Author: Cynthia E. Smith

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Designing Recovery Housing
Jaunita Valdez-Cox is the Executive Director of LUPE (La Unión Del Pueblo Entero) and Brent Brown is the founder of bcWORKSHOP. Brown and his team at bcWORKSHOP ‘s project, RAPIDO Rapid Recovery Housing, is featured in the exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America, curated by Cynthia Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design at...
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Rebel Nell: Designing Against Defiant Odds
Amy Peterson, a Detroit lawyer, envisioned Rebel Nell—an enterprise that creates unique jewelry from scrap pieces of graffiti—after moving next to one of Detroit’s shelters. While walking her dog, she began talking to women she met, and after listening to their stories and challenges, Peterson started a social enterprise with a vision to help women...
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Designing Humane Borders
Responding to migrant deaths along the Arizona-Mexico border due to dehydration, minister Robin Hoover (along with former Navy engineer Tim Holt) designed a system for placing water in the desert. Their project, Humane Borders Water Stations and Warning Posters, is featured in the exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America, curated by Cynthia Smith, Curator...
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Designing with Empathy: By the People and Pratt
Cooper Hewitt collaborated with Pratt Institute students, who created socially-responsible designs based on experiences they had at two New York nonprofit organizations.
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Mapping for Social Justice
In 2012, math professor Laurie Rubel developed, with support from the National Science Foundation, the City Digits project to help high school students learn math by examining urban injustices in their own New York City neighborhood. Partnering with civic designer Sarah Williams, the team designed a set of place-based learning tools to integrate richer data...
detail of mail illustrating contested borders along the earth's equator
Spatializing Citizenship: Public Culture at the Border
Excerpt from Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman’s essay “Where is the Public Today? Design for a New Civic Imagination” from By the People: Designing a Better America exhibition publication. Border Crossing Design by the people begins with re-energizing a public culture and building the capacity of divided communities for mutual recognition and coexistence. The San...
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Imagining Restorative Justice
In 2013, architectural designer Deanna Van Buren and social scientist Barb Toews established Designing Justice+Designing Spaces (DJ+DS) to facilitate the design of more restorative and healing criminal-justice environments through community engagement in jails and prisons. Their work is featured in the exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America, curated by Cynthia Smith, Curator of...
Woven tan wicker armchair with colorful found plastic and rubber objects (including discarded bottles, tire, flip-flop, broken doll parts) woven into, and protruding from, the form.
A battle between nature and plastic

The Campana Brothers’ TransPlastic collection tells a fictional story: in a world made of plastic, nature grows from the plastic and overpowers it. This conceptual collection reflects the Campanas’ preference for juxtaposing contrasting materials and manipulating the scale of domestic furniture. The series treats the natural fiber as clothing or a prosthetic addition, transforming the furniture’s original shape with organically shaped extensions.

Multi-leveled tower-like building supported by cables being dropped into bombed craters depicted in a dynamic and vigorous swooping, diagonal orientation from the upper left to lower right. Three binder holes along left edge.
Experimental Structures
I read Buckminster Fuller’s “Critical Path” early in my studies and was always struck by how his formative education and life circumstances informed his work over the years.  Failure confronted Fuller after he left the Navy, heading him on his “lifelong experiment” with an aim of finding out “what, if anything,” one individual could do...