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.

On the legacy of the UABB: A panel in Shenzhen

25498472_10155781804106826_4986438912659861256_nView of the panel discussion at the 7th UABB in Nantou Old Town, Shenzhen.

As part of a research trip for the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, the biennial director Deniz Ova and I participated in a panel discussion at the opening weekend of the 7th UABB – Shenzhen/Hong Kong Bi-city Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism. Gathering Doreen Heng Liu, Ou Ning, Meng Yan, Liu Xiaodu, Hou Hanru, Jeffrey Johnson, Deniz Ova and myself, and moderated by Ole Bouman, the discussion centered on the vision behind the 7th UABB, titled “Cities Grow in Difference”, as well as how the format has changed and evolved throughout the previous editions. As international guests, we commented on how the UABB connects to other similar events and how the biennial format has changed in the past decade. It was an honor to sit among all these luminaries, and a very pleasant surprise to visit the UABB for the first time!

Values of Design: Problem solving

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The cover of “Values of Design”, designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio.

I was thrilled to contribute an essay on “Problem Solving” to Values of Design, the publication accompanying the opening of the V&A Shekou Gallery at Design Society, in Shenzhen, China. Curator Brendan Cormier invited me to further develop a series of reflections that greatly informed my masters thesis, and could be updated and revised for this tome, which features the voices of experts such as Jana Scholze, Catharine Rossi, Glenn Adamson, Penny Sparke, and Tamar Shafrir.  I was particularly lucky to be able to see the exhibition shortly after the opening, as well, which allowed me to better grasp the immense significance of such an exhibition and catalogue in the context of Shenzhen and South China.

Social Design at HKB Research Wednesday

DPP-y2OX0AA_dYxSpeaking at the Research Wednesday lectures series at the University of the Arts Bern. Photo Robert Lzicar

This Fall semester I had the opportunity to revisit my MFA Design Criticism thesis research, as I received an invitation to lecture at the Bern University of the Arts’ Research Wednesday series. Professor Arne Scheuermann kindly proposed I discussed my views on social design, and I was more than happy to revisit this research and update it with new insights following my work with several projects of this kind. Thank you for the invitation!

The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial – A School of Schools

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A mechanism for a model of the motion of a comet. Engraving after B. Martin, courtesy the Wellcome collection.

I’m thrilled to be joining the curatorial team of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial as Associate Curator, alongside Jan Boelen and Nadine Botha. Titled A School of Schools, it is a multi-platform biennial that will use, test, and revise a variety of educational strategies to reflect on the role of design, knowledge, and global connectedness in contemporary Istanbul and beyond.

The first step in the year-long process of the biennial is an Open Call, open to both to learners and schools. For more information you can visit the biennial’s website at aschoolofschools.iksv.org. Hope to see you all in Istanbul in September 2018!

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.

Pressing the right buttons

A detail of Thibault Brevet's studio in Berlin. Detail of a photo © Katrin Greiling
A detail of Thibault Brevet’s studio in Berlin. Photo © Katrin Greiling

At long, long last, I was finally given the opportunity to write a profile of one of my all-time favorite designers: Thibault Brevet. He Skyped with me from his Berlin studio, and I was excited to know more about what drives him and what he’s up to next. The result is up on Interwoven, Kvadrat’s amazing online magazine edited by Anniina Koivu, and is brilliantly illustrated by photographs taken by Katrin Greiling. A link to the piece here, and an excerpt below:

No matter the size of his projects, be they self-initiated or commissioned, Brevet adapts, questions, takes apart and reconstructs. His thinking is representative of a new kind of designer, one less concerned with patents and copyright than with open processes and knowledge sharing. “Most projects I’ve done are born out of Google searches,” he points out. “Every project is this huge list of questions that you have to figure out: how do I mill this? How do I export that? The more material there is online the easier it is.” This reasoning works both ways: the same way he learns from others, from the “guy who already did it in a similar way” to the “little piece of code that inspires you”, Brevet documents and publishes the results online, both at in-progress stage and when finalised; others can build on his process and his thinking, or analyse it and draw inspiration and ideas from it. In the end, “the finished product is a crystallisation of a learning process,” he says. “The fact that you’re becoming an expert in something is the work. Mastering a skill is the project in itself.”

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.

Swiss Grand Award for Design 2017

A detail of David Bielander's office in Munich. Photo © Gina Folly
A detail of David Bielander’s office in Munich. Photo © Gina Folly

I had the pleasure to once again work with the Federal Office of Culture, in the person of Patrizia Crivelli, designer Jonathan Hares and photographer Gina Folly in the publication celebrating the 2017 edition of the Swiss Grand Award for Design, a career prize bestowed upon distinguished Swiss designers of all fields. This year, the winners were David Bielander, Thomas Ott and Jean Widmer, whom I was humbled and honored to meet and interview for the publication.

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

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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.

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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.