Design the Other 90%: Cities – Cooper Hewitt at the UN

If you are in New York City sometime between now and January 9th and find yourself with a couple of hours to spare, head over to the United Nations to see a great exhibit on how simple solutions can make a tremendous impact.  While the Cooper Hewitt Museum itself is closed for renovations, the UN is hosting its exhibit, Design the Other 90%: Cities. That is where I found myself on a rainy Wednesday in October after skipping the long lines at MOMA in exchange for a less crowded (and free of charge) venue.

The exhibit itself occupies a small space in the UN lobby but the ideas that filled the floors and walls were many.  I was struck by the innovative and the unconventional solutions to problems such as pollutions, sanitation, transport, and information access.  They seemed crude on the surface but belied an elegant simplicity in their implementation. What made a difference was that the solutions were not based on what we in the developed world would consider ideal and pristine but that the architects and engineers found solutions within the context of the desperate conditions that their clients lived in. And these aren’t theories presented on paper. These are actual working solutions, including life saving medical kits fashioned out of toys, internet access points in Uganda that harness solar power, and life sustaining urban farms that start with just one burlap sack.

If you want to be amazed by human ingenuity in the face of scarcity, this is the exhibit to see.  And if a trip to New York isn’t in the near future, you can read more about all the different solutions by clicking here.

helicopter toy repurposed as asthma inhaler

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