The aim of the SCIBE Project was to explore the relationship between scarcity and creativity in the context of the built environment by investigating how conditions of scarcity might affect the creativity of the different actors involved in the production of architecture and urban design, and how a design-led innovation of the process could improve the built environment in the future.
The project team understood scarcity as a condition defined by insufficiency of resources (based on the etymological derivation escarceté, denoting an insufficiency of supply). Scarcity regulates action and behaviour, but not necessarily in a negative manner. We question the modern and Western understanding of the term ‘scarcity’ as the dialectic pair of ‘abundancy’, implying that scarcity must be hidden or vanquished to achieve abundancy - a position embodied in Sartre’s assertion that “the whole of human development, at least up to now, has been a bitter struggle against scarcity.” (Xenos 1989, p35) As we have seen in recent times, an endless promise of growth and abundancy will finally come up against the limits of capital and of the environment (Bookchin: 2004, Jackson 2009), and so this project asks: what happens if we accept scarcity as a given condition to work with rather than a something to escape from?
The research started with two premises: first that resources are necessarily limited, second that human well-being can still flourish within these limits. Scarcity is understood as a relative term that is regionally differentiated, so that insufficiency in one area might be seen as perfectly acceptable in another. Resources are understood to encompass cultural, social and economic conditions that affect the way we live in the world. Where human well-being in Western society is usually tied to notions of abundancy and growth, our project, following recent work by economists such as Tim Jackson, posits that well-being might be achieved within conditions of limited resources, but that to do so one needs the intervention of a new forms of creativity.
Split in four case studies (in London, Oslo, Reykjavik, and Vienna) the project investigated scarcity at different scales, locations and contexts.
The Vienna case "Modelling Vienna" focused on Vienna's housing provision (a) identifying modes and conditions of scarcity, and its affects, within the existing structure of Viennese housing procurement, (b) analyzing the current modes (and limits) of creativity, and its prescribed objectives within the Vienna Model, as well as (c) to identify uncharted forms of creativity and their potential for design-led innovation within the system, that not only opens it towards new stakeholders, but also optimizes the existing functionalities of the organization (resourcefulness, etc.), i.e. researching into criteria that make specific instances powerful within the organization, considering these as potential creative tools of manipulation.
Initially conceived by Jeremy Till, Jon Goodbun & Andreas Rumpfhuber the 3-yrs research project was funded by HERA Joint Research Program (1 MIO EUR).
Research Partners included the University of Westminster, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, as well as TU Vienna.
The Vienna research team included Michael Klein, Georg Kolmayr, Teresa Klestorfer, Christina Nägele and was led by Andreas Rumpfhuber.