Social Design for the Mediterranean

The article is based on researches within the editorial activities at PAD Journal from 2008 to present, and deals with the organization of the Mediterranean Design contest in 2009 and 2010. The text presents a selection of projects developed in different contexts in the last years and focused on the social and political problems of the Mediterranean area. These projects offer some possible answers to the emerging problems and to emergency by exploiting opportunities tied with social communities and territorial resources.
Design practices have been carried out by several design operators: from magazines designers, who operate culturally and critically in the geopolitical field, to designers who, in case of exhibitions or competitions, present some ideas who are freed from any industrial requests; from university research centers to groups of independent activists who are in partnership with associations and social communities. These projects range from architecture to product and visual design, by adopting several approaches to the project. All projects show an awareness of the real problems of the Mediterranean in the different contexts and set the social needs as the priority of the project.
The reading of the design practices acquires relevance in a perspective finalized to promote social innovation and economic development through “social design”.
1. Premise
The issues at the base of the structural crisis which has been affecting the Mediterranean area for centuries are numerous, and the issues to be faced in the context of the world economic crisis are very complex.
In many countries, both in the North and South coast of the Mediterranean (obviously with proper differences), the lack of any protection and support to life, welfare, labour and culture, give life to a structural uncertainty in everyday life, thus worsening political and social conflicts.
The strong economic inequality, social injustice and the inadequate access to basic services (education, health care, water, etc) in some area of the South coast of the Mediterranean, are today, like in the past, main causes of the emigration of millions of people searching for better life conditions.
In the last years, clandestine immigration has been increasing. This is illegally organised by criminal groups: slave-drivers who run modern traffic of human beings, as in the case of the so-called scafisti, the pilots who drive the boats, who gather plenty of people on totally unsafe boats leaving from the North coasts of Africa to get to the Countries of the North coast of the Mediterranean. Clandestine immigration has been the cause of death in the Mediterranean for years, and has stressed the reception system and the social devaluation of the most involved countries, such as Italy. The ever growing number of landings makes granting adequate assistance and first aid very hard.
The data of Caritas Italia on emigration related to 2008 show a foreign presence in the countries of the Mediterranean that is distributed as follows: Spain (5,3 mln), France (3,7 mln), Italy (4 mln), Greece (nine hundred thousand), Malta (fifteen thousand). In the North side of the Mediterranean there is a concentration of the so-called economic migrants, i.e. the ones who leave their home country looking for a job and for better economic conditions. In the South and East side there is a main concentration of immigrants seeking asylum and refugees. The countries of this side are, in most cases, also emigration countries with about 12,7 million expatriates, of whom 8,2 million (64,7%) resident in the European Union, 2,7 million in the Arabian countries (21,4%) and 1,7 million in other parts of the world (13,7%). Moreover, statistics record a growth in the trend of the migrants from this area towards countries in the North of the Mediterranean, ranging from 5 to 10% per year. Even though the number of migrants is globally decreasing, in this area of the planet the phenomenon is exactly the opposite. The two reasons for such a phenomenon are the crisis in Iraq and Sudan (Darfur), as well as the steady increase of the number of Palestinian refugees reported by the UNRWA.
According to the observatory Fortress Europe, from 1988 to 2007 the immigrants drowned while crossing the Mediterranean are at least 8.165 people. Half of the bodies have never been rescued. In the Channel of Sicily between Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Malta and Italy, there have been 2.487 victims, of whom 1.529 missing. 70 are the drowned while sailing from Algeria towards Sardinia. Along the routes from Morocco, Algeria, West Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal towards Spain, heading for the Canary Islands or crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, there have been at least 4.030 victims, of which 1.980 are missing. In the Aegean, instead, between Turkey and Greece, 885 immigrants have died, of whom 461 are missing. Finally, in the Adriatic Sea, between Albania, Montenegro and Italy, 553 people have died in the last years, of which 250 are missing. The Mediterranean proves to be the place for flows of immigrants that cross it on board of makeshift dinghies, ferries and vessels, on board of which they usually travel inside the holds or in containers.
Clandestine arrived in the destination countries will be faced with new sorts of issues. There are a lot of difficulties in entering the official labour market. They often become victims of the criminal organisations or are barely able to live a decent life.
How can design and its competences give a contribution to concretely solve issues such as the ones that afflict the Mediterranean?
In order to answer, we will investigate some examples of design that have been lately proposed in the Mediterranean.
2. Imagining bridges uniting different worlds
In the current complicated Mediterranean reality, an approach of “critical design” leads to questions that are both social and politically relevant, follow to address the complex needs of communities.
This approach belongs to the meta-projectual practices, i.e. during the phase of problem and opportunities analysis leading to the construction of reference sceneries for the project process. This phase does not always lead to the generation of punctual and precise solutions, though it allows to develop the debate on possible solutions or hypothesis to be experimented. By preceding the development of the solutions, critical design stimulates the thought of the designers, leading to the comparison between different points of view, different actors and bearers of interests and it makes the meaning of the operated project emerge.
This was the aim of the Project Heracles (J. Grima, 2011), promoted by Domus magazine, that, by invading the geopolitical sphere, stated “the need to rethink the relationships between Africa and Europe, starting from all those infrastructures that could lead, though symbolically, to dialogue and not to separation”. The project has worked as a provoking instrument to invite to a reflection involving social, philosophical and political disciplines within the project.
In May 2011, in the heat of the Arab Springs, the international magazine Domus edited by Joseph Grima, launches a call for ideas named Project Heracles. A Euro-African bridge.
The project originated from the epistolary swap between two European philosophers (both from Belgium), the activist Lieven De Cauter and Dieter Lesage (2002), that imagined a bridge linking Gibraltar and Ceuta, the two edges where Europe and Africa are the closest. The bridge would have represented a concept answer to the walls of Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish territories in Africa, built with the support of the European Community, symbolising the division between North and South. A bridge could have given a more suitable reply to the numerous detention/refugees camps for the illegal immigrants arriving from the South coast countries in the North Coast, thus putting an end to a story full of ecological, social and humanitarian disasters
Joseph Grima wrote in the editorial of Domus n. 949: “the idea of physically linking the European and the African continents… is not new and, for nearly one century, the commitment in the project has been fluctuating as a rag hanging to the rough wind of the European politics […] the issues of the African continent have poured (also physically) on the European conscience. If the situation is so critical that even the sea represents an obstacle, shall we completely abandon the concept of euro-fortification to build a bridge?”. This question was followed by an invitation to designers to send some design concepts for a Euro-African bridge to be printed on postcards.
At the same time Joseph Grima published an open letter to the President of the Council of Europe Herman Van Rompuy, in which he notes the possibility of Europe’s gaining much from Africa’s innovation and experimentations (Grima, 2011, 8).
At a later stage, thanks to the invitation of some European Members of Parliament, Domus managed to realise the exhibition “Project Heracles. 200 postcards from the Straits”at the European Parliament, showing the postcards received illustrating the projects in order to spread the initiative properly.
The Gopher Hole Gallery in London and Domus invited a number of distinguished thinkers, writers and curators to examine the postcards and make a selection of the most provocative and creative designs. Philosophers Lieven De Cauter and Dieter Lesage, architectural academic and author Eyal Weizman, curator of the Marakesh Biennale and director of Program, Carson Chan, director of Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair, futurist and author Bruce Sterling, writer Geoff Manaugh and The Gopher Hole team made a short list of six postcards which were to be displayed in the exhibition space.
Each postcard exposed presented an imaginary answer to the question. The drawings and pictures were accompanied by ideas to reflect upon the concepts of border and communion. Suspended bridges, floating cities, airships and cable cars marked a linking route between the two borders of Ceuta and Gibraltar. Amongst the many themes there were refugee camps, monorails, currency, playgrounds and artificial islands and a big floating city of the Mediterranean.
The project of the artist Francis Alÿs, entitled Don’t cross the bridge before you get to the river depicts a line of children leaving Africa towards Europe, while a second line goes away from Spain and moves towards Morocco. The two lines will meet at the horizon. {{1}}
Andrea Costa and Debora Sanguineti’s proposal transforms the “Square of the 200 columns” of the residential compound Climat de France in Algeri into an inhabited bridge, thus referring to the notion of Mediterranean City by Giancarlo De Carlo. {{2}}
The concepts reveal an imaginary universe that is able to overcome all cultural, economical and social barriers separating the two continents. And they showed that the Mediterranean still represents a cultural and symbolic space, which is alive despite its emergency condition and apart from the humanitarian responses that are needed for its crisis.
The project as a whole has showed that the architecture and design practises are strictly related to the global conditions of geopolitics and that, at the same time, they act as real activators in the construction of the symbolic contemporary universe.
Within the specific Mediterranean context the project defines a new social and critical agenda for designers.
3. Design Activism
While design practices acquire a social dimension, several expressions of design activism world wide show what Ezio Manzini, through his foundation DESIS{{3}}has defined as a societal journey towards a more sustainable way of living.
In the last few years, in many countries of the southern side of the Mediterranean Sea, like Tunisia, Egypt and others, intentional actions asking for a change are emerging. These want, stimulate change on behalf of a neglected group and support social innovation. Several expressions of activism have spread during public performances and through social networks, where all images and icons created to express discontent become “viral” and spread extremely quickly.
Characterised by different approaches, between art and design, social sciences and communication sciences, creative professions and civil society, design activism is focused on the social reaction, trying to find solutions activating new behavioural patterns and hence cultural change of society (Alastair Fuad-Luke, 2009). In order to do this design activism seeks for new communicative ways, by using ICT, and new ways of involvement (design participatory actions, co-design) and tries to catalyse any change in the perception of reality, by increasing information and awareness.
An interesting example of design activism is Visualizing Palestine. This is a project of visual communication conceived by Palestinian Ramzi Jaber. It uses creative visual concepts design and storytelling (in posters, motion graphics, animation, videos) diffused on line to describe a factual rights-based narrative of Palestine/Israel. The project entitled “against injustice in Palestine”, aims at correcting information against the wrong narrative spread by media on Palestine. Through its information, the project aims at a widespread social awareness of the injustice practiced in Palestine.
In 2009, Ramzi Jaber, quit his job of civil engineer in Jerusalem, as to organize TEDxRamallah. While working on the conference, he was impressed by the huge amount of data available on Palestine, though not very well-known. With the aim of spreading this information, in the early 2011 he conceived his project as a start up and non-profit project, in collaboration with TEDxRamallah co-organizer Joumana al-Jabri, an architect, operating with the same DIY approach as the conference. (Stephanie Features) Editor at Wamda and a freelance journalist.
After a first failure of some workshops launched in Amman and Dubai, the two founders realised that they needed to properly train a team composed by people with different competences, able to build and streamline the process of carefully-designed infographics.
Today Visualizing Palestine is composed by a team of 13 people of different nationalities (Arab, Jordanian, Palestinian, Lebanese, French, etc.) with different background and competences (managers, designers, and researchers), plus 8 – 14 volunteers, implement an eight-part process. Most of the work consists of turning raw data into a story, then telling that story through an arresting infographic, within the communication project, starting from modelling and visualising the data deduced by statistic studies and scientific researches carried out on Israel territories and coming from verified sources .{{4}}The process is meticulous enough to warrant the team. The communicative artefacts turn the data into infographics that overcoming linguistic differences allow the comprehension of information on a worldly scale. The visualization of the data has an immediate impact, due to the narrative style involving images and data.
Visualizing Palestine can be described as intersection of communication, social sciences, technology, design and city planning for social justice. It is financed through crowdfounding campaigns launched on indiegogo. It uses the license Creative Commons (no profit organisation) that allows the sharing and the employment of creativity and knowledge through free legal instruments.
The project carries on design practices that give voice to social and political contradictions, thus gaining political value. And it tries to reveal the public image, spread by traditional media, that conceals the complicity at the basis of contemporary politics.
Magazines and websites then buy and publish the infographics of Visualizing Palestine, unless they are commissioned, in which case clients then print and distribute them.
4. Design for emergency
The theme of emergency is not new to design. It has already been dealt with in the past, especially with regard to emergency housing, a problem that emerges in case of natural catastrophic events such as earthquakes and tsunamis. The problem of emergency deserves great attention both from a techno-functional point of view, and from a psychological one, since it has to fulfil man’s instinctive need for safety (P. Antonelli, 2005).
An example of product design for emergencies is that wanted by the Israeli Government. Between the 1980s and 1990s, the government of Israel collaborated with the Research & Development Department of Bezalel Art and Design of Jerusalem, in order to improve the quality of life of its population, that is constantly at war with Palestine.
The project, made for the national security plan, focused on the application of a device for gas masks: the air blower. This uses positive pressure inside the mask so that there is no need to breathe through the filter. It comes in kits for personal protection, consisting of gas masks with body extensions that protect different body parts (head, arms and part of the trunk). It is easy to wear and use for adults, children and new-born babies (like the portable cradle “Mini Mamat”) thanks to the flexible and transparent materials that cover one’s face without limiting their vision or movements. It also include a series of accessories that allow to drink easily ( a baby bottle and a straw) and to listen to the radio. It is easy to use thanks to graphical symbols showing the use modes of the masks. These protective systems, widely in use during the Gulf War, are still provided to every citizen of Israel. The Shmartaff kit (Hebrew slang for babysitter) is an official present from the government to every Israeli newborn child. Despite any arguments on the fact that these products may be part of the “political rhetoric”, this security kit has made Israelis stronger.
In 2005 these products were exhibited at SAFE. Design Takes On Risk features, an exhibition by Paola Antonelli held at New York MoMa. The show shocked the American people by highlighting the situation in Israel and how much Israeli designers are contributing to the population life quality and comfort. Overall more than 300 contemporary objects and prototypes from all over the world designed “to defend body and mind from dangerous or stressful circumstances and provide a sense of comfort and security” were exhibited. Addressing a range of human concerns, from the fear of earthquakes and terrorist attacks, the exhibition covered different parts of the project, from architecture to information. The exhibition included a “blast mitigation system” for glass walls, a bullet-resistant blouse, and the Spider Boot Antipersonnel Mine Foot Protection System, a special shoe apparatus for minesweepers and soldiers.
Some of the most recent projects, such as those which received an award at the International Contest Mediterranean Design{{5}}, at the 2009 and 2010 editions, are focused on the emergency of clandestine immigration, and aim at improving immigration policies for refugees, while achieving psychological and physical comfort.
Floating hearts{{6}}by the Italian Giulio Iacchetti is a system of signalling buoys, equipped with led panels charged by photovoltaic cells and emergency signalling systems. The project offers a concrete solution while poetically hinting at a metaphor. The buoys hold the frame of a floating bright heart, and being spread over the Mediterranean they are useful to help the shipwrecked, and they could be placed where shipwrecks happened. “A warning to the sailors and a memorial between the waves, less vanishing than a bunch of flowers that is thrown from ships after any sea tragedy” as Iacchetti himself writes.
Brakumo{{7}}is a comfort kit by Studio Paolo Paladini who writes “… on disembarkation we need to provide the immigrants with a support …even a moral one, so that they won’t feel emarginated in a society that rejects them. A gesture is enough … Brakumo is made of a rug, a pair of shoes and two boxes. Minimal objects but rich in a gesture that breaks the present social patterns. The name of the kit is the word “hug” in Esperanto; through this global language we hoped for a dialogue between peoples, as well as we wished to break bias through the kit…a consoling and understanding hug…”
In 2014, the students of Ecole de design de Nantes Atlantique analysed the theme of surviving catastrophes in the exhibition Survival. Among the projects presented there, Vestaïs{{8}}is a brazier used for heating; a welcoming wood stove. On its top, a foldable grill can be positioned on the bowl in order to cook food. Heaters placed in the tripod can be removed to warm oneself. The stove location would help to share thoughts and ideas between people. As such, it is oriented toward conviviality. It is run on methane produced by a 7 litre compost bin and wood placed within the bowl. If the compost bin is not used (it takes 24 hours for methanization) to light the fire, it can be replaced by a gas bottle with a universal burner. The cross bars hold and dry the wood and can also be used to dry clothes.
Another project is Armadillo{{9}}, an health capsule, that aims to create a reassuring environment for a person waiting to be rescued. It is a survival backpack that looks like a shell, which includes first aid equipment, a GPS and a light, in order for the person to be spotted by rescuers easily. It also includes an empty pocket, which can be filled in according to one’s needs. A user grabs the bag and leaves his house in order to look for a safer place. He then opens the shell, transforming the backpack into a cocoon in which he can sit. Like the Tuaregs, one can sit still a long time thanks to a belt going around his knees and back. One adult can fit in. The comfortable seat protects the user’s legs from the hard floor. A blanket made out of Goretex® with reassuring colours inside allows the user to stay warm and dry, while keeping the sweat from condensing. Parts of the backpack outer colour and blanket are reflective so that they can be easily seen by rescuers.
Nowadays, the main problem for this kind of design is finding actors who could promote, finance, produce and distribute the product to interested recipients. Sometimes humanitarian and philanthropic organizations, associations and ONG take care of this, and designers cooperate with them to identify problem areas and strategies to give suitable answers to the needs that products, services and systems have to have, in order to fulfil humanitarian help requirements.
Some companies are starting to deal with these themes, making them part of their strategies for the communication value they acquire in brand promotion.
5. Design for socio-economic development
The awareness that design can be a real agent of development in various situations led design research to try and offer concrete solutions to less urgent matters than those discussed before. Given the low industrialization of Mediterranean countries, research explores new production and innovation opportunities for typical or local products, or different configurations for actors and resources, capable of creating new value for those productions. The projects strategically receive a huge capital in terms of tangible and intangible competences and resources linked to the social and territorial context. Some introduce new ideas or organization models; others mix handicrafts with industrial processes or put together old technical skills with new technologies.
This is the case of Egypt design hub (Di Matteo, 2012) that, during Salone del Mobile 2013 and 2014, at the Salone Satellite, presented, prototypes from young designers, who experiment new products for local manifacturing production segments. The project by Nadal Bahr, released this year, is Anub Chair, a wooden chair combining fine craftsmanship from ancient Egyptian production, inspired by animal anatomy, with innovative 3D milling techniques.
Another case is that of Rawtating{{10}}project by the Israeli designer Adi Zaffran Weisler who experimented a production process for the production of small series of furniture. He created a set of tables and stools by combining tree branches, trunks and twigs with plastic during the moulding process. The project combines the industrial and the manual process and develops a method where the meeting point between the organic and the synthetic is achieved through the rotational moulding process without the need for cold joints or complex adjustments. From the manufacturing process a new aesthetic language is created out of basic shapes and raw materials.
In a context where the economical crisis is exacerbating job security, it is important to promote such projects in which design supports the internationalization of productive territories. These projects that have been developed by design centres, institutions or individual designers, are mainly led by the desire to help artisans and small producers to reach new markets and to build connections with partners worldwide. In some cases, these projects have become a concrete opportunity for new businesses, showing how the process of design driven innovation can have a strategic role in economical development.
An example is Corque Design (Mestre, 2013), a new sustainable design brand based on cork, a Mediterranean sustainable material. Corque Design was born after an applied design research led by the Portugues designer Ana Mestre with a focus on design solutions with these materials produced in large quantity in Portugal. The brand was internationally launched in 2009 during the Milan Design Week, and offers a range of high quality furnishing products and accessories carefully designed by different Portuguese designers. It has already made several small series productions, which have been exhibited and commercialized in the European, American and Asian markets.
Another case is Trochet, a collection of objects between fashion and product design (handbags and soft chairs), made by crocheting a line obtained from used plastic bags, indeed Trochet stands for trash+crochet. The project is by Diana Rayyan, from Saudi Arabia, founder of Ateeq, a startup that helps poor Saudi women by giving them a job. Objects knit from used plastic bags by women involved in the project are sold thanks to commercial mediation by Trochet. Founded in August, 2012 with two women, the company today numbers 50 employed women and has worked 200,000 plastic bags.
Other projects are aimed at giving value to agricultural productions, agro-alimentary products local resources and cultures to make them accessible. Being capable of valuing them is today a key element for the development of production systems, considering the economic, social, touristic opportunities it can raise. Even the mere preservation of typical activities like agriculture, integrated with new and different functions, noticeably the environment and territory protection, creates new economical and social opportunities for places. (Belletti and Berti, 2011).
During the last few years in Italy, France, Spain and also Greece we observed a growth of attention to initiatives that place touristic, educational and recreational services aside of agricultural production, also with the aim of detecting and satisfying new consumer segments interested in the fruition of agricultural products and production territories, in order to “dive” into the culture of those places e live consumption experiences as opportunities for social and cultural enrichment (Ferrara, 2011b).
The Ametlla+ de Mallorca® (Flaquer, 2012) brand project by designer and entrepreneur Barbara Flaquer is part of this vision. She and other 4women from Mallorca have established in the island the 3+1 company. They produce and package various preparations, based on almonds and other ingredients, to be used in traditional recipes. Thanks to the preparations, the recipes may be cooked in less time, thus complying with the contemporary life style. The project aims at reintroducing the cultivation of Majorca almond, so that it may still be a profitable activity, yet preserving the beauty of the landscape. Company communication is based on typical iconographic elements of Majorca visual culture, which show the beauty of the landscape of the island. Attention to product authenticity and production eco-sustainability is part of an economic development strategy that values the local territory, without going back to archaic or autarchic economies.
6. Social design for social innovation in a geopolitic contest
Design in all its different approaches (from critical design to design activism, from emergency design to design for the socio-economical development of communities and territories) is a powerful tool for the development of a collective awareness and for the transformation of reality through its processes, productions and actions requiring its use and consume.
Often, design operates in the symbolic universe. Frequently it raises reactions and moves consciences through its strong ethical messages, which affect the cultural, political and commercial life. This has always happened, although nowadays this need is stronger. In particular since the word design has been accompanied by the ideas of “responsibility” and “social commitment”, thus giving birth to a peculiar area of design called Social design{{11}}, referring back to the theories of V. Papanek, G. Bonsiepe and V. Margolin and debate which took place between the 1960s and 80s. At present, Social Design “that is directed first and foremost to human needs” (Margolin, 2007) is taking on the attitude for a better future, including the ideas of sustainability, activism and social innovation.
As V. Margolin claims, design research has confronted for as long as two centuries with the ‘market model’, which has seen design develop in the most industrialized countries as a profession specializing in product and visual communication design, commissioned by production companies and targeted to the consumer market. Design for market model takes care of social need, not everybody’s need though, but only those of potential buyers.
Today, the transition toward social market asks for a redefinition of goals: make responsible fulfilment of human needs a priority, without differences in purchasing power, and including poor countries and disadvantaged groups.
In the last ten years, a crescendo of projects, exhibitions, and initiatives demonstrates a collective movement for ‘social design’ and suggests new social dimension for design practice and not a mere ally of consumerism any more.{{12}}
As designer activist Alastair Fuad-Luke claims (2009, p. 78): “There is a stream of consciousness and activity around what could be termed ‘social y active design’, where the focus of the design is society and its transition and/or transformation to a more sustainable way of living, working and producing.”
But the transition from the market model to the social model raises a new problem for designers, that is organising economic and partnerships conditions for the projects. In the market model, these conditions are guaranteed by the entrepreneur who funds a production and gets the profits from the sale.
The advent of new communication technologies and additive production (3D print), lighter, more sustainable and economic than those of the past, give us hope, because they offer some opportunities useful to rethinking of development processes possible, allowing co-existence of both social and market models.
Moreover in a globalized society, there is the idea that it is necessary to carry on creative activities and projects respecting socio-economic conditions and international politics. We are going towards geodesign, a “strategic” design that deals with the building of “bridges” and strategic international alliances for the development of territories.
Today, designers are less and less asked to provide productive responses. Instead, they are asked to produce questions and ideas that require different skills and include the design of products, services and communication in its multifold shapes. A designer’s role is to identify the problems, guide choices towards selected targets, be good at building and managing networks of people involved, individual and collective skills and direct all these skills towards different possible solutions{{13}}and productions.
Starting from an evaluation of the cultural, productive, geo-economical and geo-political variables of every single territory, geo-designers and social designers may act as facilitators, finding partners that together can make up a single production chain, from the project to the consumption, also acting as strategic planners of this system, which is the means to reach the targets, by fostering social change at the same time.
In a geopolitical vision, design is asked to be the promoter of both economical and social change. Design is indeed able to convey complex information, raise people’s awareness of reality, modify our perception of the world around us, project us into the future{{14}}, open new opportunities and visions in order to transform contingent reality, by improving people’s activities and welfare.
7. Conclusion
The design offer for the Mediterranean seems varied and consistent with a new “social model” that drives design towards social innovation and economical development, in a context where the ideas coming from the “bottom” are more significant than those imposed from the “top”.
The above mentioned projects focus on concrete realities and the appreciation of environmental contexts and human resources.
The purpose of social design research is now that of understanding how social and economic development could proceed responsibly at the same speed in order to accelerate and increase “design-driven change”.
In adhering to the perspective on design for social model, we wish for design to contribute to the development of the hyper-democracy context Jaques Attali (2006) talks about as the only chance to avoid a hyper-conflict.
This scenario asks us to work on relationship, sharing and cooperation between the two sides of the Mediterranean. To try and do new things designing them together, developing the capability to satisfy social and economic needs.
The present Mediterranean context represents an essential challenge for designers if they wish to contribute to the socio-cultural evolution and the economical development of this large part of the world.
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[[1]] The project was published on the cover of Domus in progress of May 2011. [[1]]
[[2]] The Italian architect Giancarlo De Carlo, reflecting on the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean city and imagined a city-bridge connecting the two continents. He writes: “I think the idea of the Mediterranean city could be a major influence in the construction of Europe and the European city; this influence would be beneficial because it would generate fruitful contradictions. […] Migration has always been the vital important for Mediterranean cities. Newly arrived cultures have become part of everyday life and have fertilized society with their wealth of imagination which are expressed through complex urban forms (De Carlo, 2004, “Tortuosity”on Domus January 2004, pp. 24 – 25), so multiculturalism is one of the most important factors in contemporary Europe, resulting from migration determined by a variety of reasons. It has transformed the spaces of the contemporary city.”[[2]]
[[3]] DESIS (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability) is a network of design labs, based in design schools and design-oriented universities, actively involved in promoting and supporting sustainable change. Its website is: [[3]]
[[4]] International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Committee for Employment of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon (CEP)[[4]]
[[5]] Thanks to the free theme, the Mediterranean Design Contest, organised by Journal PAD. Pages of Art and Design, proved an interesting point of observation of the trends in Mediterranean design. There were projects that try to give an answer to Mediterranean emergency. [[5]]
[[6]] This project was awarded the first prize in the product design category at the Mediterranean Design Contest 2009.[[6]]
[[7]] Project receiving a special mention in 2011 in the product design category at the Mediterranean Design Contest 2010.[[7]]
[[8]] The Vestaïs project, by the students P. Dufour, I. Le Pays Du Teilleul, M. Leproux, D. Letassey, H. Louradour, J. Rolland, was developed with the support of Armor, partners for the Survival event, and exhibited at the Salone Satellite, at the Milan Fair during the Salone del Mobile 2014. The prototype was produced with the support of ArcelorMittal SoluStil. [[8]]
[[9]] The Armadillo project by the students (I. Hauck, M. Le Bas, C. Germain, D. Le Cléac’h, C. Sanz, L. Chatain) was developed with the support of Armor, partners for the Survival event, and exhibited at the Salone Satellite, at the Milan Fair, during the Salone del Mobile 2014. [[9]]
[[10]] Project selected at Mediterranean Design Contest 2010 and exhibited in 2011 at Mediterranean Design Exhibition at Design Hub, in Barcelona. [[10]]
[[11]] With the phrase Social Design we define a specific skill in activating process of real change aiming at providing a respectable daily life. The project operates in social, cultural and economical marginality situations, deriving from specific vulnerability that systematically affect people and communities: access to credit, food, housing, education, work, health… They vary from context to context, from country to country, from culture to culture, therefore design has to comply with these variables and find the right tools, knowledge and competences, by activating multidisciplinary processes. [[11]]
[[12]] In 2002 the exhibition “Designs for the Real World” at the General Foundation shed a critical light on urban development, ecological design and the third world; in 2007 the exhibition “Design for the Other 90%” held at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum showcased the global need to refocus design to the underserved 90% of the population; in 2005 the Utrecht Manifest Biennale for Social Design, a new biennial for social design was launched and in 2009, numerous events and exhibitions at this Biennale aimed to strengthen multidisciplinary socio-political debate. [[12]]
[[13]] On the other hand the development of the philosophy of complexity (as discourse, paradigm and collective experience) demands that design, not only should improve its competences and skills, but should also have a constant dialogue with the systemic dimension of reality. As Edgar Morin has clearly pointed out what is hard to achieve for a contemporary project is precisely “to project the complexity of the points of view” in order to “organise” and “manage” the sequences of potential behaviours. Thus the central feature of design becomes the process that is activated and enabled and how it generates the project. The actors involved are central; the competences and the tangible and intangible resources linked to the territory and the social context where the project operates have strategic importance. [[13]]
[[14]] The term ‘project’ is derived from the Late Latin proiectare frequentative of pro-jacere which means ‘throw forward’. [[14]]

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