“Strategies for the relevance of Portuguese design in the 21st century”, in Camões magazine no. 21

The latest issue of Camões magazine, a magazine of the Portuguese institute for language and cooperation, is fully dedicated to design in Portugal, and co-edited by designer Fernando Brízio and Maria Helena Souto. I was delighted to contribute an essay to the “Critical Voices” section of the magazine, outlining a series of strategies I believe are important for contemporary Portuguese design. It was an honor to be included among the finest voices in contemporary Portuguese design discourse, and contribute to a publication which I believe will have a strong impact in the country’s design scene. The essay is only available in Portuguese, and it can be read after the jump.

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Excerpt from a production diagram for Jesse Howard’s OS Waterboiler. Photo Jesse Howard

The latest edition of the Swiss national radio’s Kontext program was dedicated to DIY design. Starting from an exhibition dedicated to the topic, currently on display at Zurich’s Schaudepot, the program talked to several curators, designers and critics to better understand the phenomenon and its implications. I was happy to contribute to the program, offering my insights on the subject and discussing the excellent work of Thomas Lommée, Jesse Howard and Gaspard Tiné-Bères, among others. The full program (in German) can be accessed here.

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The #SociableMuseum panel at MuseumNext Geneva, April 2015
The #SociableMuseum panel at MuseumNext Geneva, April 2015

As part of Superscript, I had the opportunity to co-moderate the #SociableMuseum panel at the European Museum Conference MuseumNext in Geneva, Switzerland. In the midst of one of the most significant gatherings of museum professionals in the world, the panel reunited Alin Tomacov, experience designer and associate partner at C & G Partners in New York, Seb Chan, Director of Digital and Emerging Media at the Cooper Hewitt in New York, and Viviane Stappmanns, Head of Communications at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, to talk about how can museums go from being “social” to becoming “sociable”.

Drawing from extensive research by Superscript co-founders Molly Heintz and Avinash Rajagopal, the panel advocated that while many museums today consciously use technology to become more social and open to the communities around them, there is a need for a further step, where these institutions become sociable — willing to actively engage with other people — creating conversations that forge true connections with their audiences. It was a pleasure to listen to such meaningful insights as the discussion unfolded: the panel (as it was recorded by Twitter users) can be seen here.

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A screenshot of Abba’s video “Money, money, money”. Courtesy YouTube

For its thirteenth edition, TEOK collaborated with Dutch design collective Fictional Collective in the initiative Thisiswork.org, curating an event around the topics of Debt, Currency, Value and Trust. Our thirteenth session was held at Depot Basel. Titled Common Wealth, the event explored financial systems both implemented and emerging, analyzing alternative currency and value systems. At the core of the evening was the questioning of of trust: can it be undermined, exploited and used for nefarious ends? A reflection of the many ways in which spam has evolved to become more and more sophisticated allowed us to critically enquire which are the limits of trust in the digital world. The event is complemented by the reflections collected in the “This is work” publication, Chapter #4 Common wealth. It was a pleasure to collaborate with the young designers of Fictional Collective, and as always a pleasure to return to Depot Basel for a TEOK.

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A view of Basel. Photo Wikipedia

Earlier this month, I was delighted to go back to my alma mater, the Design Criticism Department at the School of Visual Arts, to talk about design events and their changing nature in recent years. The talk was integrated in the planning of the graduating class’ final event, lead by Molly Heintz and Alice Twemlow. It was a pleasure to be back and to see the most recent generation of design critics ready for graduation!

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A detail of the Mathare Slum as seen in the MapKibera initiative. Image © MapKibera

Avinash Rajagopal and I, as part of Superscript, contributed an analysis of contemporary digital design in Africa to the accompanying catalogue of Making Africa. The natural culmination of our role as Consultants for New Media and Technology, and members of the Advisory Board, the essay was a pleasure to write and research, and wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable assistance of Dalia Ohtman, a Research Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Center for Civic Media. An excerpt of the essay can be read after the jump.

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Making Africa catalogue

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, published by the Vitra Design Museum accompanying the exhibition of the same name. Photo by Double Standards

As part of Superscript, Avinash Rajagopal and I served as Consultants for New Media and Technology and members of the Advisory Board of the most recent exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design. Curated by Amelie Klein and born out of three years of research, this ambitious exhibition seeks to change perceptions on what the continent is and can be, presenting Africa as a hub of experimentation generating new approaches and solutions of worldwide relevance — and as a driving force for a new discussion of the potential of design in the 21st century. The exhibition focuses on a new generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers and designers from and within Africa, who – as “digital natives” – address a global audience and provide the world with a new vantage point on their continent.

Avinash and I further contributed an essay to the catalogue and assisted the editing of the English edition of the Making Africa catalogue. It was a pleasure to work with Amelie and the Vitra Design Museum team in this fantastic project.

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TEOK for Cartha #0
One of the diagrams drawn by Juan Palencia for Cartha #0 — Worth Sharing

Juan Palencia and I contributed an essay to Cartha, a new architectural magazine that doubles as an experimental editorial project. Living online during an initial run of six issues, the magazine privileges long-form, analytical writing. Each issue focuses on one single topic: appropriately open-ended, the themes allow for many different kinds of approaches. Cartha’s issue #0 combines striking imagery and thoughtful reflections; our essay draws from one year of TEOK and what we’ve learned from the experiment. The full essay can be read here.

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A profile of Jader Almeida in Metropolis, February 2015

Early in the year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brazilian designer Jader Almeida, a 33-year-old industrial designer with an impressive career, and write a profile on him for Metropolis magazine. The promising young designer is one of the country’s top talents, with a singular approach and a remarkable, tenacious commitment to his craft. The full profile can be read over at the Metropolis website.

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A detail of Depot Basel’s DISPLAY publication.

Following the tenth edition of TEOK, I wrote an essay for the DISPLAY publication launched by Depot Basel following its exploration of the theme in a series of spacial interventions, lectures and events at their Basel location. My contribution focused on the mechanics and structure of the TEOK held at Depot Basel, and reflected on the things learned following that evening. A big thank you to Matylda Krzykowski for the invitation to contribute to the publication.

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A celebration of TEOK’s first anniversary at Depot Basel. Photo Matylda Krzykowski

Basel-based contemporary design space Depot Basel invited TEOK to curate an evening of presentations around its current exploration of “Display”. The event coincided with the first anniversary of this informal lecture series curated by myself, Juan Palencia and Marta Colón, and it was also the first time TEOK opened its doors to a general audience and to a larger number of participants. The evening was structured around the topic of Display, and we had presentations on Spanish roundabout art, nature and its representations in art, and the history of display in Natural History Museums. It was a pleasure to be invited by Depot Basel and to reflect about Display with our guests.

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An excerpt of Yona Friedman’s “A Map to the Future”, as seen in Designing Everyday Life, MAO and Park Books, Zurich 2014

As part of BIO 50 accompanying publication Designing Everyday Life, Tamar Shafrir and I wrote an essay on the evolution of design events in the last 50 years, and how contemporary design events can inform and shape the future of the design discipline. The full essay can be read below.

A Good Virus
Vera Sacchetti, Tamar Shafrir

When in November 2011 Italian architecture and design magazine Domus charted what it coined as the “Biennialozoic Era”, a foldout spread displayed a world map with a comprehensive overview of architecture, art and design events throughout the world. In a methodical manner, the mock atlas illustrated 150 events of the kind, from the Biennial of Design in Ljubljana, founded in 1964, to the 2012 inaugural edition of the Istanbul Design Biennial. Of these, 65% have been founded in the last fifteen years, the most recent being the newly announced Biennial of Architecture in Chicago, which will hold its first edition in 2015.

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A detail of one of the modular appliances developed by the Hacking Households group. Photo Hacking Households

I was happy to write about the Internet of Things and the future of smart home appliances in Disegno no. 7, with a piece focusing on the work of designers Thibault Brevet, Jesse Howard and their combined efforts alongside the Hacking Households group at BIO 50. The project was one of my favorites within the biennial, and can be fully explored here.

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Designing Everyday Life, MAO and Park Books, Zurich 2014

As part of BIO 50, the 23rd Design Biennial in Ljubljana, I edited Designing Everyday Life, a publication that accompanied the six-month collaborative process that was at the core of the event, while simultaneously reflecting on the state of contemporary design and contemporary design events. With contributions by Jan Boelen, Alice Rawsthorn, Justin McGuirk and David Crowley, among others, the book combines essays, interviews and follows the 11 teams that were brought together by BIO 50, from the kick-off to the materialization of their projects. It was truly a pleasure to work on such an ambitious project. Below a few excerpts of praise for the book.

“Rather than a series of product shots – typical of some other biennials – the catalogue has a scrapbook aesthetic that is replete with sketches, email exchanges, Facebook posts and photographs from field trips. It is an honest and meticulous documentation of the processes integral to the development of each project over the six month period.” Anya Lawrence, Disegno

“While the exhibition offers much to stimulate visitors, Boelen’s particular stroke of genius is Designing Everyday Life, the biennial’s companion text. Edited by design writer, Vera Sacchetti, the 534-page text reveals the glorious mess behind the exhibition’s cleanliness. Drawings, prototypes and even posts from Facebook pages illuminate how these processes of research, experimentation and collaboration worked. It’s a fascinating read.” Crystal Bennes, Icon

“By renouncing “iconic” design and focussing on real urgencies in the world, for which viable alternatives were sought and (sometimes) found, BIO 50 sparks the energy that is currently missing in most of the international design fairs. Moreover, the ambitions have landed in a thought-provoking catalogue, which will last as an optimist testimony of new ways of thinking, new ways of working, and new ways of presenting. The BIO 50 biennial proves that design fairs can reclaim the invigorating role they once played, by facing the real urgencies of the world and showing the surprising and on-going potential design has to offer.” Louise Shouwenberg, Dezeen


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The “Designing Everyday Life” panel during the BIO 50 opening week. Photo Ana Kovač/MAO

The culmination of my work as a Curatorial Advisor for BIO 50 happened in September, with the biennial’s opening week and the unveiling of the results of a six-month collaborative process that involved more than 120 local and international agents. The intense week included the “Designing Everyday Life” panel, in which I moderated a conversation between BIO 50 chief curator Jan Boelen and design critics Alice Rawsthorn and Justin McGuirk, debating the current state of design and design events, apropos the biennial’s accompanying publication Designing Everyday Life. It was truly enjoyable to moderate a conversation among such luminaries. The conversation was lively and engaging, and can be seen fully here.

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Felice Varini’s Trois Ellipses Ouvertes en Désordre, Hasselt, Belgium

A visit to Z33 House for Contemporary Art in the summer prompted two reviews of their exhibitions for the website of Disegno. The first includes my views on the retrospective of the minimal, precise work of Leon Vrancken; the second details the De Unie initiative, which connects the neighboring cities of Hasselt and Genk through a series of public art initiatives.

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A view of the “Towards a New Avant-Garde” debate and installation. Photo Philippe Declerck /DEVspace

“Towards a New Avant-Garde”, the three-part conversation series I lead with Superscript during the opening weekend of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition— La Biennale di Venezia, brought together 40 talented young architects, writers, critics, to debate issues of identity, collaboration, and economics. Over the course of three 90-minute conversations, several key themes emerged, including the need of architects to engage the public directly, the importance of evolving new forms of communication and criticism, and the value of capitalizing on opportunities to be proactive. A recap of the discussion’s main topics can be read at ArchDaily. The event was also covered on Dezeen and Domusweb, among others.

Produced by Superscript with Catharine Rossi and Rossella Ferorelli, the conversations took place within  the main Monditalia exhibition at the Corderie dell’Arsenale. The live-edited installation, designed by Brussels-based architecture firm DEVspace and French-Swiss interaction designer Thibault Brevet with students from Basel’s Hyperwerk Institute, featured 18 Arduino-powered  open-source printers and standard marker pens. Provocations from the organizers, participant names and quotes, as well as contributions from online followers using the hashtag  #stayradical became part of dynamic backdrop that emerged over the course of each conversation.

The project was made possible through generous assistance from Hyperwerk Institute (Kevin Renz, Gabriel Meisel, Gabriel Kiefer, Fabian Ritzi, Ivo Ludwig, David Safranek, Matthias Maurer), and contributions by Amelie Klein, Niku Alex Mucaj, Becky Quintal, Elian Stefa, Fabrizia Vecchione, and Malte Ziegler. The project is supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and WallonieBruxelles International (Belgium).

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A view of the Z33 debate last 10 April in the Tiepolo Room, Palazzo Clerici, Milan. Photo by Z33

For the 2014 edition of Salone del Mobile, I’ve been invited to contribute to the Z33 Debates – Designing Futures, writing a small text on the future of design education and mentorship. The text informed the debate that happened last 10 April between Aldo Bakker, Rianne Makkink and Jan Boelen, at the Palazzo Clerici, in Milan, and was included in a small publication distributed during the event. Reflecting on the experiences of the kick-off event of BIO 50, I jotted down some notes for the future of design education, which can be read after the jump. Following the debate, I made a small roundup of the event for Z33– watch the video below as well!


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Stefano Orani presents on the cosmos at TEOK #2

The Edge of Knowledge (TEOK) is an informal lecture series in Basel, where uncommon, unexpected topics are presented in someone’s living room. Short presentations are interspersed with video breaks and drinks, with topics ranging from food to the cosmos, internet memes and personal obsessions. The series was conceived in early 2014 and is curated by Juan Palencia, Marta Colon and myself, seeking to offer an alternative look at the cultural outputs of the contemporary – and a window into the fantastic, rich ensemble of people that live and work in Basel. We’re excited to organize and promote this event series – and if you are around Basel, you should join us for one of our weekly sessions! For more information, follow the TEOK Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Towards a New Avant-Garde. Photo by Alicja Dobrucka

I’m proud to announce Towards a New Avant-Garde, a three-part event series that will take place on the first weekend of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale! Within the Monditalia exhibition at the Arsenale, the events will trace parallels between distinct generations, seeking to understand what lessons can still be learned from the Italian architectural impulses of the 60s and 70s, and how they can be best  applied by the newest generation of architects in Italy and abroad. Lead by Superscript, the event is a collaborative effort with author and scholar Catharine Rossi and researcher and scholar Rossella Ferorelli, and the design team includes architects DEVspace and interaction designer Thibault Brevet. More info over at the Superscript blog— see you in Venice, and #stayradical!

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The BIO50 group at the Biennial’s kick-off in Ljubljana. Photo by Lucijan & Vladimir

I’m happy and honoured to announce I’m integrating the fantastic effort behind BIO 50, the 2014 Biennial of Design in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I’ll be serving as an advisor to the curatorial team, alongside curator Jan Boelen and co-curators Maja Vardjan and Cvetka Potzar. BIO 50 is reinventing what a design event can and should be in this day and age, moving from an awards-based competition to a full-fledged six month collaborative process. I’m very excited to take part in this groundbreaking initiative. After the jump, the curatorial statement for the project, by Jan Boelen; and I hope to see you at the opening of the Biennale next September in Ljubljana!

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With Shumi Bose, Ethel Baraona Pohl and Tiago Mota Saraiva at the Tanto Mar roundtables. Photo by Tanto Mar.

Last December marked the public presentation and discussion of the Tanto Mar project, an excellent initiative of Lisbon-based architecture studio ateliermob. They propose to map and register the work of Portuguese architects outside of Portugal, reuniting their work in an exhibition in Lisbon’s CCB cultural centre. The project launched an open call to Portuguese architects abroad, and invited critics, curators and architects to discuss the submissions in two open roundtables. I was happy to take part in the international roundtable last 13 December, alongside Blueprint magazine’s Shumi Bose, dpr.barcelona’s Ethel Baraona Pohl, and ateliermob’s Tiago Mota Saraiva. The discussion was enlivened by the audience and a few agents provocateurs – Fredy Massad, Anna Buono and Cesar Najera Reyes – and a series of important trends and topics soon emerged. Alongside the results of the Portuguese roundtable that was held the previous days, these will inform and shape the curatorial process that will then materialize in an exhibition, which will open in Spring 2014. Thanks to ateliermob for the invitation and for having me! It was a pleasure to take part in the discussion and I look forward to see what the exhibition will bring.

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With Alec Dudson, Merve Yucel and Elian Stefa at the Një Mendësi Tjëter conference, Tirana

The last days of the year allowed for a fantastic opportunity: to return to the beautiful city of Tirana, and to talk at the Një Mendësi Tjëter conference, on a panel discussing, youth, culture and activism with some of my favorite people. Alec Dudson expanded of the publication he founded and helms from Manchester – Intern magazine –, which was born out of his experiences in the publishing world, among which his period as my intern in Milan. Merve Yucel spoke about the role of youth in established cultural institutions, namely IKSV, the foundation that promotes the Istanbul Design Biennial, and where she works as a production manager. Elian Stefa spoke about transforming grad school assignments into real-world platforms, with the excellent  Concrete Mushrooms initiative. For my part, I spoke chiefly about Things the Internet has taught me, largely derived from my experience at Domusweb. I expanded on the many ways in which the internet can serve those who struggle to affirm themselves as young creatives, and how communication and promotion are fundamental skills for a creative professional in our day and age. It was a pleasure to be back in Tirana, and to learn so much from all the conference speakers!

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Post World’s End Architecture at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Photo Valerie Bennett/AA

By initiative of Gonzalo Herrero Delicado and in association with Blueprint magazine,  the Post World’s End Architecture series became an event during the opening week of Close, Closer, the 3rd Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Unfortunaly, Gonzalo couldn’t make it– and therefore Blueprint magazine’s Shumi Bose and I led the event in the courtyard of the Triennale HQ, during a wonderful sunny afternoon. The informal but energetic discussion was a fantastic opportunity to hear from Portuguese and Spanish practitioners — including dpr barcelona, O Espelho, Ateliermob, Polígono, blaanc, Artéria, Inês Moreira, Paulo Moreira and many others. Their passionate and unromantic debate described both the practical and moral predicaments of working in architecture today, and of maintaining civic and social principles under financial constraints. Thank you to all the participants for such fantastic contributions to the discussion, and thanks to the Lisbon Architecture Triennale for having us!

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The 2013 DHS Conference program booklet.

In September 2013, I participated for the first time at a design conference, taking part in the 2013 Design History Society Annual Conference “Towards Global Histories of Design: Postcolonial Perspectives”.  It was truly an honor to be among such talented academics and historians, and I was thrilled to be able to present in such a fantastic context as the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India. Beyond the fantastic exchanges I had with all those who participated and attended, I was also able to present the continuation of the research I started developing with my masters thesis at D-Crit, presenting on contemporary social design projects and particularly Marcelo Rosenbaum’s A Gente Transforma initiative. An excerpt of my paper can be read after the jump.

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