Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse

The Archipelago visual identity, by Mitch Paone / AATB based on a concept by Chloe Biocca

I’m thrilled to announce Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse, a 3-day hybrid format festival that seeks to interrogate and think through the present moment in contemporary architectural discourse. Taking take place 6-8 May 2021 in Geneva, it is jointly organized by the architecture schools HEAD and HEPIA, and it will be broadcast over the course of three days in a hybrid format combining live and online interventions.

Bringing together three disciplinary strands—architecture, interior architecture and landscape architecture—the festival seeks to offer a snapshot of the present moment, its intersections and overlaps. The three days of exchanges and reflection take place in a specially designed infrastructure at the heart of the Cube, a multifunctional space at HEAD that will double as a broadcast studio for the event. Manifesting in a variety of formats, from intimate conversations to performative interventions, and complemented by masterclasses, films and offsite projects, Archipelago creates multiple entry points for a discussion around contemporary architecture’s lines of inquiry.

We will announce the program soon – meanwhile, you can follow us on Instagram or register to get the latest news on the program and schedule!

Devices for Dreaming

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Presenting at “Architectural Models: Theory and practice in scale”. Photo courtesy HEAD-Genève.

I was in Geneva to discuss architectural models at the conference Architectural Models: Theory and practice in scale, organized by the Interior Architecture Department of the school. The two-day event was organized as an experimental stage for discussion, and it was great to talk to master students about recent architectural exhibitions and events and how the model embodies so many contradictions within. Below the talk abstract – I’ll post the presentation video when it’s online.

The architectural model is unparalleled as a device for dreaming. Its regular use in architectural exhibitions and events attests to its allure, but also to the paradoxical impossibility of exhibiting the discipline these devices embody and attempt to represent. This talk will cover the ways in which architectural models have been used in recent architectural exhibitions and events, with varying degrees of efficacy.

Design education and its futures at Hurra Hurra Festival

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An aspect of Hurra Hurra Festival. Photo by Benno Brucksch and Martin Patze.

It was a pleasure to spend a day in Halle to take part in the Hurra Hurra Festival, a student-organized, multilayered festival on design education that took place at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design. I discussed the work developed for the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, and took part in a discussion about the environments of the school versus the real world. It was impressive to see the multiple tracks of engagement in the festival, from lectures to workshops, and performances to a night sauna– Thanks for having me!

Digital Bauhaus 2019: Learning Design

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A walking lecture during Digital Bauhaus 2019. Photo Thomas Müller.

I was happy to be one of the speakers of this year’s Digital Bauhaus Summit in Weimar, Germany.  The conference gathers creatives, researchers and anyone interested in new cultural formations, exploring “the political dimensions of design: from collaboration to social design, from Luxury Communism to modernism, from ‘High & Low’ to this year’s topic ‘Learning Design’.”

Speaking about the learning experiences of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, I shared some insights on the process and outcomes of the biennial, and was thrilled to continue the conversation on education, design, and design education. Thank you for having me!

School Fundamental at the Bauhaus Dessau

Festival School Fundamental, Bahaus Dessau, March 2019. Photo by Thomas Meyer / OstkreuzFestival School Fundamental, Bahaus Dessau, March 2019. Photo by Thomas Meyer / Ostkreuz

At the end of March, the Bauhaus Dessau welcomed an extraordinary festival. Titled School Fundamental, it transformed the historic building into a temporary school, a “testing location” of design learning experiments. The festival brought together several educational experiments taking place all over the globe, and featured an impressive roster of speakers and participants. I was happy to take part and to present, alongside Jan Boelen and Deniz Ova, the work we developed for the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools.

A School of Schools was born out of an examination of contemporary design education, and informed by an attitude of critical reflection towards the past and present of design education with an appreciation of the singular contexts and spaces in which it happens. The curatorial team sought to transcend the traditional spaces of design education and explored design practices that have learning at their core.

Ultimately, the biennial’s many dimensions acted as a starting point, illuminating how the much-needed shift in the field of design and design education is already underway. This shift appears in many shapes and colours, and opens several doors towards possible futures. It calls for greater responsibility and greater agency. It demands visibility and creates spaces for the opinions of others. It pushes design out of its silo and into the spaces where it connects with other disciplines. It insists on learning as a permanent, embodied attitude, one that transcends the formal, spatial and temporal boundaries of the school, and overflows into the world and life itself.

Claiming space and enacting transformation

SKD_awomanswork_MG_8138_davidpinzer_1901An aspect of the A Woman’s Work symposium at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden. Photo David Pinzer.

Thrilled to have just come out of a lively and thought-provoking day of discussions during A Woman’s Work at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden. If you were not able to make it, you can see a report by Emma Lucek at Pamono Stories on the event. Below an excerpt:

The dominance of women both on the panel and in the audience—curators, designers, educators, students, directors, and more—brought home just how far we’ve come already. The significant rise in the visibility of women in the world of design today is undeniable. But as Rawsthorn very articulately summed it up, “We need to build on [these achievements] with a dynamic and critical discourse… While many skirmishes have been won, others await.”

A Woman’s Work

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The visual identity of the symposium, developed by Andrea Anner.

On the occasion of the exhibition “Against Invisibility – Women Designers at the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau 1898 to 1938”, currently on view at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, Matylda Krzykowski and I were invited to organize a symposium focusing on female practitioners in design. We organized it under the moniker of Foreign Legion, and called it A Woman’s Work, a symposium on the roles, influence and visibility of female practitioners today.

Taking the exhibition as a starting point, A Woman’s Work examines the contemporary, in order to shed light on the invisibility of the female practitioner as it continues to exist today.

Structured in three parts – ‘Advocates of History’, ‘Enablers of Visibility’ and ‘Dismantlers of Existing Conditions’ – the symposium brings together a wide range of practitioners, scholars, writers, critics and curators based in different parts of Europe, aiming to offer transversal, multigenerational and diverse perspectives on the present and the future of female practice.

Throughout the course of one day – 18 January 2019 –, conversations will take place in a variety of formats, creating platforms for exchange and connection. A Woman’s Work aims to bring women in and around design, art and architecture to the fore, advocating for their visibility to become a permanent condition. We hope to see you in Dresden, and that you will join us in conversation!

A School of Schools at Beyond Change

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A School of Schools, Part 1: Historical Perspectives at the Swiss Design Network’s Beyond Change conference. Photo Samuel Hanselmann, IXDM.

The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, was present at the 2018 Swiss Design Network’s Beyond Change conference in the form of a double session exploring historical and contemporary design education alternatives in order to reflect on the role of design, knowledge, and global connectedness in our contemporary context. The sessions explored the complexities of past and present educational initiatives. The first session, titled Historical Perspectives, included presentations by James Langdon (speaking in the image above), Livia Rezende, and Zara Arshad. It focused on alternative design education initiatives taking place in South America, Western Europe and South Asia. Presentations explored diverse pedagogical positions and their spaces of agency, and reflected on what we can learn from them in our current times.

The second session, titled Contemporary Alternatives, included presentations by Prem Krishnamurthy, Merve Bedir and Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius, transdisciplinary practitioners whose approach is reinforced and permeated by learning. We looked at a research institute that doubles as a community action center and laboratory of learning; a site-specific offshore laboratory and educational experiment that engages multiple educational institutions; and a year-long initiative for a space for production, presentation, and potential pedagogy. These practices create new knowledge, search for alternatives to implemented systems, and, with radical diversity, push the boundaries of design.

The sessions were moderated by Jan Boelen and myself, and sought to make public part of the research that will lead to the biennial opening later this year in Istanbul. Thank you to the organizers, and especially Nina Paim and Claudia Mareis, for the opportunity to bring the discussion surrounding A School of Schools to Basel!

 

Beyond Change

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I’m honored to have been working as a program consultant for the upcoming Beyond Change conference, organized by the Swiss Design Network. It will take place in Basel from 8-10 March, and will focus on socially and politically motivated design, fostering feminist, queer and decolonized perspectives. Within the star-studded and very ambitious program, the conference will include a double session curated in collaboration with the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, A School of Schools, focusing on alternative design pedagogies in the past and today.  I will be moderating those debates alongside Jan Boelen.
It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with the conference organization team, Claudia Mareis, Nina Paim and Sarah Haug, and I’m very much looking forward to attending Beyond Change! Tickets are available here should you wish to do the same.

Research Day at ECAL

Research Day ECALAt the ECAL Research Day with Xavier Veilhan and Stéphanie Moisdon. Photo courtesy of Zoe Cooper.

I was thrilled to moderate a full day of conversations at ECAL in October, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the EPFL + ECAL Lab and the celebration of 10 years of research at ECAL. The ECAL Research Day was filled with thought-provoking debate and ideas, including the participation of individuals such as Skylar Tibbits from the MIT Self-Assembly Lab, Roel Wouters from Studio Moniker, or Fabio Gramazio from Gramazio Kohler Architects. More information on the event’s official website.

The Unmaking of Autoprogettazione

A giant Autoprogettazione table and a small me at the 2017 DHS conference. Photo © DHS Ambassadors
A giant Autoprogettazione table and a small me at the 2017 DHS conference. Photo © DHS Ambassadors

For Making and Unmaking the Environment, the 2017 Design History Society conference, Avinash Rajagopal and I wrote a paper titled “The Unmaking of Autoprogettazione”. I had the pleasure to present it at the University of Oslo last 8 September, and was delighted to discuss this and many other topics with the scholars attending. An abstract of the paper below:

In 1974, Milanese designer Enzo Mari shocked his contemporaries with his Proposta per un’Autoprogettazione, a set of rudimentary furniture pieces sold as cheap instruction manuals rather than physical objects. Anyone with a hammer, nails, and timber could build the pieces for themselves. The project commented on the overlooked social responsibilities of the designer and critiqued the passive role imposed on consumers by the 20th-century design industry. In the last decade, amidst social and economical complexity that echoes the context of its original making, Autoprogettazione has resurfaced as a touchstone project that adds to the contemporary discourse. From Artek’s 2010 re-edition of Sedia 1 to Cucula, a Berlin-based non-profit, producing Autoprogettazione for and with refugees in 2015, the many ways in which the project has been quoted, echoed, repurposed or copied have shifted, altered and reinforced its original meaning. This paper traces the making and unmaking of meanings in Autoprogettazione, analyzing the context that lead to the project’s inception and exploring its comeback in the last decade, whether as a platform for art and design exhibitions, a vehicle for do-goodism in times of humanitarian crisis, or as a propaganda tool for companies and their marketing agencies. Scrutinizing these instances, and exposing the shifts and appropriations the project has been subjected to, reveal how the original aim to critique the design industry has been appropriated and made part of the design industry itself, in varied and at times perfidious ways.

#SociableMuseum at MuseumNext

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.

Things the Internet has taught me


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!

Towards Global Histories of Design: Postcolonial Perspectives


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.

Continue reading Towards Global Histories of Design: Postcolonial Perspectives