Building a better world with Global Studio

9 December 2008

Women insulating their shacks in a Johannesburg township
Women insulating their shacks in a Johannesburg township

The work Sydney University academics and students have been doing to improve living standards in slums around the world is celebrated in a new exhibition at Customs House.

Global Studio, developed by Associate Professor Anna Rubbo in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, has so far worked in Istanbul (2005), Vancouver (2006) and Johannesburg (2007, 2008).

A/Professor Rubbo describes Global Studio, which has partners at Columbia University and the University of Rome, as "an innovative design and planning think and do-tank," working with disadvantaged communities.

Global Studio works with local communities on issues they care about, and involves community members in making improvements. Films, stories and exhibitions of past Global Studios will be on exhibition from this Wednesday 10 December.

At the 2007 Global Studio in Johannesburg, for example, University of Sydney students worked with residents of Alexandra, a township near the centre of Johannesburg, making improvements such as installing insulation and repairing roofs.

Since its inception, Global Studio has involved over 450 students, academics and professionals from more than 30 countries, 50 universities and 10 disciplines in projects with disadvantaged communities.

Global Studio students presenting design ideas in Istanbul
Global Studio students presenting design ideas in Istanbul

It has included participants from North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific.

"Global Studio helps prepare emerging design and planning professionals who can contribute to sustainable urbanisation," says A/Professor Rubbo.

Global Studio aims to contribute to the UN Millennium Development Goals, and especially goal 7 to 'ensure environmental sustainability', and target 11, to 'improve the lives of slum dwellers'.

The Global Studio exhibition coincides with an exhibition of work by Emergency Architects Australia. EAA is a not-for-profit organisation that works with professional volunteers in the region, immediately after man-made or natural disasters, providing rapid assessment and sustainable reconstruction to communities which ask for assistance.

EAA is headed up Sydney architecture graduate Andrea Nield, and many of the volunteers are alumni.

"Our aim is to provide professional expertise to the 95 per cent in the developing world who cannot access this expertise," Ms Nield says.

EAA has provided assistance to communities in Sigli, Aceh (funded by Australian Red Cross), Java, Mutur in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and is now assisting with both the shelter and school reconstruction programs in the Western Solomon Islands after the Tsunami/earthquake of 2007.

The new exhibition covers this work in the Solomon Islands.

What: Global Studio and Emergency Architects

When: 10December 2008 - 31 January 2009

Monday to Friday: 10am-7pm
Saturday to Sunday: 11am-4pm

Where: Customs House

Level 2, Customs House
31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay
Sydney, NSW 2000

Contact: Kath Kenny

Phone: 02 9351 2261 or 0434 606 100