You’ve reached the basecamp of OPEN SYSTEMS. Operating under the moniker and portmanteau OPSYS®, we are a design-based, non-profit, 501(c)(3) research organization of builders, educators, and farmers, dedicated to opening systemic knowledge related to complex, socioecological challenges and geopolitical conflicts—at the intersection of land, water, environmental justice, spatial inequality, climate change, community self-determination, and sovereignty. Focused on transformative change—by goin’ upstreammain activities of our organization involve counter-cartography & retroactive mapping, independent publications, pedagogical multimedia, open access initiatives, public exhibitions, and demonstration projects. Our organization is co-founded by Alexander Arroyo, Ghazal Jafari, Hernán L. Bianchi-Benguria, Tiffany Kaewen Dang, Pablo E. Escudero, and Pierre Bélanger.

Here’s what we believe in:

1. Style Sucks. Leave your attitude behind.

2. Raw is Beautiful. It demands and commands attention to process.

3. Seeing from Below. Kill the top down view and start building new grounds, platforms, and supports for others to succeed and for life to grow.

4. Flow, not Form. Effects and impacts are what matter most.

5. Systems, not Style. There is nothing worse than appearance as motivation over structure and organization as guides.

6. Society, over State. Nationalism has nothing to do with freedom or sovereignty.

7. Everyone is a Designer. Heroes blow. Professional design disciplines don’t have jurisdiction over design or authority over creativity. You have to be very smart to be dumb.

8. Prestige is the public dissemination of domination. Resist it at all costs.

9.  People—the Power, over Plans. The most renewable resource in the world is human energy.

10. Architecture, without Architects. Builders, contractors, constructors, craftworkers, artisans, are much more trustworthy.

11. Ecology, not Order. Lines serve to divide by class, gender, and race. Build relations and alliances by thickening peripheries, expanding margins, cultivating the unseen, and the erased, to eventually displace the dominant center.

12. ︎ Plants. ︎ Concrete (avoid it at all cost, except for skateparks). Work with Everything that is Live, Living, and Alive. Plants, waters, and everything in between, are sentient, breathing beings.

13. Right angles R 4 square heads. Embrace the non-Euclidean, non-algebraic field. It induces, attracts, illicits gathering and collectivity.

14. A walled-world is not worth living. Instead of the borders and barriers upheld by walls that exclude, engage and enjoy with the transitional horizontality of edges, hedges, perimeters, zones, ecotones, thresholds, transitions.

15. Embrace the unseen and the ephemeral. It can be visceral.

16. Theory is for the Blind. Stop footnoting what others write. Say it for yourself and own what you say. Build a thesis, embody it.

17. Do, What You Say. And do it yourself, tip-to-toe.

18. Contingency, instead of Control. Knowledge and strategy is relational and conditional.

19. Be Open, Imprecise, Uncertain…it leaves room for others to enter and complete your work. At that point, it becomes their own. Let go and don’t be afraid to give your ideas away. There’s an endless supply of them from where they came from.

20. Be Suspicious. Everything is Suspect, including Yourself.

21. “Pick Fights, Work for Free, Break the Law” doesn’t mean giving yourself away, it means being committed to fighting for what is just and harness the privilege we all carry to transform the present.

22. Unbuild the Over-Engineered, and stop adding more shit to the pile. Destroy, demolish, rebuild.

23. Urbanism, without Urbanists. 
(or, how else do 7 billion people wake up in the morning?)

24. Climate Change is Inseparable from Settler-Colonialism. Fuck Geo-Engineering, Mega-Projects, Techno-Fixes. We don’t need more heroes let alone more widgets. “Change the System,”* not the Climate.
(*Clayton Thomas-Muller)

25. Imagine living in a world where you live (literally) above the water that you drink.

26. We are guests on these lands. Our right to stay is (was) never guaranteed. That privilege must be cultivated, renewed, replenished.

27. Undesign the World by Unmapping it. Destroy all the categories of settler-colonial state space even if that means never making a map, let alone a legend, ever again.

28. Fight the Power. Reject Authority. Confront Authority. Defy Leadership, and stop following others. Horizontality breeds so much unpredictable potential. If you’re told not to do something, it’s a good sign that you should do it. Organize.

29. Break the Law. If you’re not transgressing predominant, patriarchal structures of the colonial élite or of white supremacy, you’re not doing anything new. It’s hard labor, but rewarding, retroactive work.

30. Embrace Rejection. The more you fail, the stronger you get. Your mind gets sharper and your body more committed. 

31. Love is a Reckoning Force. Design is a gift, not something to monetize. It’s always about giving, always has been. Give everything you have to dish out. There’s no point if there is no sacrifice. Avoid the cliques, clubs, and institutions—the exploiters—who only take.

32. Aim for the Impossible (or sometimes, the Obvious). Without that, nothing can happen.

33. When we Draw, We Fight…so when doing research, ask yourself: what (or who) exactly are you fighting for? Lines connect, as much as they can divide.

34. It takes two to make a Treaty. Acknowledge, embody, and own up to that responsibility because all lands are Treaty Lands. It’s essential for the kind of world you will leave behind for the next generations. That’s who you are accountable to.

35. Be a Trojan Horse, work from the Inside and the Outside. The only way to operate in today’s world, a world of systems of systems, is to be a double agent: an accomplice, a Robin Hood, a Joan-of-Arc. Avoid the savior complex (we shouldn’t have to say this). Work and run within institutions like Run Lola Run, but don’t forget who you are, a resister with a double agenda for the outside. If that fails, turn away. Work from the woods, or in the margins. Find the cracks.

36. If all else Fails, Improvise, and Hack the shit out of it…make it up as you go along, it might actually stick at some point, as long as you’re committed. Know what you don’t want to do, and do something else until it gels and congeals.

37. Just Get Shit Done…stop talking about doing things and make them happen. Start small, scale down, make small models really fast, learn to fail faster, then scale up or scale down. It’s better to count your mistakes in minutes, then in years. Trust that others will contribute, add, modify, revise, inform, and transform what you do.

38. Whatever you do, Be Kind Doing It, and always give thanks to those who help you along the way (even if they’re no longer here). Gratitude is circular and reciprocal. Kindness and care, contagious.


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2024 Creative Commons. Attribution, yaaass—Share Alike, of course—Non-Commercial, no kidding—No Derivs, got it? Don’t steal FFS, get inspired.

Made on Traditional Lands, Airs, and Waters of the Massachusett Peoples, unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Wampanoag, Aquinnah, and Nipmuc Nations (Treaty of Casco 1698-1703, Treaty of Portsmouth 1713, Treaty of Boston 1725)