#LoFab (Locally Fabricated) Design

Posted on Nov 28, 2015

One of the issues I have with Design is how inaccessible it often seems. Many of the examples we study as “good design” are barely affordable to the masses in the developed world, forget those in the developing world [1]. So when I saw this video about a locally fabricated hospital in Haiti, I had to share it. I thought it was the best example of accessible high design I’ve seen recently. First, its a beautiful health center (for anyone) that seems super airy, bright, and pleasant to be in. Second, and more importantly, is that the production was locally sourced, the methods also “accessible” to the local artisans that can provide jobs in the neighborhood. No CNC machines or 3D printing here, just hammers and metal punches.

I hope you enjoy this video about MASS Design Group’s GHESKIO Cholera Treatment Center, the artisan Mackenzy Vil who manufactured much of it, and #LoFab or Local Fabrication.

The Lo-Fab Movement: Mackenzy Vil from MASS Design Group on Vimeo.

Its a short video, but I thought it was worth pulling out some things Vil says.

When I finished I realized it was art.
Every time, my wife, she’ll see it and she’ll tell me: “Wow, that is so beautiful. You did that?”
And I say: “Yes, you see how it turned out?”

I’m happy I participated. I contributed to something that is useful for my country. So I support a whole community, my community. Because I’m an artisan working here.

How awesome is that? I also loved how his contract employed so much of the neighborhood, as well as the way he phrased it (helping neighbors = employing them).

If you invest in an artisan, everyone will do well. Someone may need help, and he may be able to help them. If I get a contract, so does the entire neighborhood.
[sic]
Even though its hard, I’d like four or five contracts like that a year.

The Mass Design Group’s Vimeo Channel and website has some other good stuff as well. They seem to be doing great work, with a lot of local talent working on their teams. The local talent are still “artisans” rather than the “artists,” but I think its a large movement in the right direction. I look forward to seeing their upcoming projects transform some of the artisans they work with to artists and co-designers [2].

[1] – Small example: when we talk about well designed cars, its often the BMW and the Tesla rather than the Toyotas and the Hondas.

[2] – I noticed that their entry in Fast Company’s Design By Innovation Awards doesn’t credit Vil as one of the creators. However, in their other videos, they do feature a lot of African Designers, and seem to be working on an African Design Center!