Yesterday Torino, named World Design Capital 2008 by ICSID in collaboration with the magazine Abitare, launched TORINO GEODESIGN, an international consultation of ideas aimed at the design of complex tools (household objects, furnishings and fittings for public spaces, urban furniture systems) to be realised in conjunction with the local communities and businesses present in Torino and Piedmont.
The project, one of the highlights of Torino 2008 World Design Capital (see also this interview with director Paola Zini), was presented and discussed at a press conference at the Milan Design Fair by Sergio Chiamparino (Mayor of Torino), Stefano Boeri (direct or Abitare and project leader of the Geodesign competition), Fernando and Humberto Campana (designers), Guta Moura Guedes (President ExperimentaDesign Biennial, Lisbon) and John Thackara (director of Doors of Perception and Dott07). Zaha Hadid (architect) was caught ill in New York but contributed via a written statement.Participation through signed proposals is open to designers, architects, artists and graphic artists. Participation may be individual or in group (multidisciplinary groups are welcome).
The purpose of the consultation is to select the designers who will work alongside local communities and businesses in the region in the design of complex tools that, in the form of prototypes or a limited production run, will be scheduled at the TORINO GEODESIGN exhibition/bazaar/event to be held in the Porta Palazzo neighbourhood of Torino in April 2008.
The challenge of TORINO GEODESIGN 2008 is to use design not as a way of promoting a limited group of designers and companies, but as a vital factor of social and cultural cohesion of a major cosmopolitan citiy.
To this end, the TORINO GEODESIGN project will see the involvement of:
The local authority which, in addition to its usual role as a provider of services and welfare, will assume the role in this project as promotor of a selected number of complex tools aimed at fostering forms of enterprise in local communities.
The ethnic groups and communities of practice present locally which, already possessing knowledge acquired through tradition or need in the design of a complex tool, which are willing to transform their project into a recognised creative and entrepreneurial activity.
Designers (selected through this call for applications) who, instead of closing themselves in a self-referential creative sphere, will be able to work together with local communities and businesses to introduce innovative technologies, symbolic and communication values in the design and production of complex tools.
The companies in the local economic fabric (Torino and Piedmont) which, thanks to continuous interaction with the communities and designers, will be able to contribute to prototyping, producing and commercialising the complex tools of TORINO GEODESIGN.
Overturning in this way the traditional approach of international events linked to furniture design, which bring out exclusively the "communicative" sphere of production, this consultation therefore addresses the huge and unexpressed potential of "self-organised design" and/or of survival.
Self-organised design is, in fact, the most explosive phenomenon on the global design scene. This is design generated by communities of users that organise limited series production, produced with hybrid technologies, thanks to informal economies, but often with a highly symbolic content.
It is important to note that "community" is not to be understood as only recent immigrant ethnic and religious communities, but also communities of practice and interest of Italian and foreign citizens that maintain their internal cohesion thanks to a close-knit and intense network of cultural, social and family relations.
The groups of producers-users will be recognised as having a creative and entrepreneurial dimension, thus avoiding the prevalence of processes of mere assistance to communities in difficulty and the appropriation by the "high-brow" design system of spontaneous or "bottom-up" ideas and design practices.
In TORINO GEODESIGN, designers will therefore be at the centre of a network of relations in which the distinction between clients and users, producers and beneficiaries disappear. In this new situation, increasingly widespread and desirable, designers will be more a sort of catalyst of varied experiments and reactions with results that cannot be fully foreseen in advance.
Through this call for applications, TORINO GEODESIGN intends to select 35-40 candidatures from designers who will be able to work alongside local communities and businesses in Torino and Piedmont in the design of complex objects that, as prototypes or short-run production series, will be exhibited at the TORINO GEODESIGN exhibition/bazaar/event to be held at Porta Palazzo in April 2008.
In the Autumn of 2007, after having defined the list of the complex tools to be produced and selection of the design candidatures, TORINO GEODESIGN will organise a series of experimental design workshops.
Each workshop, which will deal with the design and prototyping of a specific complex tool, will be attended by members of one of the local communities, a designer (or group) chosen from the candidates selected by the consultation jury and the representatives of a local manufacturing company interested in the production and/or prototyping of the tool created by the workshop.
Each workshop will be held in Torino and will last between one and four weeks. Their goal will be - at the very least - the production of a working prototype of the complex tool conceived and fosted by the designers together with the local companies and communities. In the winter months, in conjuncion with the firms from Torino or Piedmont participating in the workshop, procedures will be set in motion to move on from the prototype to the full production phase of each complex tool.
Publication of call for applications: May 2007
Clarification of questions: any questions will be answered up to 1 July 2007
Deadline for presentation of projects: midnight (24:00) 15 July 2007
Selection of projects by the jury: 30 July 2007
The workshops will be held in the course of Autumn 2007 (the precise dates will be decided in agreement with the communities, designers and companies involved)
Mark Vanderbeeken is a senior partner at Experientia, an international experience design consultancy, based in Turin, Italy. He is also the author of the successful experience design blog Putting People First. Mark is a specialist in visioning, identity development and strategic communications and worked in Italy, Denmark, the USA and Belgium. He was communications manager of Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, European communications coordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF), marketing director of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (USA) and chief press officer of Antwerp 93, Cultural Capital of Europe (Belgium).