The inception of atelier LUMA

A view of the Algae Lab team in the Camargue wetlands. Photo © atelier LUMA
A view of the Algae Lab team in the Camargue wetlands. Photo © atelier LUMA

The last days of May were marked by the first open house and public presentation of atelier LUMA, a new, experimental project taking place since mid-2016 in Arles with the artistic direction of Jan Boelen. atelier LUMA is a think tank, a production workshop, a learning network and an archive for knowledge and tools of the LUMA Foundation. Based in Arles, in the Camargue region, atelier LUMA wants to co-develop new ways of producing and caring for a city and a bioregion, using design as a tool for transition.

Since 2016 I have been privileged to follow and document this project, as part of the atelier LUMA team. One of the most visible faces of the project, for those who cannot make the trip down to Arles and see the wonderful, large-scale transformation the initiative promotes in the territory, is the website, which I was happy to work on in the last months. I invite you to visit it, learn more and engage with atelier LUMA – and stay tuned for the many fantastic things that will be coming out of Arles.

Why aren’t all economies circular?

View of the Disegno x British Council debate at Palazzo Clerici
View of the Disegno x British Council debate at Palazzo Clerici

I was thrilled to participate in one of the debates organized during Salone del Mobile 2017 by Disegno magazine and the British Council on the future of European design, which took place at Atelier Clerici. The event was titled “Why aren’t all economies circular?”, and was chaired by Joseph Grima with Sarah Mann, Carl-Johan Skogh and myself.  The talks were characterized by multi-layered, thoughtful and intense discussions – generally countering the superficiality on display for most of the week, and a welcome addition to the programming of Fuorisalone. The three discussions on the future of European design are all available as podcasts on Disegno Daily, and I invite you to listen to all of them!

 

Dominic Wilcox, contemporary inventor

A view of Dominic Wilcox's East London studio. Photo © James Mollison
A view of Dominic Wilcox’s East London studio. Photo © James Mollison

Last November, I had the pleasure to visit and interview Dominic Wilcox in his London studio for the Italian magazine ICON design, and talk to him about his past and recent work, concluding with some thoughts on his incredible initiative Little Inventors. The result was published in the April issue of the magazine, just in time for Salone, and is also available online (in Italian only). An excerpt below of my English original.

Dominic Wilcox doesn’t stop. As I speak to him, the designer-inventor fidgets, his eyes wander, his mind rushes. It is a grey London morning in mid-November, and his studio and workshop is teeming with his many inventions: drawings and sketches adorn the walls, showing his creations in their inception, while prototypes and one-offs are displayed in walls or tucked under desks. His suitcase is at the door; he just returned from a trip in Vienna, Amsterdam, Warsaw, and Wisconsin, sharing his expertise in innovation, invention, and the ability to surprise and delight. And yet, his first, ingenious creations have now lead to an ambitious, game-changing initiative, with the potential to create long lasting change at a global level.

Meeting Jürg Lehni for HOLO

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Holo 2 – IF/THEN. Photo @ HOLO

I was lucky to encounter Jürg Lehni for an extended profile in the latest issue of HOLO magazine: his drawing machines Viktor, Hektor and Otto have captured the imagination of many and influenced a generation of designers. For the piece, I visited Lehni in his Zurich studio and followed his work during a few months. Thrilled to have contributed to HOLO with this profile, and many thanks to Greg J. Smith for his invaluable editorial perspective. More info on the magazine, and where to get it, can be found here.

Between form and function

An aspect of Wilmotte's studio in Paris. Photo © ICON design
An aspect of Wilmotte’s studio in Paris. Photo © ICON design

The July/August issue of Italian design magazine ICON design features my profile of French designer Victoria Wilmotte, who spoke to me from her Paris workshop/office. This was my first piece for ICON design and a wonderful opportunity to learn about the bold and sculptural projects of this young designer. An excerpt below.

A Parisian at heart, Wilmotte nonetheless points out that she derived her style from the London experience. Her strong, muscular shapes and almost reverential attention to materials and their properties indicate a devoted professional, and Wilmotte admits to a constant quest for “the balance between shape and function,” seeking to create “functional sculptures.” She points to Jean Prouvé, Gino Sarfatti, Angelo Mangiarotti and Konstantin Grcic as references. The latter’s Chair One for Magis is a visible presence in the studio, and Wilmotte admits she tries to emulate Gric’s process. “I always try to make the object as a sculpture, like [Konstantin] Grcic when he made his Chair One. He created a sculpture – you can do a mass-produced object with a sculptural look, you just have to find the technique. It doesn’t make it more difficult to produce.”

Swiss Grand Award for Design 2016

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Spreads from the Swiss Grand Award for Design 2016 publication. 

I was delighted to edit the publication celebrating the 2016 edition of the Swiss Grand Award for Design, a career prize bestowed upon distinguished Swiss designers of all fields. This was the tenth year of the award, which is given by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, and the winners were Claudia Caviezel, Hans Eichenberger, and Ralph Schraivogel. I had the pleasure to interview them and get to know better their work and practice, and it was also fantastic to work with the Federal Office of Culture, in the person of Patrizia Crivelli, and designer Jonathan Hares.

TEOK at the Forum for an Attitude

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An aspect of the Forum 4 – Knowledge. Photo courtesy Depot Basel

I was delighted to represent TEOK at Depot Basel’s initiative Forum for an Attitude. During the 4th iteration of the Forum, with the topic “Knowledge”, I gave a lecture on the many different ways of knowing that we encounter in life, and how the development of TEOK allowed us to further our definitions of what we know and what we think we know. It was great to spend some time with the fantastic participants of the Forum and enhance my understanding of knowledge over the weekend. Thanks to Depot Basel and Matylda Krzykowski for the invitation!

Strategies for contemporary Portuguese design

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“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.

Continue reading Strategies for contemporary Portuguese design

DIY design in SRF2

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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.

#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 that happened

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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!

Profile Picture: Digital Design from Africa

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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.

Continue reading Profile Picture: Digital Design from Africa

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design

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.

Beyond exoticism: a profile of Jader Almeida

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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.

A Good Virus

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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. Continue reading A Good Virus

Hacking Households

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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.

BIO 50: Opening week

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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.

BIO50: 3, 2, 1… TEST


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!

Continue reading BIO50: 3, 2, 1… TEST

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

Farewell to Domus


Domus July/August 2013. Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani

The July/August 2013 issue of Domus marks my departure from the magazine, after a year and a half of intense learning and a lot of fun. It was an honour, a challenge, and an immense pleasure to work under editor-in-chief Joseph Grima and the Domus editorial team — among which Marco Ferrari and Fabrizia Vecchione—, creating a magazine and a website that truly captured the contemporary.

Personally, this period marks my most intense professional growth thus far, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity. For the moment, find all my collected writings at Domusweb here. And now, on to the next challenge!

The Italian Avant-Garde, 1968-1976


The Italian Avant-Garde, page detail. Photo by Fabrizia Vecchione for Domus.

When Catharine Rossi first asked me to moderate a conversation between Joseph Grima and Alessandro Mendini for an upcoming publication she was co-editing on the Italian avant-garde of the late 1960s and early 1970s, I have to say I panicked. But a few nights of research led to an absolutely fabulous conversation, in which I merely watched as history happened before my eyes. This meeting of giants has been transcribed as the first chapter of Sternberg Press’ new volume EP Vol.1: The Italian Avant-Garde, 1968-1976, edited by Alex Coles and Catharine Rossi, and designed by Experimental Jetset. The book features a series of essays, interviews and explorations of several aspects of this complex, multilayered impulse that was immensely influential. I am humbled and honored to have been a part of it. Read Alice Rawsthorn’s review of the book here.

On Display: The Future of Museums


The Superscript wall at New York’s MAD after the third On Display event. Photo by Aileen Kwun

As part of the MAD museum’s The Home Front 2013: After the Museum exhibition and series of events, editorial consultancy Superscript (which I co-founded) alongside HAO and Neil Donnelly proposed a series of panel discussions titled On Display. In each of the events, a simple starting point was used to discuss issues around objects, exhibitions and location in the future of museums. While discussion progressed, a wall in the exhibition gallery was transformed with live inputs from the discussion, such as images, quotes from readings, or comments by participants in the discussion. The results of the three events will be compiled soon in a publication.

I was fortunate to participate in one of the discussions on the occasion of my last trip to New York. On Display #3 focused on location, and started with the location of MAD — 2 Columbus Circle — to then question physical and virtual locations of museums, collections and galleries today and in the future. For me, it felt just like coming home — so many friendly faces! —, and it was a pleasure to participate in a discussion expertly led by Molly Heintz and Avinash Rajagopal.

The Collective Story


Unfold’s Stratigraphic Manufactury, part of Adhocracy. Photo by Benoit Palley

In order to celebrate the opening of Adhocracy at the New Museum, in New York, below is the essay Avinash Rajagopal and I wrote for the exhibition’s catalog, introducing the volume’s intentions and structure. The catalog is available at the New Museum store. Make sure to visit the show, which will be on through 7 July at Studio 231 at 231 Bowery.

The Collective Story
Avinash Rajagopal, Vera Sacchetti

At first glance, what does a film about superannuated gardeners in Barcelona have to do with 3-D printed ceramics from Antwerp, or an open-source tractor built on a farm in Missouri? The many manifestations of adhocracy—the conviction that societal change can come out of small interventions, little subversions, and closely-knit communities working without the aid of the powers-that-be—can be surprisingly, and affirmingly, diverse. If only all these local agents who create tirelessly within their own online and offline communities could speak to each other, then a powerful new mode of creativity could take over the world—or at least that is the dream.

Continue reading The Collective Story

The Milan Breakfasts 2013


The Milan Breakfasts, 2013. Photo by Ilco Kemmere

During the 2013 Salone del Mobile in Milan, I participated in one of Premsela/DAE’s Milan Breakfasts, discussing Linking Process alongside moderator Tracy Metz, DAE’s Miriam van der Lubbe, V&A’s Corinna Gardner and Vitra Design Museum’s Marc Zehntner. The breakfasts have become a staple of the Salone in the last years, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to discuss the display of designer’s processes in recent exhibitions and in the museum and gallery context. Discussion was accompanied by coffee and brioches (the Milanese term for croissant), and a podcast of the hour-long discussion can be heard on Soundcloud. Thank you to DAE/Premsela!