KASITA Does SXSW Eco: We came, we saw, we left with serious bowtie envy

Genetic engineering recipes, biophilic cities, and the streets of the future were all on the table at the annual SXSW Eco conference where business leaders, policy makers, innovators, scientists and designers converge in downtown Austin, Texas to collaborate on social and environmental solutions.

There was a lot to take in at this year’s SXSW Eco, but the KASITA staff came away with a few choice picks (and if you’ve got FOMO, you can watch many of the sessions here). Read on for the moments that kept us talking.

hip hop architect 2
Bryan Lee Jr. and Michael Ford

1) THE KEYNOTE THAT MADE US SIT UP STRAIGHT: How often do you leave a keynote and find yourself still thinking about it two weeks later? Hip Hop Architect Michael Ford and Director at the Arts Council in New Orleans Bryan Lee Jr. unpacked the intersection of design, public housing, and hip hop in bold and brilliant form (with a little help from Grandmaster Flash, Snoop Dogg, and Wu Tang Clan). If you want something to chew on, watch the entire keynote here.


hip hop architect kasita sxsw eco

BONUS: We were thrilled that Mike and his crew were able to stop by the KASITA for a tour.


Little Sun Kasita SXSW ECO

2) THE BRIGHTEST LIGHT: In 2012, Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen collaborated on a handheld solar lamp designed for the one billion people with no direct access to energy. The result is Little Sun, a yellow, sun-shaped lamp that serves both as a practical light-source and as a social business model for young African entrepreneurs who sell the lamps at locally affordable prices. KASITA staff took full advantage of the lamp’s powers at Little Sun’s sunlight graffiti station.


newbern alabama library kasita
VIDEO | Rural Studio: A Story of Solutions

3) THE SHORT DOCUMENTARY THAT LEFT US INSPIRED: How can architecture be used to solve problems and transform communities? That’s the challenge behind the AIA’s second annual I Look Up Film Challenge. Our favorite short doc covered the collaboration between the citizens of the small town of Newbern, Alabama and Rural Studio, an undergraduate architectural program at Auburn University. The project resulted in over 170 new structures, including homes, a library, and a much-needed fire station–the first new public structure in 110 years.


Jeff Wilson SXSW ECO talk 2016

4) THE MOST MEMORABLE FIELD TRIP: Okay, so we might be a tad biased here, but our vote for best field trip goes to KASITA. Nearly 70 Eco-goers made the 15-minute walk from the Austin Convention Center to the KASITA prototype to tour the micro home, chat with CEO Jeff Wilson about the future of housing, and take a selfie inside the glass cube.


kasita bbq sxsw eco

5) THE MOST TEXAS MOMENT: Eavesdropping is a conference perk, right? We overheard a few out-of-towners praising local Austin barbecue joints while simultaneously trying to calculate how many gallons of water were required to produce that melt-in-your-mouth brisket. 


Photo by Ed Schipul
Photo by Ed Schipul

6) THE HIGHEST OPTIMISM / MOST ON POINT BOWTIE: Bill Nye, the science guy himself, shocked the closing keynote audience by confessing that his real name is actually “William.” His upbeat, often-funny message focused on the importance of optimism and support for science in the face of potentially disasterous climate change . (“Running around yelling about climate change is ineffective,” he yelled, while running around the stage.) Attendees left the conference on a positive note, no doubt planning to binge-watch the first season of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired nearly a quarter-of-a-century ago in 1993. (Yeah, we feel old too.)

  • Brett

    I love bill nye!