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!

 

From Border to Threshold

Italian Limes. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani
Italian Limes. Photo © Delfino Sisto Legnani

When Disegno asked me to write about Italian Limes, a project of Italian design research studio Folder, I couldn’t believe my luck. Here is one of the most interesting projects done in design and architecture in recent years, and I tried my best to show its relevance in today’s world in a piece that made it to Disegno no. 12. An excerpt below, and the full piece available in the magazine.

Italian Limes’s greatest legacy is likely to be how it has contributed in a completely novel way to the fields of design and architecture, and helped carve out a path for a new generation of researchers. It has shown how design can meaningfully contribute to social and political discourse. In stark contrast to the postcard of the Brenner pass that initiated the project, a current Google maps rendition of Italy’s border shows desolation and emptiness. A bare road leads to the Alps, as if entering the country were nothing other than simple and objective. And yet, as Paasi writes, “borders are still with us,” their meanings “more and more complex in both social and political practice and academic research”. Borders are contested, transformed, permeable to different degrees, dematerialised, present – and as movable in their definition as the section of the Italian-Austrian frontier analysed by Folder. “Consequently, it is crucial to step beyond simple dichotomies dictating that spaces should be understood as either territorially bounded or open,” concludes Paasi. “Even the most thoroughly fixed borders transform, are crossed, and are partly ‘mobile’.”

Hacking Households

hackinghouseholds
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.

Summer exhibitions in Hasselt

felicevarini
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.

Beyond the Tin Can Radio


Moveable Playground Structure by Victor Papanek. Image courtesy Victor J Papanek Foundation

The 3rd issue of Disegno magazine features my story on the Victor J Papanel Foundation and its making, and tries to shed some new light on this controversial figure that has become the symbol of an entire movement in the early 2000s. I was privileged to have interviewed both Thomas Geisler and Martina Fineder, who were responsible for tracking and putting together the Papanek Archive in Vienna. The full piece is available online over at Disegno Daily, and an excerpt can be read after the jump.

Continue reading Beyond the Tin Can Radio

The Tipping Point


Sketches for the Tip Ton chair, by Barber Osgerby. Photo by Felix Friedmann, courtesy Disegno

The first issue of design, architecture and fashion magazine Disegno includes my 3,000-word essay on Barber Osgerby’s Tip Ton chair for Vitra and the process behind its making. It was a challenge and an honour to write this piece, and I was very pleased with the result. The magazine can (and should!) be bought here, and the full feature article can be read online over at Disegno Daily. An excerpt after the jump.

Continue reading The Tipping Point

Learning from the bricoleur


Image: Zwelethu Mthethwa, Untitled (from the series Interiors) (detail), courtesy of the MAD blog.

Disegno is a new design magazine that seeks to bring back long form critical writing and reflection to the design field; it appears in the form of a website, a biannual print magazine, and a series of events. I wrote my first essay for the Disegno website on how contemporary designers seek to emulate the figure and spirit of the bricoleur. As one of the magazine website’s Lessons, I traced back the origin of this term and its current implications, as seen in examples as the Museum of Arts and Design’s recent exhibition “Are You a Hybrid?” curated by North-American designer Stephen Burks, which I also critique. An excerpt is below:

Fascinated by the craftsmanship behind these creations,Are You A Hybrid? is trapped within the boundaries of formalism. Burks’ simplistic presentation of a powerful creative force is representative of the limited Western perception of the figure of the bricoleur. It also implies that this creative impulse can be appropriated and emulated by Western designers, reducing it to a formal trend. But what escapes Burks and much of the Western design world is the true essence of the bricoleur, which cannot be copied or crystallised. Because this creative impulse lives in a state of permanent flux, the stillness of the museum pedestal will only extinguish it. Because this maker only exists in the periphery of society, bringing him to the centre will thwart him.

The Western design world’s selfish fascination with the bricoleur seeks to tame and incorporate this elusive spirit within the discipline’s moulds. But it should instead observe and learn from a creative process that, unlike design, is unskilled and indifferent to conventions and standards. This tenacious, resistant spirit, intrinsic to emerging design scenarios, is already helping the discipline grow and reshape in developing nations. It is now up to the West to catch up.

The complete piece can be seen over at Disegno, as well as some reading suggestions if you’re interested in the topic.