to neighborhoods and cities. And finally – the concept of knowledge. I really liked the way this is discussed in the video.


First, I would like to say that the soundtrack of this module is great! Second, Of all the modules so far, I found the material of this most interesting.
The videos on cooperativism made me wonder if this model would be possible in architecture. The conclusion I reached is that the client would become more important than the cooperative, which would lose its relevance to the cooperated. Unfortunately perhaps this business model is not feasible for architecture, or there is another way to structure it that I do not know.
In Brazil, credit cooperative are becoming very strong. The profits of the cooperative return to the cooperated, which increases the interest of many people. Not to mention that the focus of the cooperative is on developing its cooperated, which helps many to have better financial conditions. I am from a city where cooperatives are very strong and we see a significant improvement in the quality of life of these people.
Like Richard Wilkinson, it may not be possible to measure exactly whether people’s purchasing power directly influences their quality of life, but there we see people who are focused and motivated to work more and more.
Besides the subject of cooperativism, which I am familiar in the financial arena, Margaret Heffernan’s video was very inspiring to me. I understand that many of the corporate environments we design have these concepts, but listening to them laud and clear makes us give more values ​​to these spaces and also projects them in a more welcoming way. Where people feel more welcome to share their lives with their colleagues.
In a way, I think RELi as a way to get to know each other better, the way of thinking of each one and a way to approach the various offices of the PW around the world. Creating an international collaboration network.

– “I see worker-owner cooperatives as a systems solution to the problem of poverty, making the captalims more inclusive.” Jim Brown 
– “Employees own a part of the company and they are involved on tough decisions.” Mondragon Company
– “What happens between people is what matters.” Margaret Heffernan 
– “Culture of helpfulness: I don’t need to know everything, but I need to work among people who are good of getting and giving help.” Margaret Heffernan 

KEY WORDS: Cooperatives; Empathy; Helpfulness
Since the project I chose is a single family weekend home in a gated community, I do not see how to meet the items in this RELi chapter. Some that I noticed were possible:
– Credit 4.4: Organize and Develop a Community Communication Tool
– Credit 6.1: Develop or Expand Local Skills, Capabilities + Long-Term Employment + Mix: Credit 7.1: Because it is a high standard house and quite large, it will require several staff for maintenance. These will be from the region- Regional Materials LEED MRc5: Much of the building materials of the house might be local.

Hi NataliaMartins,

I like your idea about a co-operative real estate investment group. What would members of the co-op get in return? A share of the investment profits? In order for a co-op to differentiate itself from an investment trust fund it seems like the co-op members would need to get more than just a share of any profits. Community-oriented architect like parks or community event centers could be a means of a more tangible benefit of being part of an architecture co-op.

Great insight into affordable housing. That was an “aha” moment for me as I was reading your reflection. I certainly agree that affordable housing and other social safety nets can be seen in this way. Actually, I venture to think that affordable housing may help other profitable enterprises keep social unrest at bay while they make their millions. I wonder if stronger actionable programs in addition to the housing should be pursued similar to the way that affordable housing is tied to development. Similar to educating and incentivizing worker coops cited in Jim Brown’s TED talk. It seems so difficult for business to take the long view. Build these people and communities up so they will produce, consume and invest. Similar to how Henry Ford is always mentioned that he paid employees well so they could afford his cars.

I guess that’s where we fall on the other side of the coin. Looking long-term (climate change, resilience, etc.) as opposed to those who see short term gains and profits. Targeting those businesses and developers may be a key starting point.

-Brent Ross

Whoops, guess I hit the wrong “Reply” button, that was for Jessica’s reflection.

Hi Natalia,

Thanks for your reflection. I appreciate the insight of how things are done in other countries and their impact in the community. We have so much to learn. I think what you are hinting at, which is something Margaret Heffernan’s video expressed brilliantly, is the idea of ownership. Productivity is higher, we take better care of our built and natural environment, social cohesion is stronger, etc. There are so many benefits to the idea of ownership, I think it’s worth exploring. And yes,

I love the idea of creating an international collaboration network! Hope to keep learning from you.

WM-03 Reflection on: Community Cohesion, Economic and Social Vitality

The media that was the most interesting to me this week is the reading “The Systems View of Life” as I am very interested in social interactions that our designs create. I believe that environmental problems that we are facing nowadays are highly influenced by the way we treat each other, our family members, neighbours, community, other human beings, animals, plants, and our planet. The statement that “there are no parts at all” and that “what we call a part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relationships” made me thinking that we need to put a lot more attention on understanding which relationships between users are allowed within the spaces that we design. If our designs do not allow for strong social cohesion to occur, if there is no potential for the diversity of users and interconnectedness, links of the web will be very weak. This leads to loneliness, indifference, negligence. If people do not get the opportunity to build a strong relationship with community where they reside, if they do not care about their neighbours and family, how will they care about something that is more distant, such as other continents, some far away seas, forests and the whole planet?
Another important idea discussed in this reading is the idea of the approximate knowledge. I think this is also very much related to our profession and very much applicable to what we do. Architects most often design and build for the unknown people. We do not know who exactly is going to use the space that we design. We use vague and broad terms as “young families”, “people who love sport”, “children”, “seniors”, but we do not really know actual personalities. Therefore, in order to design spaces that could fit the final users in the best possible way providing certain level of flexibility and adaptability, we need to accept the idea that our projects do not need to be fully designed and might be much better and much useful if left slightly incomplete. If we shift our focus to flexibility and adaptability, in return, that will lead to the greater resiliency of our buildings.

Since very important aspect of this project is community cohesion I believe that this whole segment of RELi Requisites and Credit is applicable. The following requisites and credits will certainly be part of it:
– Poly-Credit 2_Community Connectivity: Walkabaility, Public Transit, Non-Motorized Transit
– Poly-Credit 3_Community Connectivity: Mixed-Use Commercial, Housing & Public / Community Space
– Poly-Credit 4_Expand Citizen Participation: Public Amenities, Councils, Organizations, Communication

Well Slavica, I am so impressed by your reflection this week. I wish I could have been so clear headed in my own. You hit the nail-on-the-head squarely by relating the quality of one’s daily social & environmental experience as a critical to how one relates to the rest of the world, or perhaps helps one to find (and to “know”) their own reality is indeed part of a larger whole. Another thought you offered, which clicked for me, is the disconnect we often create in our design/programming process by generalizing about the occupants/users/stakeholders/public. I am keenly aware of this issue since my partner is a User Experience designer and she often shakes her head in wonder seeing how Architects are not as knowledgeable or informed about getting the user experience aspect of design more attuned. Do you think we solve this by investing more time in engaging the future beneficiaries of our work, or making a point in our design process to ask ourselves more specifically who are we really designing for, and then assessing how we think we are realizing the take-aways?


Hi Slavica, thank you for relating the material back to design, that is some really good food for thought. It makes me think that another way to think of approximate knowledge and the importance of social cohesion that we learned about this week, is to say that we know now that fostering a sense of community is important across all people. So even when we don’t know our users perfectly there is still some fundamental social knowledge that we can design around. I also like your idea of an “incomplete” space, it sounds like it’s ready for many possibilities to play out within it. This brings to mind an idea bout “open-minded” spaces that I read about once in Richard Rogers’ and Philip Gumuchdjian’ book, Cities for a Small Planet. Open-minded spaces are defined as inclusive – they foster tolerance and contact between people of different age, class, ethnic background, etc – as opposed to “single-minded” spaces which serve only one purpose, usually consumerist by nature or serving a singular private demand. It was a good read.

Hi Slavica:

Well expressed.

I agree with you. The idea of approximate knowledge is a fascinating concept that we designers embrace without realizing. I wish the policies and regulations that make cities possible would be set with a similar approach (though I recognize the limitations of this). Our regulations are so prescriptive and permanent – this restricts the possibility of feedback loops and testing to inform their development.

I also agree with your take on the strong social cohesion that is needed to care for our environment. I am often amazed at the strong social, economic, and environmentally-friendly engines informal settlements are, for example. They may lack basic infrastructure, but they are incredibly resilient in other aspects – there is something to learn about that.

Thanks for your insight!

Hi Slavica,
I really believe this is the distinction between architecture and interiors. I’ve spent a career picking up the slightly unfinished work of architecture and customizing it for the user groups. That’s why I have always felt so strongly that we should integrate our design with all disciplines from architecture, interiors, brand, signage and wayfinding, etc. We should work together, and sometimes from the inside out, to really target the end-users of every design. I’ve spent hours and weeks and months interviewing key stakeholders and departmental representatives to focus in on operations, workflow, adjacency, interactions and work process to custom fit the interior buildout for every group. You get to know the occupants of the interior architecture we design, develop long lasting relationships with them and continue to work with them as they grow and change over years.
I would say that this is the reason I specialized in Interior Design in Architecture. I wanted that social connection with the people that live in our design, where they spend most of their time.

Interesting perspective and you’ve touched on one of our professions oldest dichotomies. We build for interactions and social cohesion within the buildings and structures we build, but for the most part the walls that confine and define our interventions are meant to create a boundary. This division provides safety, it defines property, it defines in and out, it defines belonging and foreign. Designer usually strive for interconnectivity with the immediate surroundings, but generally fall back into the norm of walls for safety, for protection, for defining the edge… Looking ahead, will this definition of the boundary continue to be tested? or will these walls becoming even stronger and more fortified as our world becomes more chaotic and more violent and polarizing?

Community Vitality

Key Words:
Economic Inequality
Relative Income
Status Competition
Super Chicken

Robert Wilkinson’s ted talk was one of the most impactful in regards to community vitality. Having spent most of my summer’s in Venezuela as a child I witnessed first hand the effects of a large gap income gap between rich and poor. While that country was relatively stable in those years I observed what a difference there was in the way that we lived in comparison with my life in the US. There were pubic spaces but they were virtually unused. There was always a sense of insecurity and that insecurity grew and grew steadily for decades. The insecurity was a result of the tension between rich and poor which was later stoked by the political leaders. This was ultimately the undoing of the country and today anyone who is able to leave the country does so. There are no longer any resources (medicine or food) to live a stable life.
I compare this experience with my experience as an adult living in New York, one of the most vital communities I have ever experienced. Another place with vast income gaps. Yet for the numerous amounts of people with different backgrounds, ethnicities, and income brackets, people all live in a relatively harmonious way. One of the differences that I have observed is the vast amount of resources that New York allots to public services and civic buildings. The parks system, the subway, public libraries, museums and cultural activities. These are all available to the public with little to no payment. While I lived in New York I was a part of a worker owned cooperative. The park slope food coop had thousands of members and only required you to work 3 hours a month in exchange allowing you to buy your groceries at a greatly discounted price. Some of the services that they provided made it a humane place to work. They provided free childcare while you worked and shopped, the also provided parental leave for both parents for six months. As a new mother at the time, I felt incredibly supported by my community.

Margaret Heffernan’s ted talk on pecking order at work is always fascinating.
While I had watched this one before I had a different takeaway this time. I was particularly focused on the “Culture of Helpfulness”. I have observed over the years different levels of helpfulness in my own workplace and have always felt that we were at our best when we are in a high mode of sharing and teaching. Not only does it help in solving immediate problems but it builds trust and empathy among our employees. I do feel like the roadblock to encouraging this culture are the super chickens, who may make people embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask for help. Unfortunately this is a vicious cycle, “a flawed system that tolerates errors”.


Hi Adriana! I was in Venezuela in November of last year. I only went through the first border town, on the way to my holiday destination, but what I saw was extremely shocking. Mileage lines to buy fuel, with a limit of 20 liters per person per day. Rows that turned the corners to buy chicken. Yesterday came the news of the inflation of the country that will be astronomical. With the minimum wage, it is impossible to buy a pound of chicken, the bill does not close. Not counting the queue of people to cross the border into Brazil every day.
I talked to some people there and they all complain about their situation, but everyone is afraid to say anything against the system. I see their situation and I end up comparing with Brazil. Unfortunately, some of the candidates for the presidency here agree with the “dictatorship” there.
Here we have the same things you said you saw there, public spaces that are virtually unused and especially the sense of insecurity. I believe that the biggest problem in Brazil is that the last government accustomed the poorest to receive money from the state, without having to do anything in return. 16 years later, they do not want to work and do not know how to make money otherwise, except through the government. There is no incentive for these people to escape poverty. There is no education.
I would like to know more about this cooperative you worked with. It has nothing to do with architecture, right?
Here in the São Paulo office we are lucky to have the “Culture of Helpfulness”. Perhaps because we are a small office compared to others, this makes it easier. But it’s really motivating to work alongside people who are always helping each other and caring about the learning of others, not just about deliverables.



Keywords: community over competition, self-organization, trust, resilience, economic inequality, social mobility, working poor, cooperatives, social capital, helpfulness

Synthesized Takeaways:

Richard Wilkinson shares the important finding that in developed countries, the average well-being of a society is not dependant on gross national product or economic growth, but rather on the degree of economic equality within the society. There is a strong correlation (and at least in some cases, provable causation) between the amount of economic inequality in a society and the amount of social problems that society experiences, whereas there is no correlation at all between gross national product and amount of social problems. The US is one of the most economically unequal countries and displays a high degree of many social problems, one of which is low social mobility. “If Americans want to live the American dream, they should go to Denmark” because social mobility is much higher there i.e. it matters less what the social/financial background that you come from is.

Wilkinson points out that the most equal countries get to equality in different ways: you can either use taxes to level the playing field, or level out salaries. It doesn’t matter how you get to higher equality, just that you get there.

The psychosocial effects of inequality are feelings of heightened “social evaluative threat” that lead to more status competition, more consumption, and more worry/insecurity about our self-worth. Chronic stress from such social threats is a predictor of health in developed countries, linked closely with health problems such as heart disease.

Wilkinson’s recommendation is to constrain incomes (presumably taxation would work too), control the culture of bonuses at the top of companies, and make employers accountable to their employees. Otherwise, conditions of high inequality create a class known as the “working poor,” whereby full-time work doesn’t provide enough income for employees to break the cycle of poverty that they’re in (i.e. doesn’t allow for social mobility). This message leads into two videos on worker-owned cooperates that subvert typical corporate culture by structuring themselves in such a way that workers are highly involved in tough decisions that keep a company running, especially in economic downturns. For examples, workers at Mondragon collectively decided to take a pay cut and to give up Christmas bonuses to keep all current employees employed in a downturn. Cooperatives also provide a way to break the cycle of poverty, such as in the example of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Wilcox county, Alabama.

Margaret Heffernan reinforces the point that competition is ultimately less productive and leads to more social problems than when workplace community is fostered. Highly successful teams are able to thrive in stressful and challenging situations because they’ve invested the time to build on social capital: to build trust, candour, support structures, and comfort about disagreement. The most successful teams aren’t those that have the smartest people, but those that have the best social bonds. “What matters is the mortar, not just the bricks.”

For me this week’s material tied back strongly to last week’s reading on hope by David Orr. He suggested that a lifestyle change could improve both our health and the planet’s health. This week, we see how true that assertion is likely to be – if more equality leads to less social insecurity and less competition, we won’t be so tempted to exhibit our status (real or contrived) through consumerism. Not only does better social cohesion improve quality of life, but the lower emphasis on competition and consumerism could improve environmental health as well.

(Richard Wilkinson coauthored a book with Kate Pickett that I would highly recommend if you’re interested in the longer story of the findings in the TED talk. The book is called “The Spirit Level”.)

Does anyone have book recommendations on worker-owned cooperatives?


Credit 1.1: Understanding and balance – (Envision QL3.2 Improved Level – Required)

Poly-Credit 2
Community Connectivity: Walkability, Public Transit, Non-motorized Transit
Credit 2.2: Access to Quality Transit

Poly-Credit 3
Community Connectivity: Mixed-Use Commercial, Housing & Public / Community Space
Credit 3.4: Open Space

The small size of the AVRIL project, and the fact that it has one quite specific function would make it difficult to justify pursuing some of the more involved CV Credits. However, there’s nothing to preclude us from considering views, and designing for open space to function as outdoor community space. Also, the project is conveniently located just south of a future bus layby area which I believe would meet the requirements for Access to Quality Transit.


I enjoyed your takeaways and reflections from this week’s media selections. I agree with your insight into David Orr’s work. I see it almost as a change in incentives. Beyond a lifestyle change, reshaping the ideas of success and ambition, redefining the long defunct American dream. I found a TED talk that spoke to this idea that I found inspiring that discusses this dependence on growth . It may be work a watch. I appreciate the book recommendation. I wish that there was a published list of books on this topic that Doug or others would recommend. I’ve been trying to hunt and peck, and look at the speakers to see what they’ve written to go more in depth. I think we’re only skimming the surface in the media we’re consuming and we need more as professionals when we get in front of clients and propose some of these ideas.

-Brent Ross

Hi Anna,

Thank you for such an elaborate summary on Margaret Heffernan and Wilkonson’s findings and points. I wanted to make a comment that I was blown away from these ideas after reading and seeing it on RELI. Society inequality is a real thing in the US because the media projects it vastly and especially how our economic system works. Furthermore, education is not free as well as our healthcare system and that ties back to financial restrictions. America talks about the American dream but it does not provide a realistic or affordable route that works for everyone in terms of social equality. I also noticed that America’s culture and marketing is skewed and biased. We need to reshape our thinking and focus more on community over competition. That would have to trickle down to the school systems. but yeah, more of a resiliency effect if we start with grade schools and expand awareness and thought process from there.

Tina Nguyen

WM-03 Reflection

How Economic inequality harms societies, by Richard Wilkinson is an example of what happens when one piece of a complex system is separated out to be dissected and examined, specific to societal issues (a boundless plethora to choose and pick from to support any argument). With a predestined intent; arguments, experiments, and summations are constructed to support one theory. Not totally discounting this examination, one must remember, when viewing a complex system, view it from different angles to build a truer 3-D comprehension. It would be a shame to implement control and policy based on such a one-dimensional analysis. It will do good to remember, “Systemic properties are destroyed when a system is dissected, either physically or conceptually, into isolated elements.” (The Systems View of Life, Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi).

For Mr. Wilkinson to redefine his definition of wealth from GMP to that of ‘social values’ (“… GMP per capita doesn’t make any difference.”) would totally upset the laboratory and these predestined premises.
The theory that ‘income gaps’ is the sole driver of all social degeneracy seemingly ignores other prime drivers proven over and over, such as: loss of family values; lack of personal improvement, goals, drive, and expectations; lack of mentorships, father figures, or other positive examples; direct assaults of these values from Hollywood, The Media, and political extremes (including Liberal professors) all for their continual necessity to elevate ‘shock-value’; redistribution of wealth (to support and justify the lack of desire for previous mentioned values); detriment of illicit drugs; over taxation & regulation; and on; and on: and on; and on…
These are typical examples of ‘values’ drivers of the most complex and developed societies that allow and experience freedoms to such an extent that they can also be detrimental.

Mondragon, a hug Basque Cooperative that is beating the crisis, 2012 Excerpt from the Documentary Shift Change, presents the opposite extreme. In lieu of blaming GMP for all societal issues, it focuses on creating GMP using the ‘wealth’ that particular social group (or township) already possesses; family values, desire for personal improvement, mentoring, self-ownership, and being a stake-holder (democracy) participating with decisions.

How to stop poverty: start a worker-owned cooperative, Jim Brown | TEDxTuscaloosa |, asks the questions, “Is chronic poverty an error we’ve learned to tolerate? Is our economic system flawed?”. Questions are good as long as they do not become the single thesis whereby the answers are applied to the whole when it actually analyzes only a thin slice of a complex system operating in cycles.
I would argue those in power (governing authorities and allegiances) tolerate chronic poverty. The rest of us are simply striving to maintain and protect our families, manipulated as pawns. The tiniest movement on the levers of power effect major segments of society for generations, potentially and profoundly detrimental. What is missing are analysis of what happens when ‘power’ is misplaced (in the hands of a few)… will they not use it to their personal benefit, or to further their ideologue? One example of “Power” is influence, coming from The Media, Hollywood, and political radicalism (as chosen and magnified by The Media). And there you have it, THE FEW: The Media, Hollywood, and Politicians (and whom they have allegiance to, which is not the pawns).

Practice: the following credits can apply towards this project.

CV Credit 3.2 Surrounding Density and Diverse uses applies. Multiple are located within the .5 mile walkable radius including: hospital and emergency care, clinics, repair shops, affordable housing, affordable retail space, light industrial, research facilities, credit union

CV Credit 3.3 Provide Community Access to Useful Space, including: bus and train shelters, car + bike share lanes, and bike parking.

CV Credit 3.4 Open Space that encourages interaction with the environment, social interaction, passive recreation, and physical activities:
Provide outdoor space greater than or equal to 30% of the total site area (including building footprint). A minimum of 25% of that outdoor space must be vegetated (turf grass does not count as vegetation) or have overhead vegetated canopy.

The outdoor space must be physically accessible and be one or more of the following:

a pedestrian-oriented paving or turf area with physical site elements that accommodate outdoor social activities;
a recreation-oriented paving or turf area with physical site elements that encourage physical activity;
a garden space with a diversity of vegetation types and species that provide opportunities for year-round visual interest;
a garden space dedicated to community gardens or urban food production;
preserved or created habitat that meets the criteria of SS Credit Site Development—Protect or Restore Habitat and also includes elements of human interaction.
For projects that achieve a density of 1.5 floor-area ratio (FAR), and are physically accessible, extensive or intensive vegetated roofs can be used toward the minimum 25% vegetation requirement, and qualifying roof-based physically accessible paving areas can be used toward credit compliance.

Wetlands or naturally designed ponds may count as open space if the side slope gradients average 1:4 (vertical: horizontal) or less and are vegetated.

For projects that are part of a multitenant complex only
Open space can be either adjacent to the building or at another location in the site master plan. The open space may be at another master plan development site as long as it is protected from development. If the open space is not adjacent to the building, provide documentation showing that the requirements have been met and the land is in a natural state or has been returned to a natural state and conserved for the life of the building.

Robert – your critique is fresh and useful for balance to how many of us, including me, try to find positive connection of the media with our immediate relationship to the material. I like your reinforcing of your critique of RWilkinson with your take-away from FCapra. I am not sure about a couple of things though. One, are you fundamentally at odds with the thesis each presenter puts out for our consideration, or are you advocating a general skepticism? And two, I am not sure what you may have learned as either an enhancement to how you work, or how you may tackle the several contextual ideas the CV media cover as a means to drive the resiliency discussion on your project or projects generally.

Hi Robert,
I really appreciate your critical reflection as I also do not believe that poverty issues could be so simplified. What bothers me all the time is what is it that people living in Sweden or Japan have that makes them so different and able to fight corruption and poverty. That is why I think the disproportion between rich and poor is so hard to overcome – it is influenced by so many factors, or entities that contribute from it are so much in power. However, it does relate quite a bit to the resiliency of a society and is an important idea to keep in mind.

Hi Robert,
I would like to argue that making education more accessible and affordable is the ultimate way to make a change in social mobility and reducing the income gap. However, like you said people who have power tolerated chronic poverty and they might not have a system-thinking mind. Or in other words, they are doing very little to provide essential skills for the poor to make a change. What the poor needs are not only a temporary job but skill training to fit in the changing job market.
I’d like to see more leaders in our society spend efforts to advocate education and skill training rather than forcing manufacturers to relocate.

Hi Robert,
I appreciate your perspective and agree with you, there are so many factors that contribute to social and economic inequality and balancing economic inequality through taxation or other means is not going to solve all the problems and make everyone happy, healthy and prosperous. There is a start to reform but people have to genuinely care for other people in order to make a difference and it does have to be supported from the top down, meaning those in power and a position to influence change. People have to be supported to flourish and support each other to grow.

WM-03 | Reflection: Community Cohesion, Economic & Social Vitality




Just when I was settling in for the hard fight to combat degradation of the environment, I get blasted with wake-up call about what’s happening to our social structures. I suppose one part of me is overwhelmed by the total complexity, yet I realize through this module’s videos and readings the social and natural are inextricably tied into one another. We are bound to this planet and its healing requires healing ourselves. Social inequality and economic inequality create a crisis in society where the individuals in that society who are at the bottom of the income or wage ladder, suffer mental and physical stressors, which affect health, longevity, susceptibility to crime, etc. Sustainable communities and societies need to address income inequality by reducing the gap.
RWilkinson’s presentation is telling about the crisis (perhaps more poignantly the excess) of laissez-faire capitalism. In large democratic, market economies, the average GNP and growth percentage, has no bearing on difference between nations in contrast to the income gaps existing between countries, and even between individual American states. Social dysfunction is the most significant outcome of income inequality and the impact becomes more significant when the size of the gap increases. Chronic stress hormone exposure derived from social threat activities, i.e., challenges to social standing, self-esteem, performance quality, etc. lead to extensive mental and physical health impacts

JBrown’s presentation applies systems-thinking experience and perspective to the poverty problem. He defines poverty as the downward spiral caused by the loop of no money->no education->no jobs-> no money, which is not a problem about people but one of circumstances. He argues self-reinforcing cycles like this are reversible by changing the direction any one of the system elements. He relates an example of a system that favors people over profits – the idea of worker-owned cooperatives and wonders why we don’t see these systems more ubiquitously.

Limits in more worker-owned co-ops seem to be …
– Complicated, Complex, and Difficult to set up the relationships and responsibilities between all the members – management, decision-making, income sharing
– Little service provider support ecosystem(s): legal and state requirements vary widely and are not easily determined, so co-ops often have to do the work themselves
– Skills Argument: fallacy of lack of education equated with lack of skills; if good production methodology establishes standardized work practices, then enabling pathways for improvement and worker skill increases
– Lack of Knowledge: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, then it cannot save the few who are rich.” JFK Inaugural Speech, 1961. So, spread the knowledge about systems-minded approach to worker-centric, community-centric cooperatives.
MHeffernan’s presentation was excellent in its humanity and tapped into my emotional sense of what I experience on a daily basis. I feel fortunate to work in an environment that honors what she advocates. Social connectivity counts. Helpfulness requires people getting to know each other. Bonds, loyalty and trust are essential elements to be encouraged among co-workers and teams. Pitting employees against each other due to individual stars “pecking” others into performing is a failed system. In today’s world, the combined work of everyone working together is crucial to finding stellar solutions and encouraging new thinking.

The workplace of today is in transition from one of “superstars” to one of highly social teams. These teams are most effective when they are given time to “gel” by building crucial bonds. These bonds can create interdependencies which help individuals’ ideas thrive and morph into greater-sum-of-parts solutions. The potential for openness allows candor and debate to be non-combative, but still be an essential sort of strife to sharpen the team’s ability to creatively and quickly establish highly effective approaches to problem solving.

Capra & Luisi present a series of categorical elements which define the difference between Cartesian and Systemic thinking methods. What is intriguing is the representation science is not a wholly objective description in the classic notion of independence from the observer, but is dependent on the observer understanding their process of knowing + questioning as well. How comforting to appreciate how scientific method recognizes approximate and limited knowledge, yet over centuries of discourse this method has created theories and models of observed phenomena where the approximations have improved over time. This reading connected well with me and reminded me of how I am invested in sustainable practice, and ultimately the rationale for RELi. I gravitate to a world view where the complexity and interrelatedness of living phenomena is understood from a perspective that celebrates pattern, relationship, lucid observation, and personal knowing. I seek immersion in nature to participate in discoveries which are a sort of exploration into the epistemology of Self. The experience is less about the ego but more about Carl Jung’s concept of individuation where the relatedness of your conscious and unconscious express through a greater whole. I wonder if the collective mentality of nature and humanity can undergo a similar kind of integration.

Finally, the extra credit follow-on to the Mondragon worker’s cooperative in Spain, expressed an exemplar to take more seriously as we forge ahead. The long-term viability of this co-op, which has survived and grown over a half-century, is exceedingly interesting for its core tenets favoring equality, egalitarian social dynamics, and consensus-based decision making. There is a sense that the large member population is highly committed to collaboration and preservation of their interdependence on one another for success in business, planning, education, and financial well-being (both as a group of co-op ventures and as individual members). The heart of how this system of cooperation appears to be thriving and to be highly social is the pay range between the highest and lowest earner members is held by all members’ agreement to vary only between 4-6 times multiplier. So, social capital gained through equity, respect, and trust creates a thriving and resilient system.

While 75 Hayden is fundamentally a building, it is nonetheless part of a campus within a mixed residential, conservation, and commercial neighborhood.

CV is an important component to consider for this project and is appropriate to developer’s commitment to 75 Hayden’s programming to include community gathering space.

Poly-Req 1: Option 1: Broad community alignment (Envision QL1.1 Superior Level);
Poly Credit 1: 1.1, 1.2, & 1.3 Option 1: Community preservation and enhancement – (Envision QL3.2 Superior Level);
Poly Credit 2: 2.3 & 2.7 Bicycle Facilities, 2.4 Reduced Parking Footprint, and 2.11 Connected and Open Community: Internal Connectivity (Case 2.)
Poly-Credit 3: 3.3 Provide Community Access to Useful Space, 3.4 Open Space, 3.5 Joint Use Facilities, potentially 3.8 Option 1: Access to Civic and Public Space
Secondary Tier considerations:
Poly-Credit 6: Option 3: Local Capacity Development – (Envision QL1.3 Conserving Level)
Poly-Credit 7: 7.1 Regional Materials LEED MRc5
Poly-Credit 8: Option 1 Improve Local Productivity – (Envision QL1.2 Superior Level)

Hi Andy!
Your reflection is very thorough and enlightening. I haven’t checked out the extra credit reading material yet but the idea of equality and egalitarian social dynamics seems to be promoted in most big corporates now. I don’t necessarily find Worker-Owned Cooperatives would be the perfect direction for all business types because it might not emphasize or even suppress healthy competitiveness which drives creation and innovation, like in a lot big tech firms.
But corporate culture changes from profit-driven to forming good teams seem to be more sustainable for our society. And I agree that transparency and social cohesion creates a better work environment where ideas can be formed.

I think there is a lot missing from the content we reviewed related to community vitality that the credits speak to. It was great to understand that certain factors are out of whack in some of today’s communities and how inequality is detrimental to society. We were also given one approach to combat this inequality through worker coops. However, there are other examples in the credits of strategies and goals that also contribute to cohesion.

We can’t forget about connectivity and infrastructure, community engagement and inclusion, and diversity in all aspects. Margaret Heffernan states forcefully that we have big challenges ahead and that in order to solve them “we need everybody”. Her point related to shifting reliance from individuals to the society as a whole. I would expand upon that focus and state that we need everyone’s perspective. It is through the diversity of perspectives that we can gather the widest variety of ideas and build strong consensus around the best ones.

I’m sure there are plenty of interesting studies or talks that speak to these aspects of increasing community vitality. Health effects of walking and biking to work, or diversity within board rooms and executive suites. There are a host of examples that could be explored. Here’s a talk where the discussion is about avoiding sameness:
I wonder if the RELi structure is sufficiently flexible to allow and encourage diverse and appropriate local solutions.

“In science… we never deal with truth” This idea from “The Systems View of Life” struck me. It has a similar poetry as architecture does. This simple balance between building science, physics, comfort and beauty, culture, and expression. I hope to bring this idea into my work, that I operate within approximations of truth. Developing solutions that can reach out and find the edges of those approximations is how we will progress in architecture and society.

Keywords: Diversity, inclusion, engagement.

Working at the University of Notre Dame, a private, catholic-based, institution, it is easy to see a disparity between the campus and the surrounding area. There are many underlying relationships and benefits that happen between South Bend and the University, however, the benefits may not be equitable. I would encourage the University to examine Poly-Credit 5 and seek ways to have a more positive and equitable impact on the surrounding community.
As the project is on a college campus and already has locker rooms for its occupants, the Bicycle Facilities and Reduced Parking Footprint credits should be low-hanging fruit.
As described in my LINK diagrams, the positive impact that the University could have on the regional material supply by requiring the Regional Material and Social Equity in the Supply Chain should be considered. The University could(should) play a leadership role in developing resiliency in the region and they will be one of the institutions with a long-term vision.
Below is the list of credits that should be considered for my project.
• PA Credit 2.3 Bicycle Facilities
• PA Credit 2.4 Reduced Parking Footprint
• PA Credit 4.2: Actively Participate in Local Disaster Recovery Programs
• PA Credit 5.3: Human PHD: Social Equity within the Supply Chain
• PA Credit 5.4: Human PHD: Social Equity within the Project Team
• PA Credit 7.1: Regional Materials LEED MRc5
• PA Credit 7.2: Regional Materials Envision Requirements
• As a campus:
○ PA Credit 5.2: Human PHD: Social Equity within the Community

-Brent Ross
Notre Dame Basketball Practice Facility

Brent, I also came to the same realization while watching Margaret Heffernan’s talk about the social aspects of the solution for change. Not only do we need community involvement to bring change, we also need the perspectives that each person can bring. We are living in a culturally diverse world and everyone comes from different backgrounds which allows a variety of ideas to be presented. I do believe that science can outline the issues, but society has a strong chance of presenting a solution. I do believe as time progresses, the study of resilient design will move to the forefront of what design is aimed toward.

Chen Qin(Boston)

Keyword: Social Cohesion, Social Inequity, Salary Gap, Worker Ownership and Cooperation, Social Capital.

The average well-being of our societies is not dependent any longer on national income and economic growth, but salary gap between the poorest and the richest. – Richard Wilkinson

Social capital is the reliance and interdependency that builds trust. Management by talent contest has routinely pitted employees against each other. Now, rivalry has to be replaced by social capital. – Margaret Heffernan

This week’s media brought up the topic of social inequity and the power of social cohesion. The graph in the talk which displayed the salary gap between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent in each developed country really blew my mind. Then Richard continues to show more data and relationships between social problems and the social inequity. An interesting point he shared is countries like Japan and Sweden use contrasting tax policy but both able to reduce the income gap within their societies.

Margaret Heffernan shared a new organizational value that is not individual talent-driven which is one of my favourite talks this week. She addressed the harm that a mindset for competition and suppression can cause to a business organization. We highly emphasize collaboration in today’s work environment due to the complication of work tasks. And Margaret simply pointed out why a greater social capital with bonded team members can improve the performance of a group. This theory can probably also be applied to a society. It actually helps us understand why countries like Japan and Sweden with less income gap can achieve better social stableness. That the Japanese soccer fans stayed after the World Cup’s game and picked up trash together might be a great reflection of their culture and their social cohesion on a larger scale. No wonder Japan has a large industrial capacity, and manufacture most advanced technologically motor vehicles.

And the reading of The Systems View of Life continues to elaborate the perspective of system thinking. We are so used to use Cartesian way of analytical views, but the world functions and updates itself like a system.

My Maine Medical hospital project can achieve a few of the CV credits because community connectivity is one of the core value of the project.
– Incorporate important community views and aspects of local landscape
– Community Connectivity: Walkability, Public Transit and Non-motorized Transit

I am glad you are using MMC as your case study. I wonder how much resiliency has been discussed in the context of operations and the design, both site and building. I agree with you, Margaret´s Ted Talk was phenomenal!

Hi Lisaqin2011,
Enjoyed your reflection. I would agree on your point about the Japanese as a society/community. I was so amazed to see videos of Japanese towns after the tsunami had hit and wiped out large areas in 2011. I would have expected chaos and disorder, but what I saw was throngs of people lined up in queues for relief supplies that were being passed out. Certainly we can learn a lot more about strength and community from such examples. It still surprises me in today’s world that when trash should be reduced, sometimes we cannot be bothered to clear our own mess. :(. I also really loved Margaret Hefferman’s talk and it seems like she was a hit with many. I think this is because she laid out some simple things in a very emphatic way that resonates with many. It is challenging to think we can work together to resolve the larger issues at hand, but then we remember there are those out there like the Japanese world cup fans who picked up trash after the game that give me hope for change! Thank you for sharing!

Swati Khimesra-
Wilkinson’s talk exposes data driven analysis correlating increased social problems, examples ranging from high school drop-out rates, to mental illnesses, to crime, in relation to greater income disparities within societies. This correlation does not work in comparison between different countries, but certainly shows up if measured between individuals of each society/country.
It was interesting to note that in countries like Japan and Sweden, where income inequality is reduced due to taxation systems that bridge the gap, social problems are also much reduced. To me, what was most astounding was that countries that are most aware of these issues, are also in fact burdened by them; and also unfortunately are the ones that continue to ignore the consequences. Our highest stressors occur when we are judged and this weakness is one that the consumer market thrives on.
The cyclical cycle of poverty and the Jim Brown’s solution of worker owned cooperatives shed light on systemic issues driving poverty in nations such as the United States. Especially in current political scenarios, it does seem to be a topic that could benefit from more public discourse and support. Finally, Margaret Hefferman’s talk was encouraging and uplifting. I had many favorite quotes in this one: ‘What matters is the matter not just the bricks’; ‘Social capital compounds with time. Time to develop trust, build value.’; Conflict is frequent because candor is safe and that’s how good ideas into great ideas.’. What has evolved out of this series of media reflections is an appreciation and belief that social capital investments can pay back.
Practice: Tying this all back to systems thinking, is the final reading and the idea that approximate knowledge is also good. Requisites and Credits that tie back to my project include:
1. Broad Community Alignment: With the campus project, the team has already embarked on bringing the various stakeholders to the table. The University has also organized a User group team that will help comment and guide the process for the masterplan.

2. As part of the Masterplan, key initiatives should include access to:
2.2 Quality Transit
2.3 Bicycle Facilities
2.4 Reduced Parking Footprint
2.8 Walkable Streets
2.9 Compact Development
2.11 Connected and Open Community
Jobs and Mixed Use
3.3 Access to affordable daycare, co-work spaces, makerspaces, retail and housing
Improve Local Productivity, Hire Locally, Local Capacity Development

It surprised quite a lot to see how Sweden and Japan ranked very similarly in certain areas even though culturally they are very different. What that tells me is there are more ways than one to achieve the same goal. It would be interesting to see those cultures work like “chickens” and what that would do if they worked in a group together to solve problems (such as poverty, education, war, etc). It was also a disheartening to see where the US ended up in many of the categories (oh no…)

I think you shrewdly pointed out that the countries that are aware of the problem with social inequality are the very countries that are burdened by it. I think that is because it is not only something needs to be resolved through means such as taxation or design, it is also a cultural issue. Cultures like Japan are collective cultures which values the needs over the whole/group/society over individuals. While individualistic cultures emphasis individuals over the entire group. I think this is also what the system thinking is been telling us – to look at our problems from a holistic perspective and really understand that the whole is not just a simple collection of individuals.

WM-03 REFLECTION ON: Community Cohesion, Economic & Social Vitality 
THEORY: Community Vitality

I do believe that we have a flawed system that benefits the wealthy and neglects the poor. In every chart the USA was shown to have the highest spread between economic classes, the most inequality and I believe we are in a self-reinforcing cycle that is becoming worse. Our super-chickens are out in front and I hope that the middle-class, which has been losing ground over the last 25 years will be the tortoise that wins this race.

Richard Wilkinson discusses how Economic inequality harms societies. We should promote from within, increase company democracy, create employee ownership and improve the quality of human life be reducing the differences in income between us. I agree with this, increasing (not decreasing) taxes on the very wealthy and decreasing taxation on the poor, elevating employees from, creating ownership, increasing responsibility will improve community connectivity and establish harmony.

The current system of everyone trying to get ahead, looking out for their own self-interests, or the interests of the select few Super-Chickens, steps on the poor and creates disparity, dissatisfaction, unrest, among the community. The Haves and the Have-nots. And to expand on this situation, then they outsource labor in order to produce goods and services for a lower cost, maintain a competitive advantage and increase profits – for the rich. They put the poor out of business, out of work and the Super-Chickens take off, widening the gap.

How do you compete with global markets and a global workforce while paying increasing living wages in the USA?

How can you be a skilled craftsman and support a family? Possibly it is through increased taxation on the very wealthy and wealthy and low to no tax on the poor?

Jim Brown talks about reversing any element in the cycle and you can reverse the direction of the entire cycle. Creating a pathway to Ownership, increases productivity, provides responsibility, pride and encouragement to the community.
We can transform our economy, provide jobs with living wages, education, healthcare to everyone. This was proven by the Mondragon Cooperative. People will generally make the right decision for the majority, for themselves.

Working beside brilliant, creative people is its own reward. We need to end aggression, dysfunction and waste and find a better way to work and a richer way to live. We see the collaboration and shared knowledge within our own studios, driving creativity and allowing big ideas to flow and grow. What drives helpfulness is people getting to know each other.
We’re seeing this in Corporate Interiors. Creating those interactions where employees meet and talk. The increased desire for social interaction at the office, for alternative places to work at work, to collaborate. This greatly impacts productivity, employee satisfaction, innovation and success. However, we still hear some people say, “we don’t collaborate” “we need our own office, private, head’s down space” because they are more worried about losing their hierarchical status (office) than they fear the disruption of working together (workstation). The more people work collectively as part of a team, the more innovative ideas they produce.

The Systems View of Life A Unifying Vision
Systemic properties are destroyed when a system is dissected, either physically or conceptually, into isolated elements.
Every organism – animal, plant, microorganism, or human being – is an integrated whole, a living system.
When we map relationships, we find certain configurations that occur repeatedly. This is what we call a pattern. Mapping patterns is qualitative.
What makes it possible to turn the systems approach into a proper science is the discovery that there is approximate knowledge.

QUOTES: JFK – “If a free society cannot help the many that are poor, it cannot save the few that are rich” 1961
KEY WORDS: Super Chickens, Social Capital,

CV Credit 2.4 Reduced Parking Footprint – WM can reduce their subsidized parking and provide incentives to carpool or vanpool.
CV Credit 3.9 Access to Recreation Facilities – There will be a fitness center in their building
CV Credit 4.2 Actively Participate in Local Disaster Recovery Programs – WM has specific ability to engage in disaster recovery programs as an organization in the community, and can motivate their employees engage as well.


Hi Jennifer, I think we have a similar point of view and I would like to take a stab at answering one of your questions (unless it was rhetorical, in which case, sorry):

“How do you compete with global markets and a global workforce while paying increasing living wages in the USA?”

I think the point that Wilkinson is making is that global competitiveness doesn’t necessarily go down when the profits of the economy are shared more equally across a society (i.e. average living wages would go up because there are less extremely rich people holding the majority of profits of many people’s work). I guess my follow up question is: Would the competitiveness of the USA, perhaps summarized by its overall GNP, decrease if we simply redistributed the GNP through higher taxes, eliminating tax havens, and putting stricter controls on bonuses that favour people at the top (who already have more than those at the bottom), as Wilkinson suggests. And even if the GNP did go down, but higher equality was attained – would anything be “lost” if social cohesion, life expectancy, child well-being etc increased? Aren’t these the very things that we’re supposedly striving for when we try to be globally competitive (but which, as Wilkinson points out, are not attainable solely through raising GNP when we’re talking about developed countries).

Just today I saw an interesting post on Instagram from the New York Times talking about Portugal and their 2015 bailout. The European creditors who funded the bailout imposed harsh austerity measures incl. cuts to wages, pensions, and social security, but Portugal cast these measures aside and instead offered business incentives. Production and exports took off which has helped the country recover. Austerity measures would have further hurt the poor and encouraged a cycle of poverty to form. It seems like these business incentives on the other hand, helped people get off the ground economically and to buoy the whole country. I guess this is a case where increasing financial opportunities actually increased the GNP.

To bring it back to Wilkinson, his analysis showed Portugal as having high inequality, using data from the 90s/early 2000s. I wonder what it would look like now.


“No idea is born fully formed, it emerges a little as a child is born, kind of messy and confused but full of possibilities”. Margaret Heffernan

“Ultimately, as quantum physics showed so impressively, there are no parts at all. What we call a part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relationships.” Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi in The Systems View of Life.

keywords: cooperatives, social capital, connectiveness, multidisciplinary, relationships, Approximate knowledge

Theory 250-300 words

Margaret Heffernan´s Ted Talk resonated at many levels. To start, there is the concept “no idea is born fully formed.” Many times we begin formulating a thought and it is not until we share it and bounce the idea around, that it takes better shape. And almost always, when we are conducting workshops with communities, it is not until a discussion takes place that a more cohesive idea is born. This concept is fundamental in thinking about “there are no parts at all.” To solve complex problems, we need the collective, multidisciplinary minds and a focus on relationships. This is something, both Margaret Heffernan and The Systems View of Life touch on. I wonder how we can get better at listening to each other and allowing the right amount of time to have transformative discussions. We are often good at naming ´the objects´ but to see relationships and the web, we must allow ourselves to linger in what I refer to as the space in between. That space is messy and has wondering paths but it is rich in potential and inspirational-transformative ideas. Maybe, we need to carefully plan more time at conceptual level phases of projects to allow those amazing ideas to surface. I think we often rush through that initial phase. Everything that is worth doing or fighting for takes hard work and time but is more gratifying.

Practice 75-100 words

Poly Req 1: Improve Community Quality of Life
Option 3: Community Renaissance

Poly Credit 3: Community Connectivity: Mixed Use Commercial, Housing + Public / Community Space

Poly Credit 5: Resilient Organizations: Cooperative + B-Coorporation(s), Non-Profits + Social Equity Measures

This section of Community Vitality is critical to the success of any project because without community buy-in and co-authorship we can’t build resilience. The community needs to own it and feel pride. For Villa Calma, some of these important attributes have already taken place. There is a Renaissance in the Community spirit. I call it an awakening. These is a sense of a new beginning, a future they can own. But they need help. They can’t do it alone. From the side of the Municipality, there is also strong leadership to enable and facilitate processes. For example, the Mayor is interested in helping the community set up Cooperatives bringing more social equity within the community. The Mayor himself is part of a Cooperative, so he is familiar with the model.

Adriana Portela

It is so wonderful to hear about the community awakening that is occuring in Villa Calma. The silver lining of a crisis is how the community comes together afterwards. Hopefully the help that they are receiving from yourself and others will allow them to harness that energy to improve the community. I’m interested in the effort the mayor is making in helping them set up the coops. I wonder what business types he believes will be successful.

I also agree with your comments about Margaret Heffernan’s ted talk. There are so many lessons that are pertinent to our everyday worklife. The lesson that most resonated with me was the idea of a “culture of helpfulness”, but I find it very interesting that you made the connection between this talk and the systems view reading. I agree that we need to allow for more time to allow our minds, conversations and concepts to wander. But so often we succomb to the pressures of schedule and circumvent some of this important work.

I too loved the idea of the “culture of helpfulness” It feels like in the workplace we go through these cycles of focus and working individually to working in groups and collaboration. Right now it to me it feels like we’re pushing for collaborative thinking. Before we were private offices, then we moved to work stations farms, then open office layouts, and next is??? hmmm…

Hi Yanel,
I agree that very often ideas become much stronger and better after getting an input from several parties. Different people have a different understanding of a problem and possible solutions, and including various stakeholders opens the possibility for new perspectives. I also agree with you that we easily name “objects”, and I have noticed that most often when some buildings get a “name” it is about it as an object and almost never talks about a relationship or effect that it creates.

Video 1 Richard Wilkinson “How Economic Inequality Harms Societies”
Keywords: evidence, societies, and inequality
Phrases: “Theres no suggestion of a relation with gross national income and life expectancy”
“If Americans want the American Dream they should go to Denmark”

Video 2 Jim Brown “How to Stop Poverty”
Keywords: circumstances. worker-owned, and Freedom Quilty Bee
Phrase: “Poverty is created by their circumstances” “If we change their circumstances we change the cycle”

Video 3 Mondragon
Keywords: unemployment, Christmas bonus, and econonmic decline
Phrase: “Employees own a part of the business, and get a say in major decisions”

Video 4 Margaret Heffernan “Forget the Pecking Order”
Keywords: super chicken model, agression, and waste
Phrases: “what could make your chickens more productive?”
“You can answer any question in 17 minutes’
“time is everything. Social capitalism compounds overtime”
“I’ve never been motivated by super chickens”

keywords: configurations, formulate, and community

Phrase: “In Cartesian science, scientific descriptions were believed to be objective – that is,
independent of the human observer and the process of knowing”

Of all the videos we have watched through this entire series “Forget the pecking Order” was by far the most interesting to hear. It was relevant on a personal level and business level. This can be translated into the RELi course by looking at the building as a whole, the community it sits in, or the country it resides in. This is a continuation of “systems thinking” from the previous weeks with a further understanding how everything relates to each other. One cannot function smoothly without the other.

Poly Req 1: Improve Community Life
Poly Credit: 2 (specifically 2.2, 2.3)
Credit 4.2

With this section bringing in some of these elements would help Midtown Savannah improve upon some of the things they already have. Savannah is known for being a “bike-able city” By setting up the children’s hospital with these credits this would be a just be an extension. As far as “Local Disasters” go- Savannah is located on the coast and an old city where it is ripe so flooding, hurricanes, extreme rain and heat. Using this new project as a center for such calamities would not only be ideal, but it’s location is central to many of the neighborhoods.


Hi again Alexis! I also found the video of Margaret Heffernan the most interesting. Your association about video and Systems Thinks makes a lot of sense, I had not thought that way.
While watching the video I remembered several projects that I have done here at PW and how we, architects, can influence people with our work. At the same time this makes the pressure on us greater, it makes our work become more and more valued.
Since my project is a residence, I had difficulty applying these credits to it. But I understand that in your project they are easier to be applied, right? I would like to better understand why you chose the credits you indicated. Are they easier to hit for some special reason?

The biggest takeaway I got from this week’s model is learning the actual data and research findings proving the importance of building a healthy community and social cohesion. Some of the quotes I found inspiring from the media reviews are “I think I’m looking at the psychosocial effects of equality has more to do with feelings of superiority and inferiority, of being valued and devalued, respected and disrespected. And the state of competition that comes out of that drives the consumerism of our society. It also leads to states of insecurity – we worry about how we are judged”. Research shows people’s wellbeing is not directly related to national gross income and economic growth. But the difference in income equality makes a huge difference in people’s wellbeing. The sustainability of our sociality and human life is greatly depend on income equality. To bring the income gap and achieve higher income equality, a worker-owned cooperative can be a solution. Mondragon, a huge Basque cooperative was a great example of how such a business-set up can withstand a crisis.
To further prove the importance of equality in a community, we learned that the model of “super chicken” does not really work. Research shows “The high achieving groups were not those where they had one or two people with spectacularly higher IQ, nor were the most successful groups had the highest aggregate IQ…what motivates people are the bonds and loyalty and trust they develop between each other”. On the opposite of what we thought it does, the “super chicken” model promotes unhealthy competition which leads to aggression, dysfunction and waste. Research showed that successful groups show three distinctive characteristics: they have high degrees of social sensitivity, they give each other roughly equal time, they had more women in them. Social capital is what really makes organizations resilient and robust. Investing time in each other to cultivate bonds and loyalty is the answer to successful, resilient and innovative communities.
This week’s media review focuses on community cohesion, social + economic vitality. The site of my project is located next to the Van Ness metro station in Washington DC. This is an area that has a lot of potential to become really activated and a spot for social gathering. It is also neighboring University of the District of Columbia. However, right now it is lacking the vibrancy it could have. The PW design team is teaming up with a landscape architect to provide proper landscape makeover and lighting design to really activate that building. We envision that building will be a central location for the neighborhood to gather and connect. This building is currently closed to the public. Our design is going to make the lower floors accessible and aesthetically welcoming to the public through design solutions such as creating double height lobbies that can be seen through glass front from outside, views to beautiful landscape design surrounding the building and ample natural light. You will be able enter the building through both front entry and 2nd level courtyard.

Hi, Li! Remember, no ‘one’ source is a tell-all, know-all. Though much GOOD eye opening stuff here; continue researching these subjects. The majority of the first quote, of course everybody agrees to. “The state of competition drives consumerism” is a bit reaching. It could also be viewed as ‘the state of expectations’ by media such as commercials or whatever else we feed our minds. In a free society, it is our decision, each individual, what his or her ‘state’ will be. Forcing a ‘state’ upon an individual is another thing. In a free society, different views can coexist, each making the other richer with more depth and clarity, seeing the issues from all sides, as long as communication is encouraged. Having tolerance for such complexities eventually compels better solutions.

“…-we worry about how we are judged” is a ‘values’ issue. As a free individual, one may choose their values; i.e. a deeply religious individual may have different values than one focused on his neighbor’s possessions (competition). So when he says “we” he is addressing a particular segment of the population. Let us be vigilant to such logic errors, or be easily manipulated.

Also Li, ‘consumerism’ can be taken many ways. This context seems to imply spending on unnecessary things (luxury items, new car); but, in other contexts can be buying necessities (food, toothpaste, glasses) if or when the money becomes available. We make do with what we have until the problem becomes severe enough, it moves up on our priority list. Or, we make do with what we have while putting forth the effort required to change our situation; i.e. new skills or change employers (the ‘rugged individual’ working it out). Of course there are extenuating circumstances that require our help; i.e. entrapment via: single mother-hood, prison history, and desperately poor.

I too, love the Basque cooperative model. Taking decision-making out of the hands of a few and putting it into the hands of many always seems to be best if most are well informed and is deeply resilient and rich (really unfathomable) with ideas (possibilities). Putting this in the hands of many when most are being deceived is another story; so again, vigilance and transparency is required and must be written into the bylaws.

Where your project’s heart is, community focused, I find exciting. I assume there is programming for inside and outside uses open to (drawing in) the community too.

Thank you for sharing, Li.