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OpenIDEATOR Insight: Stefan Ritter

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Austrian-born Stefan Ritter is an architect currently working in London. He has had 3 of his concepts shortlisted on OpenIDEO challenges, with Priority Queue being a winner on the Accessible Voting Challenge. Stefan has pursued work with his favourite architects and designers globally, following a passion for exploring human-centered design in diverse cultures – spanning Europe, China and Japan.
 
What first drew you to get involved in OpenIDEO?
Two things really, I’ve always had the feeling that the way I learned to think as a designer could and should be applied to more than just objects of desire. Designing is a mode of thought that can make so many things so much better – because every system, object and organisation we create as designers, we create as humans for humans. With OpenIDEO challenges I can apply the human-scale to a much broader set of problems than I could by sticking solely to architecture. The second thing OpenIDEO offered me was an opportunity to be part of an open source community. I am fascinated by the open source concept and by how people love to collaborate and share passions online. It’s great to be part this kind of platform, especially one with such a diversity in members and topics as OpenIDEO has.
 
And how's the ride been so far?
Exciting! The amount of feedback and collaboration you get is overwhelming. From all over the world, in different time zones people have commented on my concepts, and everyone brings a new view to the table – from their part of the world and their background. In the election challenge, one highlight for me was when Paul Reader, Graham G., and I were complaining that we constantly missed each other due to the time zone difference and we ended up suggesting we need a co-author function of some sorts! OpenIDEO is looking into it, so we're keen to see where this leads.
 
How does your experience and training in architecture influence your approach to concepting on our challenges?
As an architect you have two main questions to answer: What makes people feel comfortable in an environment? and How can you help them to find their way around a city or building? They’re in fact simple questions but both have no definite answer. Alongside the fact that architects have to constantly jump between the scale of a city and the scale of small rooms, I feel I've been taught to think out of the box (and back in again) which I hope I’m putting to good use in OpenIDEO challenges.
 
What insights have you gained from working on projects for social good?
I’ve worked for SOS-Children’s Village after finishing high school. There I learned what it means to nurture a community and to help children who have lost their trust in our society to regain confidence in themselves and positively participate again. Then after my first years of studying I joined the Concordia project for a stint – helping street children in Romania. That was hardcore. To travel through Bucharest with these street smart kids was a real eye-opening experience.
 
What are your future plans around design + social impact?
What I love about my job is exactly that: its social impact. We spend 90% of our lives in buildings. They are the biggest objects humanity has produced so far. The amount of people, politicians and experts involved in one construction site is enormous and diverse. Considering the amount of materials, capital, and time going into a building (it’s going to be there for 60 years on average) – plus every building’s responsibility to the public (as it becomes part of our cities and communities), makes my job an inherently socially-focused one. It’s an evolving learning experience, which I trust will enhance my input here on OpenIDEO.
 
Cheers Stefan. We hope to enjoy more of your collaborative action in future!
 
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