Hero Image
Lo-TEK. Design by Radical Indigenism

Julia Watson
Taschen, 2019

Dedicated to the next seven generations, Lo-TEK. Design by Radical Indigenism challenges contemporary measures of performance, productivity, and efficiency. Author Julia Watson draws upon Indigenous philosophies and long developed intergenerational knowledges for managing environments and building cultural practice. In this, her book resonates with the expanding publications of Indigenous authors who offer object lessons of autochthonic culture and wisdom in relation to place. Watson does not claim to be of Indigenous heritage, and in this light, we can only assume she has sought permission to relay the information provided in her essays. It is important to articulate that she does not seek to co-opt Indigenous methods and strategies, but rather contemplates and considers their approaches to suggest opportunities, both large and small, in our efforts to generate sustainable and climate-resilient infrastructures.

Watson offers Lo-TEK, a conceptual synthesis of Lo-Tech (low technology) and TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge), as a movement built from the Indigenous knowledges she has had the privilege to be introduced to in her extensive world travels. Inspired by architect Bernard Rudofsky’s 1964 MoMA exhibition, titled Architecture Without Architects, she describes Lo-TEK as a vernacular path for design that reimagines the professionalization and Eurocentric pedagogies of contemporary allied design and planning fields. Her fundamental premise is to develop new interpretations and mythologies for Western cultures that will deepen peoples’ relationship to their environment. She centers and elevates knowledges generated in the experiences of quotidian successes and failures, refined over generations. While these connections often reverberate in the undertones of global development dialogues, they have been mostly lost in the chorus of colonial advancement and manifest destinies dominating the past four centuries.