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The Architecture of Change:
Building a Better World

Edited by Jerilou Hammett and Maggie Wrigley
Foreword by Michael Sorkin
Designed by Peter Scholz
University of New Mexico Press

Breaking down the stereotypes surrounding “socially engaged architecture,” this book shows who can actually impact the lives of communities. It points to a myriad of ways we can address housing, hunger, education, aging, the reclamation of urban space, our personal connections to each other, and a shared past, present, and future.

Like Bernard Rudofsky's seminal work Architecture Without Architects, it explores communal architecture produced not by specialists but by people, drawing on their common lives and experiences, who have a unique insight into their particular needs and environments.

These unsung heroes are teachers and artists, immigrants and activists, grandmothers in the projects, students and planners, architects and residents of some of our poorest places. Running through their stories is a constant theme of social justice as an underlying principle of the built environment. This book is about opening one’s eyes to new ways of interpreting the world, and how to go about changing it.

The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World - Lance Laver photo

The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World is a compilation of articles from fifteen years of DESIGNER/builder magazine, whose objective was to change how we see the world.

From the Foreword by Michael Sorkin

“... over the years, DESIGNER/builder brought to its pages a remarkable cadre of citizen-practitioners whose focus was on doing good, on inventing and evolving strategies of form and practicality that began from the dream of uniting use and equity, from the idea that form could be the instrument of fairness. Like no other journal, DESIGNER/builderunderstood the reach and constituency of architecture inclusively, as so much more than the terrain of aesthetes and patrons and practitioners simply eager to see the latest bauble. Instead, the magazine addressed itself to the needs and possibilities of the poor, the mentally ill, of kids in school, the homeless, of women in the projects, of old folks, of everyone who found themselves on the short end of the stick.”

DESIGNER/builder, in its mission to inculcate the field of building with the principles of social justice, has wonderfully merged these two streams, joined ideas of practicality and everyday empowerment with the highest hopes for aspirational imagination. By rooting itself in the palpability of space and the reality of lived lives, the magazine discovered and shared site after site at which hope could become instrumental, celebrating the citizenship and creativity of practitioners from every walk of life. What truly distinguishes it, though, is that while fearless in critique, the magazine was truly dedicated to telling the stories of people and practices that were genuinely constructive, loving in particular those who struggled against the odds to secure better lives for their communities, often communities of neglect, places where conventional wisdom never imagined architecture could flourish.”

The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World - Byron Baker photo


Bill Richardson:

“The call for change is everywhere, yet how to define it and how to achieve it remain vague. The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World is a unique book that documents how ordinary people have the power to transform their environments. It is a celebration of human diversity and a call for increased attention to our communities. This inspiring book explores the issues of equity, alternative forms of living, new concepts of urbanism, and the power of social networks.”
–Bill Richardson, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Congressman, Secretary of Energy, Governor of New Mexico, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Marshall Berman:

“This new book, selected from DESIGNER/builder’s brief life of fifteen years, cut off by Kingsley Hammett’s abrupt death in 2008, will make us sad to have lost one of America’s great ‘little magazines.’ But the book will also make us happy. It is full of engaging and exciting material. Kingsley and Jerilou Hammett brought together a great abundance of environmental history just as it was being made. The magazine showed us, and the book brings to life today, a tremendous assortment of people, all over North America, young and old, economically comfortable or poor or close to poor, ethnically similar or totally diverse, conceptually sophisticated or making up their environment from day to day, as if it were poetry. The fact that such diversity could fit into the same magazine yesterday, and define the same book today, makes it clear to us that, in spite of all the powerful forces bent on taking our world away from us, people don’t let them. We have the capacity, the imagination and the energy, to fight back and make the world our own. Nearly two centuries ago, when Alexis de Tocqueville called his book Democracy in America, I doubt that anybody understood that he was only writing page one, and that the book of democracy in America is still alive, still being written and lived today.”
–Marshall Berman, Distinguished Professor, City College/City University of New York, and author of All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity and many other books and articles on politics and culture

The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World - Roberta Feldman photo

Lucy Lippard

The Architecture of Change is an invaluable inspiration and source book for independent action on behalf of those forgotten by the bureaucracies. From sidewalk living rooms to restoration of lost histories, to schools, soup kitchens, murals, and especially a vast array of possibilities for affordable housing, the result is a blueprint for a more caring society. Artists, architects, community activists, squatters, and planners have taken to heart the radical grassroots credo: “Nothing About Us Without Us is For Us.” Each chapter reinforces the power of imagination, self-determination, and persistence familiar to those of us who were devoted readers of DESIGNER/builder. As painter Lily Yeh says: ‘If we fail we fail. No big deal. Try again.’ So read it, get fired up, and get busy.”
–Lucy Lippard, writer, activist and curator in the fields of feminism, art, politics, and place, and author of many books including The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society

Sam Smith:

“We have been taught in many ways to separate in our thoughts social and political activities from the physical structures and communities in which they occur. Yet every window, path, facade, hallway, crumbled wall, gathering place, or smiling graffiti silently interrupts these thoughts and affects their direction. The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World turns this silence into words that we can understand, appreciate, and use. It gives us numerous wonderful examples of how physical form and the dreams of our minds can join in a powerful coalition to create a kinder, wiser world.”
–Sam Smith, award-winning journalist covering Washington under nine presidents, editor of the Progressive Review since 1964, author of four books including Sam Smith's Great American Political Repair Manual, has helped to start six organizations including the national Green Party

Leslie Kanes Weisman:

The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World is the perfect title for this inspiring collection of articles, mostly by the late Kingsley Hammett. Written in lucid prose, these essays bring to life the historic human struggle to create a democratic, equitable and sustainable existence, narrating the personal stories of people who have contributed to the making of a better, more just society through reshaping the built landscape. The concerned citizen/activists whose lived experiences fill the pages of this journalistic tour de force – be they squatters, artists, immigrants, residents of public housing, or architects — show us that with creativity and determination, places of poverty and neglect can be transformed into places of human dignity and pride. Their riveting stories are essential reading for anyone interested in the complex social processes and power struggles involved in building and controlling space, and the creation of safe, healthy, socially inclusive and ecologically resilient buildings and communities.”
–Leslie Kanes Weisman, Professor Emerita of Architecture at New Jersey Institute of Technology, author of the award winning book Discrimination by Design: A Feminist Critique of the Man Made Environment

Tom Angotti:

The Architecture of Change combines a passion for social justice with its love for the people who transform urban life in countless small and large acts of resistance and creativity. It focuses on the most critical issues facing low-income communities of color and depicts residents as protagonists of change. The authors, most notably Kingsley Hammett, show how complex notions of architecture, design, and planning can be accessible to all when ideas are conveyed using clear and direct narratives.”
–Tom Angotti, professor of urban affairs and planning, Hunter College and Graduate School, City University of New York, and author of New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate

Michael Pyatok:

“This book captures the essence of the creative American spirit at work in our too often underserved communities. It will be an inspiring guide to all generations of designers and artists—students, faculty, and practitioners—looking for a purpose in their careers. In these times of depressing recession, this uplifting book not only makes me feel proud to be an architect, but also to be an American. There is hope in this country—and a lot of homemade beauty!”
–Michael Pyatok, FAIA, winner of many awards including the 2013 AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in recognition of his work in affordable housing, which includes more than 35,000 units for low-income communities.

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Articles and Reviews

Metropolis magazine: Q & A with Jerilou Hammett and executive editor Martin Pederson

Shelterforce "Stories of Change"

Design Gives Back

Progressive Review

Master of International Cooperation Sustainable Emergency Architecture

Occupy Wall Street

Albuquerque Arts and Entertainment: Building a Better World - Take Five with Jerilou Hammett, editor

New Mexico Mercury

Buy the Book

The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World is available at your local and online booksellers.

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