Architects have grand visions of buildings and, in expressing them, occasionally render a very few minute people…merely for the sake of scale. Designer Iain Low knows that the people aren’t just there for the city; the city is there for the people. “The preexistent plays a central role in my design,” he says, “I work within the possibility of significantly transforming reality, as opposed to reinventing it.” In his studies of “liminal” communities in New York’s Alphabet City area (before that community was removed by the Giuliani administration), Mr. Low investigated the nature of contemporary “institutions” and the manner in which first-world communities adapt to the use of “third-world technologies” by randomly “tapping into” preexistent infrastructures. In this work, Mr. Low reveals an acute sensitivity of the borderless nature of design issues in the contemporary world. He writes, “Conventional ideas of master planning and ‘design as control’ become counterproductive and even irrelevant. Consequently, ‘good design’ has to be conceived as an integrating process, one which connects with the complex conditions which constitute contemporary culture.” His studies into how disenfranchised communities may be re-built so that conflict between parties is minimized and emphasis on the transformation of structures into livable and comfortable designs posit the work of the designer as corrective — indeed therapeutic — for society. But not in the manner of a surgeon who excises bad tissue or administers a nasty potion, but rather as one whose view takes in the scope of a situation and looks within and outside of it for solutions. A native of South Africa, Mr. Low received a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, with a certificate in urban design, and a Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Capetown. Private commissions include the royal residence for H.M. King Moshoeshoe II in Lesotho, South Africa. His awards and honors include a Fullbright Scholarship, a Bochius Scholarship, a Gundaker Award, and a Graduate School of Fine Arts Scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania.
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