The Best of Our “Open Source Hero” Interviews

Architecture / Contributor / Interview / Open Source

We've officially launched the Paperhouses site but that doesn't mean we don't still have a rad journal.

First, welcome to the new Paperhouses site! This is our official beta launch, and we’re so excited (ecstatic and relieved, really) it’s running gorgeously. We’re grateful, not the least of reasons being that it’s Thanksgiving around the corner, but we’re most thankful for Dave and Jared running our mouse wheel for the last few days nonstop, making sure you’re seeing all this.

Now, we know most of you are here for the splashy pictures and the opportunity to sign in to cop free downloadable blueprints to adaptable housing designed by world-class architects. However, we did spend the better part of our Summer and Fall putting together what we think is a pretty decent journal of original editorials and interviews with the champions, mavericks, madmen and super women in the creative share-space. We commonly referred to them here at Paperhouses HDQ, as simply:

open source heroes.

Today marks a new format for the site but we’d love for you to stick around for these conversations. We’ll continue posting tidbits from the industry, our business, and your media in one feed. Meanwhile we’re guesting over at our media partner ArchDaily, penning monthly editorials about open source design and architecture! Bookmark, RSS, Tweet, Facebook, heck link us in a LiveJournal if you want. Just remember: we’re a well above-average read!

But don’t take my word for it. Here are some highlights from the interviews we’ve conducted.

Ai Weiwei:

I think all architecture has a religious aspect even when it is not religious. The religious aspect is always there in a man-made object because Man always reflects upon himself in relation to the World, Society, Nature or God. This relation can be directed to God like temples, churches or religious acts but even the non-religious acts can still bear pain or hope, joy or fear. Those emotions are very philosophical questions embedded in being and existence, and that have always been shared by religion. Architects just recognize the qualities that bare some kind of consciousness.

Industrial Design champion Tucker Viemeister:

I think patents are a big bunch of bullshit. People say that the drive to get a patent fuels innovation but it also fuels a whole lot of anti-innovation; because when somebody owns the patent so you can't use it,  you can't build on it, you have to worry about getting sued… there's a whole industry of lawyers and business people who aren't bringing any new value to the world they're just squashing the old one. There are a lot of patents that get bought by people who don't want anyone to use them so that their other patent can be more valuable. I don't see all in all where the value is in all that to normal human beings.

Stuart Brioza, co-owner and chef of James Beard Award-winning restaurant State Bird Provisions in San Francisco:

We're notching out our own space, but as far as intellectual property… I miss those days of earning your recipes, of earning your badge of honor, because it's just constant incentive but I mean someone could do my sauerkraut pancakes easily. I think that's awesome. But where does that go? That's what I'm interested in. How does it further creativity? Maybe it sparks someone's flavor profile or taps into something they didn't know they had. Besides, I don't think someone could replicate what I do with that dish in our restaurant. That's why you go to restaurants, right? What makes them special? The whole package.

Matt Stinchcomb, Director of Values and Impact, Etsy:

I always encourage the businesses on etsy to be more open with what they do. It's kind of an old-fashioned notion to think “I must protect this from everybody!” The world is lateral and open now. Copyright is a whole really interesting thing. Interesting history of copyright and incorporation and all these things. Basically it was a way for the king to make money.  It's really interesting but you see this happening with everything. Paperhouses is a good example. It's the music industry, publishing industry. I think on some level we need to understand that  we can't go back to buying CDs. You have to look at other ways to make a business. Part of it is you're giving it away but you get a return in another way. Maybe increased attendance or merchandise or limited edition art object recordings that are special things. The music is the marketing for these products.

David Noël, VP of Community, SoundCloud:

To me, it comes down to a very simple thing. If I created something, I will decide if I want someone to experience it or not. I think that comes down to the fundamental product that we build. It's grown from a frustration the founders had that there was no simple and easy and beautiful way to share what you created either publicly or privately, and the ability to give people the ability to give consistent feedback at specific moments.  It still represents key things. It’s a new collaborative process. It removes a barrier and invites people to play and organize themselves and to collaborate. They decide if they want to share it or not. That's about it.

Book Design Hero and Author Chip Kidd:

I’ve been saying for years, when it comes to selling books, book jackets don’t sell the book, they get you interested in it. For years I was using the example of Harry Potter covers. They aren’t horrible but they aren’t special. You don’t look at them and think, “Oh my god they’ve reinvented the novel.”

MUJI Creative Director and Graphic Design hero Kenya Hara:

We’ve only just begun. The strength of design is to be able to bestow an “awakening” or “realization” of the average consumer, as well as of major industries. Something as overarching as “urban planning” alone cannot change the city or society. Society will only advance at the moment the ordinary citizen notices these design elements and says to him or herself, “Ah, I see!”

Mark Meadows, CEO of Gepetto Labs:

It's in our interest to develop tools we can play with. The more people can play with the tools, the more they can learn. In our case, we developed our thing, so I’m not worried about people who make it better. It increases our reputation. In the case of publishing, if you’re not selling millions of books, but tens of thousands of books, it's in your best interest to give your book away (digitally). Research shows it increases sales, because most people prefer to read a book in hand. That's changing as tablet tech improves, and isn't true if you're massively well known. The bottom line is not risk of piracy but anonymity. By providing people with a free copy–and this really applies to architects–by providing people with a free example of what you're making, they understand what you're capable of, and you make it easy to share what you're doing with other people. As a result, attention grows, more people will pay you to do it. I'm going to contextualize this for a painter, author and architect: as long as there's a physical commodity to sell, giving away access increases sales. Architects would be very smart to give away all their designs so they can show all the work they can do. What idiot architect says “get on a plane and go to this address in Wisconsin to see what I do”? No one wants to do that. Give away the designs, the photos, the models. Then they can make money from work they get when people see what they're capable of.

Entrepreneur and Marketeer Lisa Gansky:

There are all sorts of data and all sorts of historical experiments in different domains that we can point to that demonstrate that, if what you are trying to do is accelerate the creativity and accelerate the innovation, open source and sharing is something that inspires and provokes people to think differently or come up with the same idea in a different location.  If what you are focused on is value creation and generating inspiration and driving innovation, the whole idea of open source is well-known to be una fuente, it is an absolute source. I look at open source agriculture for example and I think that for thousands of years seeds were created and hybrid forms made and planted and food was prepared … to me the whole business of food and agriculture is something that I look to and say “ well, this is open source!” There are other issues I won’t get into with Monsanto and so on, that are an intersection where suddenly you have someone who is trying to capture value from something they did not create, things that are in nature.

Willem Van Lancker, Co-Founder, Oyster Books:

I think that there's certainly a really great civic or human role that Oyster can fill in terms of hopefully getting people to read more and find books come back in their lives. I think reading, whether its just to relax and reflect or whether it's really meant to enrich your take on business or something else, it's really important as an information source that is very durable. Anyone who talks about how the future of books is in peril hasn’t realized the long-form narrative has been around since before books. It'll be around long after us.

TED laureate, marketing guru Seth Godin:

I think it is impossible to have a productive conversation about open source without agreeing in advance what open source is, because it is the most misused phrase of the internet today. Open source is not what happens when a brand says to people “go make us a commercial. We’re open sourcing our marketing!” There might be a name for that but I do not know what it is. Open source has a particularly rigorous legal definition, and if we are going to work inside that framework, I think we can agree that at its heart it means doing work that creates intellectual output that is shared by the entire community, in a way that scales. If you make donuts and you give everyone a free donut, you are going to go bankrupt. If you make ideas and you give everyone your idea for free, you will thrive, because ideas that spread win. Open source has at its source a generosity of people who want to share, but also an economic engine that kicks in when people share these scalable ideas.

Cory Forsyth, hacker, engineer:

As we continue to find ways to allow people to contribute their collective knowledge in collaborative online projects, we'll see more amazing projects created. I've been interested in the Paperhouses project for a while, because I see it as a project on that vanguard of open source in the architecture world. In the future we are going to see more and more tools for architects and aspiring architects to share their ideas fluidly in real time. We'll never lose the need for professional architects, but in a world where they can collaborate effortlessly, it's hard to imagine a limit to what we can collectively achieve.

Michael Jordan (yes, his real name), Senior Editor of Automobile Magazine:

The biggest challenge at the moment to both architects and the designers of automotive interiors lies in the integration of electronics. Arguably, architects are doing a far, far worse job of it. Anyone who has tried to locate the central control for the lights in a high-style hotel room and then decipher its operation (if labeling is included, it is always illegible) will recognize this. Meanwhile, similar attempts to integrate controls for entertainment devices, connect rooms electronically to centralized Internet-style information, and even deliver telephone service are comically inept.  As one who has had the privilege of frequently staying in some of the finest modern hotels as part of my business travel, I can say that virtually none of them would pass muster in the design studio of any car company on the planet, from the way the door to the shower stall opens to the way the toilet flushes. For architects, design now is apparently style, not a strategy for utility.  The design model here appears to be the television remote, widely acknowledged as the awful-est electronic instrument known to man.

China cannot be reduced to a single pattern. There are practices that clearly follow the globalized concept of producing for a market as if territories and people were merchandised products. And in reaction to that, there are cultural fighters. In China, there are comparatively few of the latter type for many reasons. Still, we see a positive evolution of these ideas in society. The notion of patrimonial preservation and cultural specificity are a focal point today for many actors in construction, especially since (Pritzker Prize-winning Chinese architect) Wang Shu has been internationally recognized. The problem is that economic pressure is still very strong, and even good intentions are sometimes difficult to realize.

Takuya Asano, Creative Director of Gran Turismo Explore:

I think if you're fighting for authorship in a collaboration, you aren't collaborating. At least for me. It's a collaboration. It's not “they designed” or “I designed” or “he designed” but all of us designed it. We all came up with the idea.