The 2022 edition of the Swiss Design Network conference took place at the Zurich University of the Arts. Titled Counterparts: Exploring Design Beyond the Human, the conference aimed to provide a basis for a joint exploration of what happens when we shift away from human-centered and universalist views of design and begin contemplating future ways of co-existing and co-emerging with others on this planet. Which ideas, experiences, practices, and possibilities unfold in the wake of such a shift? How can design be re-thought accordingly?
I was happy participate in the conference, moderating the panel Towards Co-Existence and Co-Emergence, with Flurina Gradin, Julie Van Oyen and Haig Armen, Jenny Bentley and Twisha Mehta. Thank you to the Swiss Design Network for having me!
We live in critical times. Whether pandemics, environmental and climate crises, social inequalities, or conflict- and disaster-induced displacement: humanity is heading towards an uncertain future in which it is exposed to existential risks. What essential role could art and culture play in discussing, reshaping and overcoming such crises? The art scene in transition functions as a mirror of social changes such as coming to terms with colonization, sexism, racism, xenophobia, the discrimination of minorities and other socially relevant issues.
I was humbled and honored to be the moderator for this conference at the ZKM Karlsruhe, where we discussed the future of cultural institutions in the moment of collective crisis and transformation we are experiencing today. With speakers Max Hollein, Ille Gebeshuber, Sonia Lawson, Irini Mirena Papadimitriou, Laura Raicovich, Parag Khanna, Peter Weibel, and Siegfried Zielinski, we outlined the diversity of demands and perspectives arising from global risks for cultural institutions. The two days of the conference are embedded in this post.
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 schoolsÂ HEADÂ andÂ HEPIA, and it will be broadcast over the course of three days inÂ a hybrid format combining live and online interventions.
Bringing together three disciplinary strandsâ€”architecture, interior architecture and landscape architectureâ€”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 architectureâ€™s lines of inquiry.
Presenting at “Architectural Models: Theory and practice in scale”. Photo courtesy HEAD-GenÃ¨ve.
I was in Geneva to discuss architectural models at the conferenceÂ 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 â€“ 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.
An aspect of Hurra Hurra Festival. Photo byÂ 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.Â 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 seeÂ the multiple tracks of engagement in the festival, from lectures to workshops, and performances to a night saunaâ€“ Thanks for having me!
A walking lecture during Digital Bauhaus 2019. Photo Thomas MÃ¼ller.
I was happy to be one of the speakers of this year’s Digital Bauhaus Summit in Weimar, Germany.Â The conference gathersÂ 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 yearâ€™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!
Festival 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 intoÂ a temporary school, a â€œtesting locationâ€ 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 biennialâ€™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.
An aspectÂ 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 StoriesÂ on the event. Below an excerpt:
The dominance of women both on the panel and in the audienceâ€”curators, designers, educators, students, directors, and moreâ€”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.”
Taking the exhibition as a starting point, A Womanâ€™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 â€“ ‘Advocates of History’, ‘Enablers of Visibility’ and ‘Dismantlers of Existing Conditions’ â€“ 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 â€“ 18 January 2019 â€“, conversations will take place in a variety of formats, creating platforms for exchange and connection. A Womanâ€™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, Part 1: Historical Perspectives at the Swiss Design Network’s Beyond Change conference. PhotoÂ 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 ofÂ a double sessionÂ 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.Â The first session, titledÂ 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 byÂ 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!
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,Â focusing on alternative design pedagogies in the past and today.Â I will be moderatingÂ 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.
I wasÂ 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. TheÂ ECAL Research DayÂ 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.
For Making and Unmaking the Environment, the 2017 Design History Society conference, Avinash Rajagopal and I wrote a paper titled “The Unmaking of Autoprogettazione”.Â I had the pleasureÂ 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 unâ€™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 Artekâ€™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 projectâ€™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.
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 â€” willing to actively engage with other people â€” 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.
With Alec Dudson, Merve Yucel and Elian Stefa at the NjÃ« MendÃ«si TjÃ«ter 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 theÂ NjÃ« MendÃ«si TjÃ«ter 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 â€“ Intern magazine â€“, 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 excellentÂ 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!
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”. Â 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.