Caro Isern

I remember, as if it were yesterday, that day in 1999 when Federico (‘egg’ for friends) entered my house in San Telmo, went to my computer and typed: Google. Immediately a blank page with a small window appeared to enter the search word. This was an incredible (minimalist) experience, compered to the Yahoo browser page full of advertising that I used at that moment. Google became a part of my life until a couple of years ago when I discovered the business model that was behind that minimalist experience. 

In the beginning, it was very promising, and I was fascinated with their services, until the moment I knew what their business model was: to monetize our data. I realized they become an enormous surveillance machine, without even asking us permission, well they did it slowly with the fine print. Then many other companies came as well, all with the same business model: ‘sharing is caring’ was the motto.

I suspected ‘something’ with that motto from the beginning, I felt something was wrong with it, but I didn’t know what it was until 2012, when I came across people like Shoshana Zuboff, Richard Stallman, Douglas Rushkoff or Aral Balkan, they opened my eyes. I discovered a new vision of technology based on human rights and ethics. 

I grew up knowing that opening a letter addressed to other person was an illegal act. Well, this is what Google and Facebook (among others) do everyday, letting algorithms scan our emails and ‘private’ messages, building ‘profiles of ourselves’. Yes, ‘private messages’: they altered the meaning of this term for the new generations.

I think we should be aware as society about the fact that a human right like the right to privacy is in danger. We accept a loss in stages of our privacy in exchange of ‘free’ technologies like superpower emails, like when Europeans gave mirrors to native Americans in exchange for their lands. But what worries me the most is that we don’t care much about it, this is not an important issue in the newspapers. 

I really hope it is a matter of time. The advance of technology happened very fast and now we are becoming more aware about the possibility of re-mastering technology for our own benefit. A great social design challenge for the coming years. 


More information:

This video of Aral Balkan presentation at The Big Brother awards in Amsterdam is from 2014. But it is still current!

”It’s in the corporations’ interests to make it easy to share your data (with them) in a way that is entirely unprotected. That’s how they make their money. It leaves us all as helpless as children when it comes to our privacy. This is why we need to create alternative technologies, and educate people about why these alternatives are important.” 

Aral Balkan


Shoshana Zuboff explaining Surveillance Capitalism in this VPRO Dutch Documentary of October 2019. And here the English version.

”These economic imperatives erode democracy from below and from above. At the grassroots, systems are designed to evade individual awareness, undermining human agency, eliminating decision rights, diminishing autonomy and depriving us of the right to combat. The big picture reveals extreme concentrations of knowledge and power. Surveillance capitalists know everything about us, but we know little about them. Their knowledge is used for others’ interests, not our own.

Surveillance capitalism thrives in the absence of law. In a way, this is good news. We have not failed to rein in this rogue capitalism; we’ve not yet tried. More good news: our societies successfully confronted destructive forms of capitalism in the past, asserting new laws that tethered capitalism to the real needs of people. Democracy ended the Gilded Age. We have every reason to believe that we can be successful again.”

Shoshana Zuboff


Check also the article I wrote about the quick-scan ‘In search of Ethical Technologies’ for

A Goood Foundation:

In search of ethical Technologies

” Big tech Internet Thinker Douglas Rushkoff states in his book Team Human that digital media have an anti-humanistic agenda. Reclaim our humanity, he argues.”

Very interesting vision about our technological future: How do we stay human in this technological revolution? 

Watch the video here

This video is on You Tube. For videos that are only on YouTube (unfortunately, a lot), you can search for and watch them on DuckDuckGo (an alternative for google search engine) for better privacy protection via YouTube’s “youtube-nocookie” domain.




Being aware about how different cultures understand Time is essential for multicultural collaboration. 

This study and article written by Richard Lewis, makes clear that if we are able to activate our empathy, we can value other ways of acting, thinking and doing. And that sometimes it is just a matter of relaxing and enjoying wasting time, or rather win it!

” Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country.

In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples.

In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy.

Thais do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In Britain the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind….”

Read the full article here

We meet our friends, family and even new acquaintances with a hug and a kiss; anything else is considered rude.

Yes, we are like that! Living in North Europe is often, literally and figuratively, cold.

Interesting article and research about ‘personal space’ in different cultures, highlighting Argentinian ‘kiss and hug’ culture:

Link to article

I wonder if there is more research done regarding the way this customs affect our quality of life and relate to social anomalies like loneliness and depression. 

In the frame of a Masterclass organised by the Municipality of Amsterdam, Goood and its partners Pakhuis de Zwijger, Metabolic and Space & Matter gave a workshop session about the bottom-up circular development of Amsterdam Noord, pointing the importance to work cross-sectoral, including CREATIVES for the search of effective solutions.

Our meeting inside the Crossboat on the Ceuvel consisted of three presentations and a discussion between experts from Amsterdam and the Argentinian delegation. Caro Isern, architect, social designer and co-founder of a goood foundation, started off with a presentation about the power of bottom-up approach in urban development. She stressed the importance of design in order to accelerate the transition to a sustainable environment. Design can be a way to overcome the paradox that we cannot solve problems with the same way of thinking that we used to create the same problems in the first way.

Read the whole article written by Jan van’t Hek from Pakhuis de Zwijger here



Pakhuis de Zwijger, A Goood Foundation, and Volpi Urbane launched the first City Embassy in Latin America.

Pakhuis de ZwijgerA Goood Foundation, and Volpi Urbane initiated a cooperation to establish a network of city embassies in Latin-America with the aim of making a bridge for exchange of knowledge and experience for nowadays social and environmental city challenges in both continents (Europe and Latin America). The City Embassy Buenos Aires is the first one of Latin America. It is contributing to the making of the creative ecosystem in the city to empower creatives and citizens to contribute solving social and environmental themes.

During the economic mission of the City of AmsterdamCaro Isern, director of A Goood Foundation, founded the City Embassy Buenos Aires last Saturday 18th June in appearance of the Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan, the director Creative Industries of the City of Buenos Aires Diego Radivoy, scientific director of the AMS Institute Arjan van Timmeren, and member of the Dutch Creative Council’s Top team and CLICKNL board Jann de Waal.


Proud to be part of the Amsterdam delegation that visit Buenos Aires & Sao Paulo during the visit of Mayor van Eberhard van der Laan, from 16th to 21st June.
Representing A Goood Foundation & Pakhuis de Zwijger, pointing in the government agenda the importance of working together with the bottom-up creative movement in the process of sustainable urban & rural development.

Report of the wide exploration project is online, take a look and stay tuned, we are cooking up the next step of the international collaboration project with Argentina and Latin America.

Read Report Hola Argentina

In November and December 2015, we organised an exploration trip through Argentina to learn about initiatives and organisations that are actively contributing to find solutions for large environmental and social challenges of Latin America. We learned about their development, their challenges and needs. The main idea of this trip was to research the possibilities to start a structural collaboration. We are preparing the report of this project and we work on the follow-up. The rest of the information will be published in the website of the foundation. (online mid-July 2016)

This project is an initiative of a goood foundation executed by architects and sustainable specialists Caro Isern and Paul de Graaf, organisational consultant Remco Meijer and an enthusiastic assistant team from the foundation, among others, designer Carolina Giraldo Nohra and editor Martin Vos.

This project is realized with support from The Creative Industries Fund NL.

Read also the report of the Exploration here.

Visit and like the Facebook page of a goood foundation for updates and collaboration opportunities:

In the framework of Patch Club strategy, about sustainable fashion, we developed and executed talent development trainings for two group of women In Amsterdam New-West.

The focus is to stimulate the group of women towards starting ‘their own fashion dream’.

The training combines:

– Awareness: why is sustainable fashion so important ?

– Insights on principles of sustainable fashion & examples

– Own dream and talents

– How to start our own dream company

The two group of women (of 10 participants each) took the time to draw their dreams. Afterwards, with a personalised scan, we could identify their needs (in the different fields of the process: design, production, organisation, communication), to further work on their dreams.

Welcome Patch Club was supported by Amsterdam Nieuw-West, Nisa 4 Nisa organisation, Cultuurhuis @Coop Westside and a goood foundation.

In May 2015 we established ‘a goood foundation’ with the aim of accelerate the transition toward sustainable communities. ‘a goood foundation’ starts projects, together with passionate and experienced people, where design, innovation and collaboration are the main components. In our projects, we mimic nature, looking for all kind of local benefits.

I’m very happy to be part of this adventure. To know more look at the foundation website (online mid-July 2016)

In the framework of the project Patch Club, we developed a talent development training for two groups of women working in sewing ateliers in Amsterdam New-West to stimulate them to start their own ‘fashion business’. Of course, focusing on sustainable fashion. Research activities have been very inspiring!

Our goal is:

To inspire and accelerate the transition towards building sustainable communities, by initiating and supporting projects that:

– Inspire, raise awareness & transfer knowledge on sustainable (design & art) practices.

– Create new work-practice opportunities in the field of social design & sustainable development.

– Work together with (public & private) organisations to creatively meet the social, economical and environmental challenges.

Our Board members:

Kajetan Hetzer, sustainable specialist – Waste Foundation and director Social Equity Fund.

Jet van Dijk, director of Yellow Research.

Ans Stoub, all round professional in the field of communication, PR, education and business.

We are working on different projects and on the website:

Stay tuned! email us if you want to be updated!

Reflexions (Theory) from the practice.

At school, at work, at home or in the neighbourhood:

Three pillars in participatory design practices:

1. Inspiration

People need to be inspired. So the question is what inspire them?

This is a continuing searching, always worth.

2. Awareness

People need to know why they should do something, collaborate, etc…

– Translate complexity in an easy to understand story.

– Let them discover the challenge.

3. Knowledge & tools transfer

To act, do things, people need to have tools, know how to use them and recreate them based on their own talent.

We are starting the development of a ‘goood’ project:

Welcome Patch Club!

Patch Club is a research and design strategy that aims to:

– Build a community integrating topics like: social interaction, (fashion)design, circular economy (reusing, repairing, upgrading), local initiatives & women entrepreneurship.

– Act as an accessible social design school, rising awareness, transferring knowledge and learning by doing.

– Impulse and develop enterprises in the social craft-production sector.

Last March we had an inspiring first research-workshop with our partners and friends Carmen Marcus and Rubia Oehlers from Cultuurhuis in Amsterdam Nieuw-West at the Coop Westside. Together with designers Beatriz Fernandez and Daniela Castelbranco, involved in the project, we got a better understanding of the women’s needs & the added value of our design approach for the potential local social enterprises.

More about this strategy will follow, hier or in the website of the foundation: Stay tuned!

Another frequently asked question…

Again Donella:

Resilience has many definitions, depending on the branch of engineering, ecology, or system science doing the defining. For our purposes, the normal dictionary meaning will do: “the ability to bounce or spring back into shape, position, etc., after being pressed or stretched. Elasticity. The ability to recover strength, spirits, good humor, or any other aspect quickly.”

Systems need to be managed not only for productivity or stability, they also need to be managed for resilience— the ability to recover from perturbation, the ability to restore or repair themselves.

Learning the ability to be resilience as persons and as communities is crucial for sustainable development. Hier is an interesting article in Spanish about learning how to improve our personal resilience.

If you have so integrated and intuitive understanding of ‘the meaning of something’ it is sometimes difficult to define it and explain it for other people. Some people ask me what do you mean with systems? What is a system? I like the definition of Donella Meadows, a great referent in sustainable development (form scientific sector). She says:

A system isn’t just any old collection of things. A system* is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. If you look at that definition closely for a minute, you can see that a system must consist of three kinds of things:

– elements,

– interconnections, and

– a function or purpose.

For example, the elements of your digestive system include teeth, enzymes, stomach, and intestines. They are interrelated through the physical flow of food, and through an elegant set of regulating chemical signals. The function of this system is to break down food into its basic nutrients and to transfer those nutrients into the bloodstream (another system), while discarding unusable wastes.

In a System all parts are interconnected and have a common purpose. If we can learn to think, act and create like (natural) systems do, we will be able to achieve better solutions for our current and future challenges.

It’s interesting to see that in many fields of social development ‘encourage entrepreneurship’ is already a key element and the focus of many successful programs. No matter whether it is education or social care programs like empowerment of elderly, young people or women in neighbours. The concept of ‘entrepreneurship’ stimulating people talents and own ideas is an important trend and validated concept from the last years.

Next to this is also proved by many examples the effectiveness of working on a small scale, keeping it very personal by systems that include adaptability and customisation.

A good example is the Finnish education system, that scores as one of the best in Europe, where children attend with the least amount of time at school (compared with other countries) and learn in a playful way. The focus in this system is to encourage children own talent and creativity in a very personal way. Here you can read an article about it (in dutch).

Also regarding education, we see a big trend in America and other countries with more than 2 million cases of homeschooling, where the focal point is the kid and their own interests and talents.

An inspiring video that shows this trend can be seen here. A young of 12 years old that designs his own education with the help of his parents and local network.

In Germany, the model of ‘more generations’ community centers based in the human need of diversity of generations interaction, also operates with an important component of entrepreneurship. This is an inspiring example for The Netherlands. The Dutch broadcaster VPRO did an interesting research in this Tegenlicht broadcast: looking for inspiring examples that show us how we can do things better in the Netherlands.

The success of these systems has to do with the created feeling of ownership by people and attention for their own needs, increasing their self-esteem. In the Netherlands we need to try out more models that work within this principles.

I was in Paris and went to the exhibition of Sonia Delaunay. It was extremely inspiring. It is amaze the amount of work she did herself within many different disciplines and in collaboration with others (paintings, films, furniture, interiors, textile and fashion design…). Interesting to have known more about her life: She worked with her all family (husband and son). I didn’t know that during her last years she was working with a Russian women’s atelier, creating textile patterns with them. Just google her if you need some inspiration in your work (whatever your work is about)!

Next to interesting advise commissions and coaching the set-up of innovative concepts. I’m working with a multidisciplinary team on the development of a new Foundation that will be busy executing innovative projects to find solutions for social and environmental challenges of our communities, generating multiple cash flows solutions. How? Optimising collaboration!

Stay tuned…

Fabloop is a design methodology to innovate together in a value chain. Fabloop accelerates the process of sustainable innovation by matching social responsible companies with designers with the passion of changing the world, acting as a design intermediate that creates win-win situations within the value chain. Through its pilots projects, it aims to be an inspiring source of information regarding environmental and social challenges to increase awareness and people participation.

At the moment we are working with a multidisciplinary team in the preparation of the first pilots: in the product design chain and in the co-creation of urban spaces. More information will follow. Do you want to know more about our plans, our team and partners and want to collaborate in these challenges? Contact us.

I develop creative insight sessions according to the client’s specific request. In the last years I led many creative sessions with a variety of themes and topics according to client’s need. Some tools we created and implemented successfully are:

Design 2 change!

The 5P’s method (People, Planet, Profit, Pleasure and Practicality)

For more information click on the names of the tools and contact me to learn even more.

From 2007 till 2012 I co-created and managed a creative foundation called Desycle with the objective of working together with different stakeholders and create projects that stimulate awareness in the consumption-production-waste cycle. Thanks to many funds and commissions we were able to develop and execute tens of projects per year, including events where hundreds of people attended. We trained more than 100 people per year (kids, design students, trainers working in social centres, citizens and even homeless people) through different activities and workshops and we created 70 lines of products to inspire people. Some products could be seen here.

Some organisations that made this innovative process possible were: VSB fonds, Stichting Doen, SNS Real, and many other organisations of different sort, from Municipalities, schools & neighbours organisations to Waste processing companies.

” Desycling projects connect people, business and public institutions. Their social and environmental issues are addressed and they are motivated to take action by creating awareness in an inspiring, practical and pleasant way. Desycling stimulates creativity and encourages people to look differently at waste and participation.

The basis of desycle lies in translating big theories about environmental and social subjects in a practical way into our daily lives. It provides answers to the question on how to apply this knowledge into your own lifestyle.
Desycle stimulates discussion and offers charm and innovation, thus becoming a guide for practical changes related to the waste material circuit around you. LSDP has established the Desycle Foundation to continue the innovative development of this concept and to spread its practice…”

From 2007 till 2012 I co-founded a creative studio called Latin Sisters Design Productions (LSDP) together with designer Gabriela Bustamante.

We worked together with many other professionals, designers and students on innovative commissions for companies, government and social organisations, applying a holistic design approach to find solutions to social and environmental challenges.

We created social design commissions like the set up of production facilities (social firms) for social organisations and developing educational programs for kids in neighbourhoods regarding social and environmental issues. Next to this we created and applied successfully tools and creative sessions formats for mind-mapping collaborative projects between different stakeholders.

LSDP was a pioneer social design studio that researched social and environmental issues and proposed projects to find solutions closer using collaboration, design thinking and design action as main tools. For more information look at LSDP website.

During my work as director of LSDP, I developed together with designer Gabriela Bustamante a design methodology to ensure a good foundation for the start of projects/enterprises with sustainable ambitions by a groep of stakeholders.

The added value of this tool/method is, on one hand, to take stakeholders to identify their collective ambition in the collaboration, learning to start a project holistically (identifying priorities at different areas). And to define their own role and expectation in the coalition. On the other hand the goal is to get to know each other deeply by making a creative and a fun atmosphere where we reach co-creation and commitment of the stakeholders.

The 5P’s represent: People, Planet, Profit, Pleasure and Practicality. In this form we create a collective mind-map where we discover the important priorities of the different actors regarding essentials topics for the development of the collective dream. During 4 hours we go from abstract thoughts to concrete actions to let them participants experience the power of ‘discovering together’.

The method itself is valuable but more important is the way (how) it is executed. Important aspects are brought from our latin background, like the attention of the session leader for the dynamic of the group, the way we inspire the participants (through design thinking) to create together, the unorthodox process where spontaneity (surprises) during the sessions warranty the creativity commitment and good results of the groep.

See here a good example of this methodology in the practice. A creative session we organised for IJburg Marktmeester in 2010.

If you want to know more of this method, or if you even want to experience the benefit of the 5P’s creative session in the practice, please contact me.

As part of LSDP I developed and successfully proved an instrument to stimulate ‘change’ within organisations. This creative session format have proven to accelerate business development and resolve long existing hick ups in teams and companies development.

In a half day session, through a series of design activities we reflect on our daily work roles in a playful way, which leads the participants to learn how to use their passion and creative skills at work, making them more effective in their role and in their team work.

To see an example of a commission using this method click here.

This work is an example of interior renovations I designed and carried out between 2008 and 2013 together with colleague architect Gimena Repetto. This project dated form 2010.

The 124 m2 apartment in the city of Amsterdam is part of a building complex from the Amsterdam School style situated in South Amsterdam.

We converted 100 m2 into a penthouse of 124 m2 (distributed within 3 floors), with a terrace facing the South-West. The first floor contains the bedrooms and the bathrooms. The old common storage place of the building was turned into a spacious living space for the family with the opportunity to enjoy outside (the terrace) every time the Dutch weather allows it.

In addition to a spacious distribution we accentuated the design by the use of natural materials and craft details. We (re)used azobe wood (that use to be the floor of an old cargo ship) to shape the furniture in the bathrooms and kitchen and to build the stair that goes to the created attic. The material we (re)used for the ceilings is the old wood that stood in the apartment hanging the old stucco ceiling. This wood is very nice old pine wood, but it is considered waste and every body throw it away because it is full of spikes and it is very raw. We cleaned it up (taking spikes out, and sand it, converting it in a very precious material). This creates a very special and warm atmosphere in the house.

Other details and furniture are made as well with former wood pieces of the building and from neighbours (wood) waste materials.

The stair was designed as a very important and surprising element of the apartment, because of its situation in the core of the house. We use partly glass to let pass light and sun to the floor downstairs.

The main challenge of this interior was to persuade the workers to work with what they called ‘waste’. These workers were used to build with standard materials and technics that they could find in the ‘bouw depot’. It took us time and try outs to let them see that it was possible.

However the neighbours did understand the idea of the project and collaborate with the recollection of old wood for the renovation of this apartment.

At the end the result was extraordinary!

More photos of this project will come..

If you are interested to see other examples of interiors I produced in collaboration with Gimena Repetto during these years, please contact me.

For HVC, a waste processing company based in Alkmaar, we developed a concept of a contest for design students. The company wanted to engage young people to create new products gaining (waste) materials creating at the same time inspiration in the waste cycle.

After many brainstorm sessions with the different stakeholders in the production chain and specially with students and young designers willing to have their product ideas in the market, our proposition was a contest designed holistically.

The innovation of this concept is the ‘chain approach’. The young designers are invited to design a product for the partners of a production chain. They have to consider the social, environmental and economic values that they could generate with the product in each link of the chain (see the drawing above) from raw material to consumer’s litter, from cradle to cradle.

Another innovation achievement of this concept is that we focus de whole cycle on people behaviour.  As designers we know how to design from a material cycle perspective (life cycle designed and inspired by nature). This proposal goes further, beside the c2c aspects (this is something we already apply) we focus in the way it is manufactured, distributed, sold, used and thrown away by people. We believe it is the people in the chain what can make possible the cradle to cradle concept in the practice. And this is still one of our main challenges as designers in the future.

In the practice the students win the support in the execution of their design products, together with the chain partners.

This project is the forerunner of the Fabloop methodology.

My role in this project was concept/strategy developer and writer of the concept plan.

Are you curious by this concept? Do you work as well within a sustainable chain approach? Or do you want to know more about successfully chain approaches? Please contact me.

A group of 5 inspiring socially responsible enterprises were invited to share a location for their enterprises in IJburg, Amsterdam.

We were hired by the Marktmeester IJburg, Ymere (housing corporation in Amsterdam) and Radar Advies, to lead the first phase of this project. We did this by dig in deeply into the wishes, needs and priorities of the different parties who were part of this project. We visited IJburg and interviewed people around the neighbourhood. We executed a creative session (based on the 5P’s method=link) to define the vision of the project with all the stakeholders. We wrote a report (link) where the success factors of this project are worked out in detail; we also gave advice about sustainable ways to approach this project to make it a success. This research is a solid basis of information that was used for the further development of the project.

I led this project as part of LSDP. My role was strategy development and leading. I worked with an extraordinary team of creatives, and closely together with the project leader of Radar Advies (Roel Piera) and Ymere (Jacqueline Sarton), in charge of the whole development.

For more information see:

Report of the project (in Dutch)

Format we used of the creative session: The 5 P’s method

IJburg works with the 5P’s (People, Planet, Profit, Pleasure and Practicality)

As part of a co-creation development assignment, we organised a creative session where Ymere (housing corporation), the IJburg Marktmeester, Radar Advies (agency on social issues) and a group of 5 inspiring entrepreneurs exchanged their concerns, ideas and proposals about the start-up of a collective sustainable business in IJburg.
Leading the session through the 5P’s method opened up all possible directions this project could take. It also allowed everyone to bring in their expertise to find what role they can take in every phase of this project. This unorthodox session lasted 4 hours of intense brain workout, but was worth the smiles and laughter’s of every participant.

The added value of the 5P’s tool is, on one hand, to take stakeholders to identify their collective ambition, learning to think holistically (from different areas). And to define their own role in the coalition. On the other hand the goal is to get to know deeply each other. By making a creative and fun atmosphere we reach co-creation and commitment of the stakeholders.

A comprehensive 5P’s report was the result of the research and activities organised. Click in the photo above to see more images. And look at the video where the stakeholders present their enterprises as part of an exercises during the session the ‘jingle and mingle’ challenge!

I worked together for the set up of this 5P’s creative session with designer Gabriela Bustamante, and young designers Beatriz Fernandez Garcia and Belinda de Groot.

If you want to know more about the method, or if you even want to experience the benefit of the 5P’s creative session in the practice, please contact me.

During my work at LSDP (from 2007-2012) I had the chance to develop and execute tens of projects per year related to social (and labor market) reintegration. We advised many social organisations and inspired them to think and act differently to achieve more cohesion and productiveness in their jobs. We set up production facilities where people designed sustainable products, in collaboration with local partners, in longer course projects. And we inspire many others social organisations by organising one or two times creative sessions on how to achieve more (production, collaboration) with the medium they already had.

Some good example of a long course project was the set up of the so called Desycling production facility for De Regenboog Groep.

We worked together with De Regenboog Groep from 2008 to 2011 on a pilot project where social and environmental issues were approached in an integrated way.

Because of the stigmatisation about homeless people within the city De Regenboog Groep asked us to develop a project that would give a fresh twist to stimulate the target group as well as positively influence the perception of the neighbours about the homeless shelter in their local area.

The result of this project is a design-production facility that operates 5 days per week where a group of homeless people from the city produce desycled products. The production is carried out in collaboration with local shops and organisations from the neighbourhood that provided their clean waste material, sell and promote their desycled products. These include paper notebooks desycled from flour sacks provided by the local bakeries and a line of jewellery desycled from coffee bean bags from the local coffee corners.

In the pictures you can see some of the Desycle Products that were designed and are produced in this facility.

This project delivered a closer and more comprehensive interaction between the shelter and the local neighbourhood. Knowledge was transferred (over sustainable design) from designers to workshop leaders and producers but also to the shops that delivered materials. They produced together 4 lines of design products during 3 years that were sold in local shops.

This project meant an important practice of engaging the local community (shops, social organisations, schools, municipality, neighbours, designers) to work together achieving social, environmental and economic outcome.

The project was financially possible made by de Regenboog Groep and the funding of Stichting Start Foundation, Instituut GAK and CIEEM.

My role in this project was strategy developer, general direction, stakeholders engagement. I worked together with a fantastic multidisciplinary group of high talented people, a.o. designer and business partner Gabriela Bustamante and young designers Belinda de Groot and Beatriz Fernandez Garcia that worked very hard making manuals and training the trainers. To know more about the team, the partners and the results check:

The report of the first part of the project (in Dutch)

Keynote Presentation for BNO talks

The report in LSDP website (including some production manuals)

The blog of the project (in Dutch)

Sustainable architecture by children for children in Amsterdam

On request of social housing corporation Eigen Haard to celebrate their 50st anniversary we designed, organised and executed architectural design events for children called Mijn speelhuis (My Playhouse). The goal of the project was to involve children in the sustainable design of a playground in their Municipality.

We designed and organised workshops for kids that where led by professional architects. We created an architectural structure mini museum, where we showed them how they could (re)use (waste) materials to create different structures for their Playhouse. This contributed to influence positively their perception about waste (understanding it as useful material) and gave them the opportunity to co-create their environment.

Mijn Speelhuis (My play-house) was simultaneously happening in three districts of Amsterdam West: Osdorp, Bos & Lommer and Slotervaart. The co-created ’Playhouse’ scale models were exhibited in each municipality. Finally ninety children designed together with architects their ideal Playhouse!

My role in this project was strategy developer, general direction and participating architect. We worked together with a fantastic group of passionate architects which transmitted their passion to the kids. This resulted in out of the box ideas and constructions invented by the participants.

The following link shows the weblog which was kept during the project (in Dutch): Mijnspeelhuis Weblog

This project shows the power of stakeholders working together! We had the opportunity to develop this exceptional project in 2008 thanks to the support of many volunteers, funds, private companies and public organisations.

The project goal was to involve residents in their local environmental and social issues within their neighbourhood and to inspire them to take action. In addition, we invited a group of local residents to be trained as Desycle coaches who were in charge of consolidating the results together with a groep of professional designers.

For four months, a group of 70 enthusiastic residents of Amsterdam Nieuw-West together with a group of designers transformed their own household trash into beautiful design objects. They transformed empty cardboard boxes, plastic bags, old clothes, furniture, magazines and empty plastic bottles into trendy handbags, jewellery, raincoats, trendy wardrobes and more.

All this happened in the temporary Desycle Center in the municipality of Geuzenveld-Slotermeer. Residents, shopkeepers and organisations in the neighbourhood were involved in the project, shared their network and provided materials. We were able to engaged many participants resulting in a powerful group that worked towards improvements of the neighbourhood.

There were ten active residents trained as “Desycling Coaches”. They learned design thinking and production skills, the ins and outs of organising the Desycle workshops including skills to inspire people to actively participate in the development of the community. They worked together with the municipality, welfare parties and local businesses. After the training many of them continued teaching lessons in local neighbourhood organisations.

At the end of the project we designed and organised an exhibition in a trendy location in the city (Westergasfabriek) to show to other citizens of Amsterdam the value of the local project in Nieuwe-West, where many different citizens from different backgrounds (nationalities, generations and education background) worked together to achieve a shared goal. To know more about the exhibition project click here.

This project was financially supported by VSB Fonds, SNS Reaal, Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst (AFK), Rabobank, Stichting Doen, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Van Gansewinkel and different sectors of the Municipality.

My role in this project was initiator and general direction, including: co-concept/program design, finding the right team and partners to work in the project and the funding to make it possible.

I worked together with a talented group of people, to know more about the team and stakeholders involved check this link.

If you want to know more:

  • Report of the Desycling Project here (in Dutch).
  • Short Report of Desycling Amsterdam, used for the promotion of the continuation activities, here.
  • The blog that was kept during the project here (in Dutch), check post from April-July 2008.

After the big success of the exhibition in the former and abandoned tram remise station in Oud-West, we were invited to design and organised another exhibition as part of the project Desycling Amsterdam in 2008 in Westergasfabriek. The main idea was to show the results of the projects to a broader public, other citizens of Amsterdam and to open the dialogue by gathering different important actors of the production and waste cycle to reflect on how to work together in order to achieve social and environmental wins for the community.

The event was a huge success. In four days there were over 1500 visitors, including many group of children’s from different schools of the city.

Visitors were fascinated with the design of the exhibition. We displayed thousands of (borrowed) plastic bottles that hung in four cylinder shapes from the 10 meter high ceiling. Each cylinder was a pavilion. Each pavilion was destined for a different activity: a workshop to make chairs from cardboard, another, where various products were on display and several others with different topics. A much visited pavilion was the hospitality pavilion which was decorated as a Moroccan restaurant.

The visitors to the exhibition participated in a discussion panel about waste and participation. We invited different important actors from the waste cycle to discuss the importance of working together to achieve awareness and participation in the whole cycle.
Representatives of all major sponsors and partners were present: the municipality, waste management companies, funds, neighbours, desycle coaches and designers. The discussion was led by Joeri van den Steenhoven, the president of Kennisland Foundation at that moment. This event was organised in association with MWH Global and Kennisland Foundation.

One of the important outcomes of the discussion was the joint support and interest in finding more activities to work together and include design actions to achieve positive participation. The exhibition received broad attention in the printed and audiovisual media, like Het Parool, other journals and BNR news.

After this exhibition we could conceived many other local activities in Amsterdam and other cities that meant an important step towards finding solutions working together within different sectors. We could inspire as well many other designers with our approach and help them to start projects.

My role in this project was general direction, concept developer, co-design of the exhibition, stakeholders engagement and fund raising. I worked together with a fantastic multidiscipline group of high talented people. To know more read the report of the Descyling Amsterdam project.

We customised Design 2 change creative session for 2switch, an Arnhem based Dutch company specialised in the development and re-integration of disabled people into society.

The main question was to inspire the 2switch team (project managers) and wake up proactivity and creativity in the team. We focused the day session on this question:

– How can we learn to see difficult situations (problems) differently and positively and by doing this come up with ‘out of the box’ solutions.

Through a series of fun and creative activities where the participants change their role to the one of  ‘top designers’ and combine their passion with solving problem assignments, we activate change and wake up the creativity and the passion of the participants. They find their own value and motivation in the team what boosts working together and generate value together.

This project example illustrate very well the power of Design 2 change tool in the practice and let see that if you give people the space to explore their talents, to create and most important to believe in yourself, the results are amazing.
The success of this project was accelerated by the inspiring participant’s willingness to adjust their talents into our present and challenging world needs.
This ‘change’-concept contains the values of our vision: Changing an organisation starts by changing its people, each and every member of the team. I believe we have to focus on those people, since they make the profit, the planet and of course the pleasure!

To know more about this tool and see another examples where we successfully applied Design 2 change method, contact me.

During 2005 till end of 2011, I co-designed a series of products that were part of the Desycling strategy. The Desycling Products were frame to inspire and be produced by people within a specific criteria. During these years we were able to conceived more than 70 lines of products within different projects and commissions.

The products were designed (re)using clean waste material, mostly coming from packaging.

The idea behind the products was to stimulate people awareness through inspiration, inviting them to take action by co-producing the products.

Another import aspect was to recycle old techniques from the popular knowhow.

The products were created and produced in different circumstances, some by groep of neighbours together with designers, some others, like the desycle chairs, by co-production with local shops. Other products were designed and made in collaboration with social organisations and some with invited designers. From each product and line of products we made a graphic manual explaining step by step how to make it.

The criteria we use to develop them:

– Reusing waste materials keeping the material capacity:

The product should be possible to repair, desycle, reuse, re-manufacture or up-cycled again.

– Communicate the local identity and cultural diversity through the products.

– Products show new aesthetic/use values.

– Low energy production process (low-tech & effective performance).

– Simple production techniques, accessible tools.

– Improve living conditions (through service, production process or product itself)

Though we don’t agree with the production of some packaging materials like plastics bottles (PET) and plastics bags (LDPE) we did design products reusing these materials, consciously. We considered that these materials were very accessible and had a big impact in the awareness of people. We proposed to keep their qualities as materials, not mixing them with other materials. We used the properties of the same material to glue them (with warm) for instance in the case of the Tetra Pak cardboard or the low density polyethylene bags. In that way we extended the life of these materials without changing their properties, transforming them in useful and inspiring (awareness rising) products.

My role in the design of the products was co-designer and criteria development.

Photos of products: Netta Tauber

Are you intrigued by this concept? Do you want to know more about the importance of inspiration and awareness in the process towards a circular economy? Contact me.

By commission of the municipality of Amsterdam Oud-West, we conceived and executed the project “From Recycling to Redesign” in 2005-2006.

The goal of the project was to inspire people to look differently at ‘trash’, to reflect about the waste issues in their neighbourhood and stimulate them to take action, working at the same time on the social cohesion of the neighbourhood.
During the project we researched together with designers, neighbours and kids from local schools the local garbage to later design and make products with it in local workshops. Thanks to these activities the perception of participants about trash changed considerably, from ‘problem’ to ‘opportunity’.

As a result of this project, we organised an exhibition in cooperation with local residents and organisations. The exhibition took place in the former tram station De Hallen in Oud West during an international design event in Amsterdam. Through this exhibition, the project generated awareness beyond the local borders. This project was the forerunner of Desycling Amsterdam 2008.

My role in the project was initiator, project management and co-program designer. I also designed the exhibition space together with Gabriela Bustamante and Roberto Uribe Castro. Designers Onno Sminia and Jiska van Veen worked hard assisting during the whole project. Next to this, this project was a success thanks to all volunteers (neighbours, local shops, schools and workers from the municipality) and sponsors (Tetra Pak, NH Hotels, Cafe de Origen, Amsterdam DJ School) that participated to make it possible.

If you want to go deeper into details of the project take a look at the Project Report. You can watch the video of the project: here.

Link to the interaction Exhibition Project we organised after the success of this project.

In the former tram station De Hallen in Oud West we designed and conceived an exhibition to show the results of the project Van Recycling tot Redesign that took place in Amsterdam Oud-West for one year. The exhibition was part of an international design event in Amsterdam for a week in September 2006. Through this exhibition the project Van Recycling tot Redesign generated awareness beyond the local borders. We designed a holistic exhibition together with the local neighbours and participants of the project. We wanted to keep the atmosphere of the place and reinforce it with objects and very urban elements like the graffitis indicating the different areas and activities during the exhibition.

This is a good example of designing a space and the content program together (holistically) to reach the goals of the project effectively. Read more about the exhibition approach here (Report of the exhibition).

The most innovative aspect of this exhibition was the way we created it together with many volunteers, neighbours and local organisations. They participated in the content idea of activities, promoting it and in the assembly and disassembly of it. This was part of the whole idea of the project: participation!

My role in the team was to take care the goals of the project were shown in the exhibition in the way we conceived it and in the atmosphere, activities and results shown. I co-designed the exhibition and I was project manager and responsible to make it happen working with a great team of professionals and volunteers.

The public was diverse, besides the local neighbours we had many other citizens from other parts of the city and the country, even international public and students that participated in projects we organised years after.

Some quotes of people that visit the event were:

“Well done! Great location. Already one of your fans. Loved the workshops. Keep up with the good work and your great ideas”

Patricia Salle (visitor and former workshop participant, form the Borgerbuurt)

‘’What a great and absolutely inspiring exhibition”

Trudy Drenth (visitor)

“What a nice atmosphere here..It looks like Berlin trendy places..!!”

Carmen & Emile (visitors inside design)

More Information:

Report of the exhibition

In the period 2006 – 2008 I worked on the initiative Resample. The project was a co-creation of architect Iris de Kievith and myself whereby we established an international cooperation between Dutch and Argentinean recycling specialists: architects, designers, social workers, scientists, NGO’s, private companies and government. Resample proposed the combination of experiences and possibilities of both countries to get solutions closer in the field of housing improvement, reusing waste material and energy saving.

Through a series of exchange activities working together with specialist form both countries, we researched and came up with solutions to be applied in Argentina to improve the housing conditions of some specific neighbourhoods.

In 2006, for example, Resample organised an international conference week in Buenos Aires, the workshop Reciclan that included lectures, (theoretical and practice) workshops, exhibitions, round tables and visits to local projects.

Over 150 persons subscribed and participated, among them representatives of multinationals, waste material companies, NGO’s, politicians, diplomats, architects, designers, journalists, scientists (from Universities), social workers (from local cooperatives) and students.

The conference week was a success according to all participants. Important results were:

– Establishment of an international (still in operation) network.

– In depth knowledge of added value of international cooperation.

– In depth knowledge of the local waste material cycles and main (housing) needs of the population.

– Development of several application of local waste materials (as building material) based on the local needs.

– Several articles in Dutch and especially Argentinean press contributing to awareness raising.

The project Resample ended in 2008 but the network continues. In May 2014 I established in cooperation with Pakhuis de Zwijger the Buenos Aires City Embassy which extends and revitalises this valuable international network, for future collaborations.

As a Dutch-Argentinean architect I initiated the project and found in Iris de Kievith a passionate co-creator to make the project a huge success. My role was the overall program management and the establishment of the Argentinean-Dutch network. Together with Iris de Kievith and Jan Jongert of Recyclicity foundation (Superuse studios) we designed the Dutch input for the conference week. The team was complemented in Argentina with Carlos Levinton from the CEP laboratory (experimental building systems) of the University of Buenos Aires, and with many assistants like Paula Callau (architecture student) that worked hard to make a success of this exchange project.

The international network partners were among others Recyclicity foundation (Rotterdam), Arcagrup (Buenos Aires), the University of Buenos Aires (lab CEP), Cooperativa El Ceibo and Greenpeace Buenos Aires. Resample was supported by ‘Stimuleringsfonds voor Architectuur’, Hivos Foundation, the University of Buenos Aires and the Royal Dutch Embassy in Buenos Aires.

More information:

Resample Projectplan (in Dutch)

– Report of the project (in Dutch)

Resample inspiring publication and exhibition we prepared for the exchange program about reuse of materials for building purposes.

Since very young I had a fascination for craft design. I did many art collages as kid for my friends and family. During my architecture studies in the early 90’s I loved to make all these great building models using cardboard and all kind of materials we could find. I realised later on that I had developed many skills (like patience, discipline) by working with my hands on that models.

With the boom of the computers (from 1995) I dug in the drawing computer softwares, becoming an expert in using them, and like many other workmates, I started to dream in autocad (drawing software) commands. Of course it was fascinating the way we could get things done, in one time having the drawings prepared to be printed in different scales. It was amazing!

When I moved to the Netherlands in 2002 I had time to reflect about my way of working and coming from this period of having worked so much with computers I needed to recover the balance  of working with my hands, with softwares, with other people (and not only architects) and even to find a body-mind balance in my life! In that time I re-started my craft activities and I re-starter to dance (Tango) and to practice more yoga. The results were amazing, because I also questioned my whole lifestyle and I committed myself to work for my dream in life.

What has all this to do with craft design? Within this context I created ‘the Maga lamp’

The Maga lamp is part of a series of objects I designed in 2002. It was an experiment based on designing and making these objects at home, with materials and tools I had at hand reach. The Maga lamp is made out of reuse magazine paper and cardboard. By using one kind of material (paper) and organic glue, the product was able to be disposal in the compost bin (following cradle to cradle principles).

I wanted to couple in this object the gains for the environment by reusing materials and not buying a ‘made in china’ lamp, and the therapeutic benefits of working (doing a design) with your hands.

I was of course confronted by many with the word ‘time’. The first thing people said was: I don’t have time to do something with my hands. For that reason I made a comparison between the time and money used by making the Maga lamp or going to buy one lamp at Ikea for instance. The results were surprising. It was a funny ingredient we used later in presentations (See the comparison in the images above).

This journey through the benefits of craft design, the consideration for the environment (reusing materials), the crisis in my role as professional, coupled to the culture differences I experienced when I came to the Netherlands (the lack of diversity in the social contacts, much individualism), were the main elements for the development of the strategy van Recycling tot Redesign (and later  Desycling). Through this strategy we proposed and achieved social cohesion in neighbourhoods by creating craft designs together with citizens, transferring design knowledge, involving other social local actors (like schools, social workers) to create awareness in an unaware way.

I had the pleasure later on to co-design many other craft products conceived to be made by participants (in a DIY way), together with my partner Gabriela and many other great designers, we were able to conceived more than 70 products lines within different project of the Desycling strategy.

Check as well: Desycling products.

The publicity and communication company OER had moved to a loft in one of the old deposit areas, Veemkade, in Amsterdam. They requested an integrated office design which would keep the characteristics of the building itself.

The main idea for the office design was to do the less as possible, keeping the idea of ‘a big space’ building only two modules, one for the kitchen and another called The Box by the client with the purpose to be used as relax- and telephone room, IT-room, storage and wardrobe.

The kitchen was designed as a furniture itself and The Box was designed as a little house (shelter) into the big place that had to allocate all the functions it needed.

I designed and managed the project. In the design process I collaborated with the architect Roberto Uribe Castro.

This is a good example of interior project between many other interiors I realized during my career. If you want to see other interior projects I managed and co-created, please contact me.

During my research activities in de mid 90’s I had a special interest for the design and philosophy of Michael Reynolds.

In 1997 I had the honour to meet him and his team in New Mexico, during a study trip of the pueblo’s culture around New Mexico and Colorado (USA).

In 2004 I did in depth research about Earthship construction system with the objective of sharing the information through Recyclicity Foundation from Rotterdam. The same year we organised a trip with many architects from The Netherlands with Stichting Owaze, where we could visit the construction of the Earthship in Brighton.

In short we can say that the Earthship features are characterised by:

  • using solar or wind energy
  • passive solar heating
  • thermal mass design,
  • solar and wind electric power,
  • integrated water reuse systems,
  • natural and recycled materials,
  • low cost,
  • no utility bills.

Beside the ecological aspects, what makes innovative the Earthship concept in my opinion are three very strong points, that make it captivating at a social dimension:

1- The use of low-tech systems (easy, accessible technology)

There is something very strong behind the fact that you CAN build entire your own house.

2- Collective building (people become more aware of the individual lifestyle)

New form of conceiving the construction process, breaking with the traditional construction companies system. The construction of a house becomes a very important gathering (social) moment.

3- Manual approach (DIY) expanding knowledge:

Reynolds proposed in the early 70’s a new role of the architect professional. By making manuals and selling books with the instructions for building your own Earthship, he proposed a new role of the architect, the one of facilitator. He introduced the notion of expanding the knowledge and giving tools to people, DIY. This was already happening in many other sectors but not in the architecture field.

To know more about Earthships:


In The Netherlands:

This was a research engagement from the Recyclicity Foundation and I executed it in collaboration with technical engineer Joost Suasso in 2004.

A family who bought a piece of land in a gated community near Buenos Aires, Argentina asked me to design and realise a family house based on their desires. Bio-climatic concepts and the relation between the house to the exterior environment were important aspects to consider.

The design process started end of 1999 by gather in several design sessions the requirements for the design. The design sessions were about their lifestyle dreams (use of the house including family and friends), the standards of comfort and their wishes regarding ecological aspects inside and outside the house. Finally this led to a country house of 280m2 in which the materials and the aesthetic used are linked to the constructive tradition of the province of Buenos Aires. The house was delivered in august 2001.

I did the design and supervision of the realisation and worked together with the consultant engineer Ing. Horacio Migone. Realisation of the house was done by Ferrantelli Construcciones.

In this work I applied my knowledge and experience about materials related to bio-climatic concepts as well as my integrated design approach in which the future residents had an important role sharing their dreams for the future with me. I developed the ability to do the whole end-to-end process of designing, building and delivering a house which has a very low use of energy because of the applied passive architecture concepts.

My interest in mobile architecture took me to have an intense experience on this field. After deep studies and projects on this subject (specially studying Prouvé work) I had the possibility to work from early 1998 till end 2002 as project manager for a company specialized on mobile architecture in Argentina, Arcat S.A.

Arcat builds portable, demountable, and relocatable structures (modules) and prefab systems for different uses: housing, offices, accommodation, schools, sanitary modules, shelters for telephonic companies and other specific use, combining standard technology with client’s special requirement. This work permitted me to get me deeper in mobility subject and to incorporate to my ‘artistic view’ the practical-technical vision that Arcat work required, getting wide experience on structures, material behaviour, work systematisation, and other topics related with mobility.

Next to this, within this work experience I develop myself as a very effective project & program construction manager. Learning how to manage complex projects under strict quality norms and requirements, working within an interdisciplinary team and closely together with clients from idea to delivery and follow-up assistance.

The project shown in the photo is a cottage house that consists of a combination of a transportable sanitary module with prefab systems modules finished on site with local materials. Project made in collaboration with Estudio Faivre–Roman and Daniel Low. Buenos Aires 2000.

During that period we worked for several international companies.

For more information and details about architecture mobile projects in relation with sustainable development contact me.

From January 1997 till March 1998 I worked for Hampton-Rivoira architecture office in Buenos Aires as an architect designer. I had the pleasure to have worked on several building projects and competitions, like bank/office buildings and some park & leisure development areas as well. We focused on eco-effective use of materials & installations and building relationship with the environment and users.
I learned much from Jorge Hampton’s sustainable approach in architecture and the way he involves clients in the project and teaches the staff.

If you want more information about the projects from these period, please contact me.

Started as an unsolicited architecture project with a group of fellow architects and designers for a no-man’s land between Buenos Aires and the city of La Plata in the province of Buenos Aires in 1994.

The urban design proposal gets use to the topography of the place (-4m below sea level), conforming a public walk (big island promenade) between two principal arteries that connect Buenos Aires to La Plata city. The connections are for pedestrian and vehicles. In this platform there are also bars, restaurants and cultural activities. The level below zero is considered for parking and equipment installations.

The shopping design was based on a study that compare the old way of shopping in Buenos Aires (in ‘’Calle Florida’’) with the different scales that are involved, and the new way of ‘’box’’ shopping mall (Carrefour near this area).

The landscape emphasises the idea of the urban island while the recurrently stairs and ramps get you into the green area.

My role in the team was initiator, designer and material and bio-concepts specialist. I gained experience in this project with unsolicited architecture and connecting specialists of different backgrounds and aim to reach a mutual goal. In this case, gain an abandoned area for the neighbourhood, building a shopping mall where social interaction was the main focus.

During a postgraduate study ‘The use of the material: aluminium’ with Richard Horden and Mederico Faivre in DiTella University, Buenos Aires in 1998 we made studies for shelters for evacuation situations, based on research of floods in the Argentinean littoral (Delta) that brings almost each 3 years hundreds of thousands of evacuated people.

In collaboration with architect Diego Trolliet and the DiTella’s team we developed the ‘Delta Project’ instantaneous emergency shelter for catastrophe’s situations. This shelter is lightweight and easily transportable but is sturdy enough to last for many years, and if no longer needed can be taken to other emergency areas. The shelters are very simple to make or assemble and can be rebuilt and delivered and set up in a short time which is crucial in emergency situations.

The temporally shelters can be set up by groups of neighbours or by volunteers as no special skills are needed. The shelter is usable in a large set of locations as the telescopic legs make it adaptable for uneven terrain, snow or water. As the shelter is lifted in the ground it will be dry. Heating and sanitary can be added. The space below the floor of the shelter will serve as a space for the owners to store the materials they will use in rebuilding their homes.

The project was selected by the first edition of Architecture for Humanity in 1998.

My role and added value in the team was researching and designing. I gained experience in this project on mobile architecture building with specific material properties.

More about this project can be read in Richard Horden. Architecture and Teaching. Lehrstuhl für Entwerfen, N. Baldassini, R. Horden. Birkhäuser Verlag; 2000. ISBN no. 3-7643-6152-2

During my period as a researcher at the Center of Material’s Innovation in the Habitat’s Studies Institute (IDEHAB) unit in La Plata (Argentina, 1995 – 1997) I investigated possible solutions for the severe sanitation problems in the Argentineans poor housing sectors and slums.

Our vision was to developed a prefabricated sanitary unit that will consider the broader sanitary problem (whole cycle: manure’s treatment, reuse of gray water & drinking water provision)

This resulted in the design of a new design process with a sanitary core as a starting point for the construction of a house, considering mechanisms that focus on gaining water and energy. The research also considered studies and designs of prefab-systems for housing and their future growing possibilities The layouts possibilities that this module offers make it adaptable to several geometries and houses structures.

In the research special attention was given to works of Prouve in France and Fermin Estrella in Argentina.

The research was executed in collaboration with Alejandro Jarolaski, leaded by Carlos Barbachan and Uriel Jauregui, from IDEHAB. My added value was the integration of several complex problems regarding living (culture) conditions into the design, interviewing many users/stakeholders and drawing and prototyping.

During the research we could make some try outs and test prototypes. This research was too advance in terms of sustainability for that period (1997), for that reason we could not get the finance to apply the model extensively in the needy areas.

Epeira Diadema was the title of our first price winning design in a contest participation for students in 1995. The design requirements were: Itinerant space (300m3) for conferences and exhibition activities that must be easy to transport, fast and easy to assemble, flexible in use and with mutable possibilities.

Epeira Diadema, the name given to the entry is by definition the scientific name of the ‘garden spider’.

National Competition for students with aim for a technological solution. La Plata, Argentina, October 1995. First prize. In collaboration with Alejandro Jarolaski.

Our entry contained many technical detail drawings that are not shown in this website.

Since 2004 I change the direction of my profession, from being a full time architect that worked in different kind of construction commissions to be a social strategy developer, working together with different stakeholders to develop projects that create value in many aspects, value for the local community, for the people and companies involved in the project and for the environment. I didn’t quite completely my activities as architect. I use my design skills to co-create products and spaces to achieve more impact implementing these social strategies. Some examples are the Exhibition of Desycling Amsterdam in 2008 or Van Recycling tot Redesign in 2006.

The design of social strategies is intensive and heartwarming work. It is not about making a plan from the studio, but it is about making a plan together with many participants. Going out and talk with many people. It requires much listening, empathy, and team work. I believe this kind of work will be more and more common in the future, as we are switching from ego designers ‘that come with the fantastic solution’ to facilitators, activators of change. Check projects labeled as ‘social design’ to learn more about these strategies.

We need to develop many social and psychological skills in order to implement social design strategies successfully. The secret is to be open and willing to develop skills that you even never before imagine you will develop. I believe the best way to learn is willing to learn, and by doing it. It is like being mother, nobody teaches you how to be a good mother. It is a matter of willing and feeling. If you really want to become a great mother or father and start asking yourself ‘how’ questions during the process, you will be always in the right path!

In the next years I will focus myself on transferring knowledge & experience (even more than in the past) to young professionals. Letting them the space to learn, facilitating the social design process in the practice. If you want to know more about the plans and if you are interested in this subject, feel free to contact me, there is much to do!

I was last month in my lovely Buenos Aires again. I wrote an article over an exchange program regarding design & sustainable development I’m working on. I share it here:

The big challenge!

The environmental challenges of Buenos Aires are quite the same as years ago but getting worse every year because of climate change effects.  On top of the rapid growth in population (slums). Reboratti (argentinean environmental scientist) in a recent interview, described 4 important interrelated, environmental problems to work on:

1. The solid waste (in Buenos Aires we produce 1 kilo of trash per person per day)

2. The contamination of rivers and canals.

3. The contamination and lack of biodiversity in our farming landscape and how this is negatively modifying our natural landscape.

4. The lack of awareness among the population.

Next to this, the social and health problems (not listed here) remain a big challenge as the slums in the city have grown 50% in the last 9 years.

Fortunately, there are initiatives and people taking action to implement change in many sectors. Here below are some examples of  these type of people (friends and new contacts) I met while on my trip.

Good initiatives

El CheLA, A77, m7red..

In Buenos Aires City, I had the opportunity to talk to Gustavo Dieguez and Lucas Gilardi from A77 as well as, Mauricio Corbalan and Pio Torroja from m7red. Their work shows a discovery of new role for architects. One  that tries to contribute to society’s challenges.

I was invited to the initiative ‘El gran Aula’ of A77 in collaboration with cheLA Foundation. The project is an event-installation of wood modules (classrooms) that are set up at the local ‘Plaza’ (in this case, plaza  Parque Patricios). Each module offers people an ‘open school idea’ around different topics: photography, design, music and meals.

If you want to learn more check these links:

El Gran Aula

Centro Cultural Nomade at Proa

El CheLA is a great initiative started by Fabian Wagmister. It hosts different social enterprises like Ashoka, Socialab, Njambre, A77 and more.

Having a coffee in the beautiful Bar Celta, Mauricio Corbalan, from m7red and involved in GarageLAB, explained the project “que pasa riachuelo?”. This is a cross-sector research and pollution- information -mapping. It represents a milestone in Argentinan environmental history: it is the first pollution Supreme Court lawsuit, initiated by citizens. Its judgement must be fulfilled by the three governments: the National, Buenos Aires province and Buenos Aires City.

I talked shortly with Paula Cardenau from Njambre, with Matias Kelly from Ashoka and with Jorge (Yoyo) Riva from Socialab. They are working to empower and scale social enterprises from the business sector.


I visited my friend architect Mederico Faivre, and he showed me the great building renovation work they are doing in the Unqui (Universidad de Quilmes). They were able to recycle 7800 tons of metal of the old textile factory.

Beside the building, the Unqui has an interesting program ‘extending the university to the community’. They have a workshop program where people (that have no access to education) can learn a practical job, predominately a craft activity: carpenter, sewing, etc. I see much opportunities to fulfil these programs with design activities, involving designers and other disciplines as well to make more impact for the local community. We will work out a collaborative program to make this happen.

Read more about the Unqui programs here

CEP goes on

It was nice to see Carlos Levinton as well from the CEP (FADU) after many years. They are working with the concept of eco-centros in different places in the province of Buenos Aires. He explained la ruca technologica, a project  they did in the south of the country in collaboration with many people (Ingeniero Jacobacci, Rio Negro) and financed by the National government in 2013. It was the collaborative construction of a cultural eco-centre with volcanic ash. They made a publication with manuals that show among other things, how to build a dry toilette, solar kitchens and grow native endangered plant sort.

It would be interesting to know how they continue sharing these technologies nowadays as I understood it was only a one time project.

There is much more…

I met as well architect Martin Zaitch. He is working as a freelance architect for the local government and most interesting is his architecture work in the slums.

I got an invitation to assist to an event of Proyecto Habitar en la FADU, great initiative, but I didn’t have time! I would like to visit them in the next trip.

As well as Project Ciudad Roca Negra of Ariel Jacubovich! More in spanish here

Buenos Aires City

I see Buenos Aires City still with so many challenges to give address! For instance in my old neighbourhood, San Telmo, there is much to do!

I was happy to experience some encouraging improvements:

Biking the city!

One of the improvements is the bike circuit  the ‘bici senda’.  They have extended the circuit. Each time more people are using it. It is not the most pollution free city to bike around yet. And so there is much to do in the city to make it healthier.  There is more awareness of pollution and this bike circuit is definitely a good start!

Read more:

Eco Bici Buenos Aires 

Also nice project of photograph Enrico Fantoni, BiciBA that shows how biking is expanding.

Urban restoration

La Usina del Arte’ is an industrial monument building recovered last year. The citizens gained Museum and Cultural Center from this old factory Usina from the Italo electric company.

The recovery of this monument building is part of a plan to integrate the abandoned southern sector with the city center. The building is very well restored. Simple and effective reminds me of the Tate Gallery in London. What better for Buenos Aires than a place to house the highly talented local artists! Well done! Bien hecho!

Another nice example of social-urban restoration, still in the planning phase, is Puente Alsina.

The local government will recover another forgotten building, Alsina Bridge. Their aim is social integration through cultural activities, like a circus school, learning to make the local musical instruments bandoneon and schools for facade restoration!

Read more in spanish here.

The city government also implemented a farming school program.

I see there are great efforts, but I also see the need of connecting these programs with other sectors and disciplines and the local community, in order to include these activities as daily habits.

Conclusions and opportunities

1 There is need of an integrated vision on the current challenges.

2 The need of design and space for practicing a new profession for instance in architecture, urbanism.

3 Integration of disciplines and sectors in the solutions (public, private, academy/science, ngo’s)

4 Longer term planning, projects that continue to grow over time. This is an opportunity for adaptable and repetitive systems.

5 In general ,there is not much awareness about the blue / circular economy.(see link)  There is much to do to spread the knowledge with practical examples and working pilots.

Some examples!

1 Solid waste

is still a big challenge as most of the waste goes to landfill. The law Basura Cero has not been successful. The quantity of plastic bags and short-life packaging is huge. I  think that part of the solution could be to regulate (stop!) the use of plastic, and start producing bags with materials that don’t pollute the environment in their production process and gain value as well being used as fertilizers  and compostable materials).

The City government has achieved charging money for plastics bags in supermarkets. That is a solution in “thinking in doing ‘less bad’,” but alas, this is not solving the source of the problem. I know it is not easy to removed a large oil product industry, but don’t you think it’s time to promote healthy industries and circular business?!

Some good news: In the University of Buenos Aires a group of scientists developed a organic cleaning system using specific mushrooms that clean the sewers of paper and textile industries

Read more in spanish here!!! : )

2 Buenos Aires performances rock!

Art and culture (mainly theatre, music, dance) are unique added values of the City! Wonderful how much high quality and quantity of art is available in This City! The question that I ask myself  is “isn’t there a way to apply this amazing talent to address the environmental and social challenges”

3 Integrating design with never before combined disciplines

Good work from the City Government is for instance the vegetable garden programs in basic schools. Well done. Bien Hecho!

The next step will be the opportunity to involve other actors in the project to make it more ‘realistic’, and turn it into a community out reach program.. If we could relate this project with the neighbourhood, including professional gardens, each school in connexion with a restaurant that harvest their production. Imagine mobile dinning-rooms/vegetable gardens that integrate art and food.!!! Yum! Here we could generate impact in the community and create awareness regarding healthy food, waste=food, circular natural cycles.

This is a great study, Suzanne Simard shows that all trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected, with the largest, oldest, “mother trees” serving as hubs. The underground exchange of nutrients increases the survival of younger trees linked into the network of old trees.

I remember at school studying ‘the tree’ drawing it in detail from leaves, stem and roots, the photosynthesis, the  ecosystem around it but seeing it as individual. Though I loved that lesson, I really would have love a second lesson drawing the section of all these trees working together as a system!

Let’s mimic nature and build (human) systems with the same resilience and regeneration properties!

Update dec 2016: Read here an interview to Suzanne Simard.

When Rina, my mother-in-law, saw how good Sol (daughter of 2 years old) blow her nose, asked me: how did you get her to do it so well? I don’t know, I just taught her… was my answer.

After her question, I noticed I was completely unaware of how the whole process has been until she asked me. I used an empathic design approach to teach her how to blow her nose. Here below I listed the steps to the result:

1. First I observed how other parents did it. It resulted to be aggressive for the kids, most kids hate it. For many of them blowing their nose was a very traumatic experience. The parents want to take out the snot very fast and the kids are running away in panic or crying during the forced situation. This happens because the parents mostly focus in what they want to achieve (The Result: take out the snot from the nose of his/her kid) instead of thinking in a more comprehensive and long term situation: I want my kid to learn how to blow her/his nose and having a nice experience doing it. As an effective design solution:

2. What I did secondly was to talk to her and explain her that by blowing her nose she would feel better and would breath deeper. You must think this is too much for a 1,5 years old kid. First mistake! They understand much more than what we think, even as babies!

3. I show her how I did it (fun)

4. Luz, her bigger sister (4 years old) shows her as well (more fun)

5. We put in front of her nose the tissue paper but we didn’t do anything else, asking her: do you want to try? This took a couple of weeks. In the meantime Luz was blowing her nose and breathing deeply, playing.

6. In a moment we put the tissue in front of her nose and she exhaled at one nose and then at the other! She was so proud of herself! Now with 2 years old, she takes the tissues and does it by herself.

So Rina, this is how I, or rather we, did it. Thanks for asking!

Practicing yoga is one of the best habits I have developed.  Yoga’s vision and practice correlates to my vision and practice  of design. I learn so much practicing it.

If I compare the practice of yoga with other practices, I can pinpoint 3 things that apply in other processes like the creative process:

Important aspects learned from yoga practice:

1- Work from inside out (focus on the process)

How you approach the challenge: from inside out.

In yoga if you want to do a pose focusing on the end result from a photo, you will not get the result.  If you do it from inside out following the awareness of your body, putting all your intentions in the process you will be able to do it and have a great result.

2- Integrated (comprehensive) & collaborative

You can’t separate your body in parts, if you want to achieve flow and take your body to an awareness stage you need to feel your body as a whole and find the balance within all parts to work together and collaborate towards the final result.

3- Develop the habit

It is all about developing habits, it is not one isolated action. It is about taking actions and try 1, 2, 10, times.  Keep trying to get to next levels.


It was nice to attend Pauli’s  lecture last Thursday (10-10), Day of the sustainability and by coincidence my birthday. Thanks Jan (Jongert) for this birthday present!

For those who don’t know about the Blue Economy, a video explanation.

Nice to learned in general about initiatives they are carrying out within the Blue Economy. His message was clear and not new: We need to re-industrialise Europe. We need to redesign the new industrialised era with the mindset of gaining more and more from what we have. Multiple cash flows business plans.

And how? By doing it. No more analyzing. Europe analyses too much, we need more ACTIONS. We need many many innovative entrepreneurs putting blue economy ideas into action. Inspiring!

Jan Jongert from Superuse studios set up a Linkedin groep about the Blue Economy, in collaboration with Zeri and Gunter Pauli: If you want to contribute or get inspired about the blue economy you may join it: Blue Economy by Gunter Pauli Linkedin Groep

Future lectures

I have attended many other presentations about circular economy, closing the loop…. It is so great to see that this topic is becoming important in many sectors.

Like in Pauli’s conference I noticed still the trend to talk only from the successes and this selling kind of pitch ‘we are doing great or we have the formula’. While, I consider this quite inspiring,  I’m kind of missing a more reflective and critical lecture approach, where people share mistakes and their learning process and how they approach their current challenges.

Perhaps the thing is that people still want to convince or sell ideas to a massive audience or people still willing to hear that sales pitch?

I envision for the future a less selling, ego kind of conversation, with more and many great questions. Sharing difficulties will show that we are a step ahead!

Last Friday I had the pleasure of participating in the seminar ‘The Circular City’ in Amsterdam. The talks from experts in sustainable design were inspiring, John Thackara, Michiel Schwarz and Fuad Luke. I am pleased to know that the values ​​proposed in our design activity since 2005, are the values ​​to follow ‘now’ according to these three gurus of sustainable design.

In 2005, when we began to carry out projects that generated social value (connections between disconnected groups of neighbours), environmental value (through ‘up-cycling design products), awareness generation and knowledge- transfer to people, it was not popular this kind of multiple (comprehensive) approach at all. And not many talked about it in 2005.

It was very difficult for our clients to understand that all the above aspects  somehow had to integrate. It was too much to understand for them. It is true that it was, and it cost us explaining time. Luckily now there are more people trying to explain these things and give new names to what we do. (Check: sustainist design)

We, in the meantime, continue doing it, although what we do at first have no names and many did not understand it. Important is to not lose the conviction and to know that we can say now, “look, in 5 years this (weird approach) is going to have a great name, let’s go ahead now!”

This is a recurring topic in my life. Being creative, innovative, it is sometimes difficult to accept that things do not change as fast as we would like. Here, a concrete example: We are discussing at one of the tables in Pakhuis de Zwijger about how we can implement the idea of ​​the circular city in our daily tasks. In the centre of the table is a bowl with mixed waste in it: an apple with traces of plastic packaging of coffee creamer and paper of the sugar that someone took. This happens in a seminar about the circular city. Not to mention the cookies we consumed, only circular in their shape. Anyway, I found these contradictions a good topic to discuss within the group. We set up in the spot two bowls with two streams of material (organic and inorganic).

We don’t practice what we preach? Or we preach what we are not able to practice yet? If we have this kind of materials and food in this type of seminar, what can we expect somewhere else? I don’t want this to be a strict critic for the event organizers, but rather offering constructive criticism.

I see two things:
One, is that we often coexist with these contradictions, learn to be aware of them and try to improve them on the spot. To inspire others to do so is a job in itself, and is always worthwhile.

Secondly, to include designers in the organisation of the next event: is a good idea! True, we have a special eye for detail and it seems essential. “God is in the detail”, Mies van der Rohe used to say. And I would say ‘The Circular Economy is in the detail’.

Note: I lost the photo we took that evening. The photo above is taken during a Cradle 2 Cradle seminar in Amsterdam, where the same reflexion applies.

Like Buckminster Fuller said:

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

How can we change the model if we don’t have the knowledge and tools to change it?

Douglas Rushkoff made an interesting point with his book  Program or be Programmed – TEN COMMANDS FOR A DIGITAL AGE, about the use of technology in our digital age.

He says: The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilisation. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.”

Hear his statement in the video above.

In 1986 I had computer lessons at highschool, in Quilmes, Argentina. We had DOS programming and another system I can’t remember twice a week for two years. Perhaps that’s why I’m handy with computers…

But seriously, I can’t understand why education about operating systems was taken out of the school curriculum. Why are our kids still learning (almost) the same stuff that we learned at school? It is strange that we are not teaching our kids the language of the future. I don’t believe we all have to become programmers, but like Rushkoff said, we need to understand at least that there are other languages and be more familiar with them, to be able to choose between created systems or to further developing them and creating new ones.

I do believe we need to transfer more technology knowledge to the new generations. Not isolated but together with other knowledge which is important for the challenges of future generations: like food, health, spirituality, sustainability. But it is clear that language of technology and operating systems is an important part of the future.

How can we give our kids more tools to change our systems into more humans and integrated ones?

There is much to do! And we are still in time!

I was so happy to discover the work of architect Michel Reynolds and his Earthship’s books in 1997! The books had all drawings, manuals and tips on how to build Earthships. It was like having the first recipes housing book in my hands! It was something very special. But not only for the great and practical housing design that they developed from the early 70’s. But for the way he was communicating and expanding the knowledge!

I had the opportunity to made a research about Earthships construction system for Stichting Recyclicity when I came to The Netherlands in 2003. Check it here.

I believe the designers of the future will be working on making guides, drawing, manuals and guiding people to make stuff or projects themselves. This will have different nuances, from giving the recipe for a house at a specific location, download furniture or fashion manuals to wider design concepts workshops and guides to let people develop their own designs. We go from an ego designer era to one of facilitators, assistants that will lead to empower people!

Inspiration: If you want to know more about Michel Reynolds watch this film.


This is a post part of a series about female approach to sustainability. Inspired by Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Donella Meadows, Olga Cossettini and many more…

Donella Meadows “Down to Earth” speech delivered in 1993 at a Sustainability Conference in Costa Rica. About the importance of having a vision in life.

How to train our ability to envision together? I think there is no other answer than:

Through working together!

Carlo Petrini, started the slow movement in 1989. I heard of him through a friend of mine in the 90’s, who was very into the slow food movement.

Carlo explains very well why the approach must be holistic, and this applies to other systems as well. He says:

You can’t talk about food without talking about environment,

You can’t talk about health without talking about the quality of food.

Everything is connected!

Food is culture, is environment, is health, is spirituality.

It is an extraordinary and exciting job!

How can we achieve more impact working on social and environmental challenges?

– Integrate profit value in social & environmental design initiatives. Creating social, environmental and profit value.

– Working together within our sector (design) and cross-sectors:

– Bridge the gap between creative people and organisations that ‘need’ social innovation design like Government, Social Institutions (Educational, Health, etc) and Companies with ambitious Social Responsibility goals, creating effective collaboration between the design sector and other sectors.

– Simplifying the whole design process from creation to implementation:

– Integration of business and social/environmental design tools.

– Optimising the team construction in the design process.

– Creating more opportunities for young talents to ‘learn by doing’ designing the challenges. As well, generating employment opportunities for them.

Busy enough!

If you want to know how I’m trying to achieve these points and if you have ideas related to this coming from the design sector or from other sectors, please contact me to work together!

After having achieved great results the last years within different projects and strategies it is time for taking perspective and reflexion.

The projects we have undertaken had great local results and served as great examples of actions that have achieved sustainability in different dimensions at the same time: what I call integrated design approach.

One icon example is the set up of a design-production facility in which a group of homeless people from Amsterdam design products. The production is made in collaboration with local shops and organisations from the neighbourhood that provide their clean waste materials, sell and promote their products. These include paper notebooks from flour sacks provided by the local bakeries and a line of jewellery from coffee bean bags provided by local coffee corners.

We trained the workshops leaders and the homeless people on design skills (sustainable design concepts, etc) and we produce together 4 lines of designed products during 3 years that were sold in local shops.

Our team was multidisciplinary, formed by experienced designers and starters. We had ambitious objectives. We wanted to achieve people, planet and profit values for the set up of the enterprise. The organisation who contracted us was happy with the goal of generating an interesting activity for the homeless coming to work to the design facility. What it made already successful and a great start!

Our added value and paradoxically what made the way more difficult was to focus on achieving the multiple values, following our vision. Just because we think we can do it aside the clients goals, so why not doing it goood, from the beginning. We achieved more than what we were asked to, and we and our client were happy for that. We learned that working in the right solutions, connecting people and doing many trials to enhance the social cohesion within the groups take much time but worth for the common results.

Way of working

I was reflecting much on this way of working, actually my way of working since I remember. I think it is much how designers/artists work. Trying to succeed a commission achieving the goal of the client and our own ideal goals, in my case achieving sustainable success at different levels, for the people, for the environment and for the profit of the project.

Achieving multiple goals is a requirement of sustainable development. I reflect on a couple of things, which I believe it can improve the next design interventions:

First thing I realised is the need of an independent consultancy team. This team will support the designers facilitation team, check and let us see things we do not see while doing the project. With ‘us’ I mean the whole team: designers and stakeholders involved in the project. This consultancy team can help for instance to deal with negotiations about designers expectations (vision) and expectations of the organisation that is investing in the project.

Secondly, having even more attention for the starters training (internships), achieving continuation work. We did this very consciously and we trained talented starters on social design issues. Though I think we can include a continuation plan in collaboration with the client to be able to achieve training continuation and employment opportunities (longer term) for the starters.

These reflections and many chats with other social designers & colleagues are guiding me to the development of a new way of working on sustainable/social/sustainst… (you name it!) design.

Design is always a matter of asking the right questions, including the ones for your own life and business.

Finding the answers can take some time… Let’s enjoy the process getting there!


“In order to achieve different and effective results, we need to change the way we think and approach challenges”, said Einstein..

One thing I believe is that we have to transform our fragmented view into a holistic view. Why? Because we are integrated organisms. The nature and its system works holistically, like our body does and this is effective. It is just a matter of learning from nature.

I never understood why Social Sciences were taken apart of Nature Sciences, it has no logic for me!

In medicine and disease prevention are successful studies that prove a comprehensive approach achieves more effective results. Within other sectors integrated approaches are starting to gain relevance. I’m working to show the benefits of an integrated approach because I truly believe it is the way to find solutions for many challenges we face.

This blog is about sharing my thoughts, reflexions and learned lessons about my journey and passion in life: Contributing to build a sustainable (happy & heathy) environment for ourselves and leaving the right tools to our children to let them continue the journey.

I’m stronger at doing things than writing about them. So don’t take this blog like the one of a writer. I use this space as an open notebook where I can share my reflections and hopefully open conversations. So do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in the topics.

I believe the future won’t be about words but about actions! I believe we are moving from ‘design thinking’ to ‘design acting’ and from ‘story telling’ to ‘story experiencing’. We won’t need much words to communicate. Communication will be more visual and through experiences. In this transition I try to don’t take words so seriously.