I’ve read Dennis Kaspori’s essay A Communism of Ideas: Towards an Architectural Open Source Practice a few years back, and having just recently come across it again in What People Want: Populism in Architecture and Design, I realized it’s probably one of the better manifestos out there in calling for an open-source approach to architecture. In an effort to disseminate these ideas further I’ve posted a few pertinent quotes. I just wish the word ‘Communism’ wasn’t in the title due to its pejorative connotation. A ‘Community’ or ‘Communion of Ideas’ would have been a little more palatable perhaps.

“Examples of collaborative practices can be found in art and in software engineering. They offer an alternative model in which innovation is achieved through the active participation of all parties. Ideas and products are no longer developed in a closed production process organized around the autonomy of the artist or the company, but evolve out of the pragmatism of usage. That is the motor of innovation.”

“The movement has its origins in use. David Garcia: ‘The digital revolution thoroughly upset prevailing Western ideas about intellectual property. Thanks to the Internet there is an extensive network in which ideas are not so much protected by copyright as developed collectively. Ownership is not what counts, but use.”

“In short, open source requires a shake-up of established ways of thinking and a different interpretation, both socially and economically, of the concept of innovation. The existing (cathedral) model with the autonomous genius of the chief designer at the top of a strict hierarchy is ‘closed’ and based on competition. That competition has proved to be an important generator of innovation, but also leads to enormous fragmentation. The bazaar model, on the other hand, is based on cooperation. It conforms to the network logic of an effective distribution of ideas, as a result of which these ideas can be tested in different situations and improved. It makes use of the ‘swarm intelligence’ of a large group of users and/or developers.”

“The fact is that the open-source process can also be an important stimulus for greater participation by residents in the spatial planning process. The only condition that needs to be met in order to produce an actively involved community is a reasonable promise: ‘It can be crude, buggy, incomplete and poorly documented. What it must not fail to do is convince potential co-developers that it can be evolved into something really neat in the foreseeable future.”

“Thus, open source provides an organization model for the collective development of solutions for spatial issues involving housing, mobility, greenspace, urban renewal and so on. These are all complex issues that presuppose an interdisciplinary approach; in fact they can only be solved with cooperation. Open source presupposes that these ideas are disclosed and made available to others, who in turn can improve on them. In this way, design changes from a one-off action into a kind of evolutionary process.”

“Open source would seem to be an attractive model for an architectural practice wishing to revive its pro-active role in spatial issues. Cooperation and the exchange of ideas give rise to a learning organization that is able to evolve by reacting alertly to change. This sounds easier than it is. As suggested earlier, the idea of a collaborative practice presupposes a complete reversal of the existing organizational model of a discipline that is very keen on its autonomy and the concept of copyright. The first step towards an open-source practice in architecture is to develop a broad-based awareness that cooperation and the opening up of architectural practice to input from outside are important requirements if an effective contribution is to be made to the ever-more complex spatial processes.”

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