As part of Design Lab#4, the Kunstgewerbemuseum is cooperating with the Italian Embassy in Berlin to organize a pop-up exhibition dedicated to the work of the DESIS Network, which was founded by Italian design theorist Ezio Manzini in 2008.
Following the guiding principle „Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability“, the DESIS Network’s ambition is to promote design schools as agents of change. Collaborating with design schools all over the world, students work on different projects in the DESIS Labs to develop Ideas about social innovation, participatory cities and creative communities. The DESIS Labs act as real-life-laboratories where designers research topics that the society of tomorrow will have to cope with.
In order to achieve a form of social design, traditional forms of design must be rethought. It is especially important to Ezio Manzini that designers develop a clear stance regarding global challenges and strengthen collaborative concepts.
The exhibition presents a selection of the diverse work of the DESIS Labs, focusing on the topic of urban design. The discourse can be split into four key areas: Design for social cohesion, Design for regenerating Commons, Design for urban production and Design for urban infrastructure. Marking the beginning of the exhibition, Ezio Manzini will give a lecture titled „Design for collaborative cities – Weaving people and places in fluid urban spaces“.
This category encompasses projects that concern themselves with the design of interventions in public spaces. Urban development that focuses on the social issues can overcome prejudices and break down communication barriers. Through strategic interventions designers as well as residents can introduce vitality into their city, provoke social interaction and reappropriate urban spaces. As an example, the temporary infrastructure “Slow Down, Stop, and Stay” on the Plaça dels Àngels in Barcelona developed at DESIS lab Elisava shows us an attempt to create a more inviting public space.
Urban planning projects working site specifically and in close collaboration with the community enrich the scenario of the city as an urban common. Aided by co-design processes and community-building strategies, a variety of tools and skills can be developed. Following a multi-disciplinary approach, the DESIS Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in the United Stated helps to improve access to health care and food for many people in Pittsburgh.
Some of the projects presented in the exhibition attempt to establish a regenerative circular economy within cities. One of them is the ReTuren project in Sweden. The re- and upcycling centre simultaneously acts as a platform for long-term cooperation, shared ownership and responsibility of the many. Above all, new value chains, innovative forms of social networks and sustainability must be promoted. For that to be achieved, smaller companies, organizations, workshops and many other players have to be integrated into the overall "city" scenario.
Digital platforms as urban infrastructure? If the city is perceived as a series of ecosystems in which a multitude of communities and social networks thrive, design can serve to generate new forms of material and immaterial infrastructure. The Tsinghua DESIS Lab in China initiated a project called Lettuce House. It is one of the participative projects shown in the exhibition that aims to organize new forms of economic activity on one hand and create conditions for cooperation and initiatives to flourish on the other.