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Wes Janz: The Global Citizen-Architect Mission

"It's the cascading energies of small responses and helping moments that interest me," says professor of architecture Wes Janz, originator of onesmallproject, an immersive learning seminar (and title of an upcoming book) focusing on "leftover" people, materials, and spaces that exist in every city, as well as the potential of those resources for constructing new homes. 

Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion leftover people—typically called squatters, self-builders, informal settlers, displaced persons or even slum dwellers—claim forgotten spaces in cities and live in unauthorized dwellings often made of scavenged, discarded materials. As a result, they represent "the largest builders of housing in the world, busily creating the cities of the future," from which, Janz believes, architecture students and professionals alike can learn much.

"The world's poorest people, who build continuously and constantly imagine improvements and additions, have a passion that should inspire architects," says Janz, whose continuing efforts to shed light on the needs of those who—for a variety of socioeconomic and geographic reasons—fall outside the scope of conventional architectural practice, helped make him one of five international finalists (the only one from the U.S. and the only full-time educator) for the 2008 Curry Stone Design Prize. The annual $100,000 award honors breakthrough projects that have the "power and potential to improve our lives and the world we live in."

As former co-director (2001-09) of CapAsia—another immersive learning program providing a cross-section of world architecture, urbanism, and planning for graduate and undergraduate students in selected South Asian regions and cities—Janz has helped to construct no-cost installations built of scavenged materials in impoverished areas of Argentina, Sri Lanka (following the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami), as well as the United States. 

He regularly presents peer-reviewed papers at major conferences of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), the Society of Architectural Historians (SHA), and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

For more information about "scavenged places" and the people who build them, contact Wes Janz at 765-285-1900.