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Reflections on designlab Siemens mobile
Term 3: "Communication and Architecture"

by Andre Dettler

from the website
Here is the official brief: "Nine selected students from different disciplines and countries (USA, Israel, China, The Netherlands and Germany) are invited for a period of 5 months to work on utopian concepts in Munich, Germany. The focus of this experimental research is the changing forms of communication and architecture in our increasingly "digital society". The expected outcome is information about social, ethical, and esthetic consequences of the consciousness shift that is taking place today (cultural change) and the new principles and ideas affecting design."

Here's mine: Nine students from all over the world joined together in Munich, Germany, in an apartment with one bathroom...nothing but drama. Nine personalities were thrown together as a team. Nine students survived where everything around them didn't... amazing. We worked for everything we achieved and thus learned that this is what allowed us to "own" our experiences. We began to understand the lab almost as a "business transaction," and to fly blind would produce work which was forced, not created. Only with this understanding did we form a functional working relationship... but not without struggle. People cried, sleep became a privilege, and sometimes the feeling of just barely floating permeated our days. It was hard to defend projects where the results did not produce clear, realizable products. When the program began to believe in us, we believed in it.

designlab and similar foundations are a two way road. One must learn to use them as much as they use you.
Collaborative work requires a different kind of discipline, one where your own personal project may sometimes take the back seat in order to complete the larger picture. Compromise and sacrifice are needed for a group to succeed. When it did, we understood that a "designlab" can actually exist anywhere, and by anyone.

shanghai food lets you know exactly what is being eaten by staring at you.
We were grateful to be given a 2.5 week trip to Shanghai. It was a trip that brought the fear of SARS, smiles from hundreds of students, and the gift to be accepted by such a beautiful culture. For some of those students, we were their first contact with foreigners. Our minds grew while we changed and developed ideas each day. As an exercise, we each constructed a new project specifically for Shanghai. Our view of utopia was becoming urban. People were everywhere, and the once-blue sky and green-grassed valleys of our minds were replaced with a new, future vision. A utopia in a city, the beauty of a living, breathing mass, all the while recognizing the factors of a densely populated society. We ate it all, from reptiles to bamboo, and for me--not to be repeated so quickly--pig cartilage. As a group we were becoming cohesive, and this would become an essential point.

designlab is more a project about us than what is produced. As a result, you can find a direct reflection of our times.
We did not want to hide anything. We weren't about slick finishes or smooth corners. We were raw, in mind and in approach. I saw the final projects as first-step realizations of ideas yet to be played out. These are the toughest steps. The responsibility is now up to observers to take them even further, in their minds. Perhaps we are the catalysts in a world that might otherwise fear approaching the unknown. We walked many fine lines. We had to explain utopian concepts without utopian materials or utopian funding. It was inspiring to see the projects become visualized. We did the best we could to give our truth. We succeeded by accepting the fact that we are all works-in-progress.


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Andre Dettler 8.16.03

see the projects

Andre Dettler

Cornelia Erdmann

Frederick Molenschot

Inbal Raz Rotbard

John Rothenberg

Nicole Tank

Susanne Happle

Weiji Yang

Xiao Ying Ying

Andre Dettler {adettler8@hotmail.com} is currently exploring Europe, the roots of Bauhaus, and looking for work that inspires others and not just pays the bills.

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