Design and Democracy

AdBK Symposium

Thursday, April 18, 10 am

April 18 — April 20

Aula der Akademie

The myth of endless growth, optimism and progress has been replaced for many by shattered illusions, a burning planet and an identity crisis: What is all of this stuff that “design” produces indeed for? In this post-industrial planet, it seems design must urgently find a “raison d’être”, or it too risks extinction. For us, at the core of the many issues societies around the globe are currently struggling with, from climate change to the ever-growing alt-right movement is the crisis of democracy. More citizens than ever before distrust the Western democratic system, its authorities and institutions. A cultural shift away from democracy is underway; studies have shown that young people in particular are less likely to believe that it is essential to live in a democracy and more likely to believe that a military takeover would be legitimate. With this shift and the distrust in established authorities comes a division threatening the social fabric in so many countries of the Western world. 
As a discipline that aims to reach “the many”, design and democracy are fundamentally interconnected. Shifting away from the nuts and bolts of democratic systems at large, the 

The reasons for today’s democratic crises are numerous and complex. But there is no doubt that design has contributed in multiple ways to the lack of trust in democracy that we experience. From simple issues such as poorly designed ballots that cause confusion, to the complexity behind social media mechanisms influencing the distribution of information—and consequently people's beliefs—design is, yet again, complicit. 
intention of this symposium is to probe the design discipline and its involvement in democratic processes, showcasing its social and political dimensions. Simultaneously, we want to advocate for a broader understanding of design, where the borders between disciplinary silos are blurred and the discipline becomes a tool for translation and mediation. For us, design is a way of thinking, an attitude, rather than a method for the beautification of objects. This is exactly what we want to do, together with a group of like- and different-minded people, who we hope will join us in this exercise of thinking. 
Starting off with an initial encounter and assessment of power structures within the design processes and discipline, we will scrutinize the possibilities of co-creation and horizontality in design. We will then look into whose voices are actually heard (and whose aren’t), how we can add diversity and how we can cope with the resulting polyphony and contradiction. Finally, we will turn to possible ways to enact transformation. 



Thursday, 18 April (10am - 8pm)
Horizontality: Distributing power

Can we shape design to create open-endedness, possibilities, and empowerment? This day looks at how the discipline needs to change to embrace restraint, allowing for collective learning and unlearning. We will turn to co-creation and examine how we can collectively create ideas, objects and spaces that people can use for learning, gathering, exchanging knowledge, and deliberating. Through the input of design office mischer’traxler and collective ideating, we will create active proposals for dismantling current typologies associated with the oligarchic systems that we live in today. 

10.00 - Introduction symposium: Design and Democracy 
11 - 13.00 - Workshop 
14.30 - 18.00 - Afternoon session with mischer’traxler
18.30 - 20.00 - Public lecture with mischer’traxler  


Friday, 19 April (10am - 8pm)
Poliphony: Diversifying systems

Under the guise of an alleged "normality", architecture and design have constructed a spatial and visual regime that is unequal. How can we create for non-conforming bodies and minds, include perspectives aside from the ideal of the average–possibly even non-human–and acknowledge the intersectional conditions that are shaping us all? How do we transgress the heteronormative configuration of collective living and being? Architect, author and educator Anna Puigjaner will guide us on how to design of domestic systems capable of dismantling social biases. 
10 - 13.00 - Workshop  
14.30-18.00 - Afternoon session with Anna Puigjaner
18.30 - 20.00 - Public lecture with Anna Puigjaner
Saturday, 20 April (10am - 8pm)
Transformation: Changing paradigms

This day brings the Department of Transformation (DT) to Nurenberg, which mobilizes the power of art and design towards individual, collective, and structural transformation. Engaging with the entangled crisis of our times, DT fosters interdependence and mutual support between artists and designers towards achieving common goals. Founded by designer, author, and educator Prem Krishnamurthy, it takes shape through public programs, exhibitions, educational engagements, and community-based activities (+ karaoke!) around the world. 
10-13.00 - Workshop
14.30-18.00 - Afternoon session with Prem Krishnamurthy
18.30 - Public lecture with Prem Krishnamurthy: Department of Transformation
20.00 - Party 




Founded in 2009 and formed by Katharina Mischer, Thomas Traxler and their team, Vienna- based mischer‘traxler studio develops and designs products, furniture, installations and more, with a focus on experiments, context and conceptual thinking. Balancing between handcraft and technology, the studio envisions entire systems, new production methods and kinetic or interactive installations that examine, experiment, analyze and reject. Their results often play with uniqueness, and some of their projects are poetic records that interact with the viewer and evoke unexpected reactions. mischer’traxler studio frequently gives talks about the studio’s work and leads workshops in various universities and institutions. Their projects have won several awards, among others the ‘Designer of the future award’ by Design Miami/Basel and W-hotels in 2011, the ‘Young talent award’ by the Be-open foundation in 2014 and the Swarovski Design Medal 2016 by Swarovski and the Vienna Design Week.


Anna Puigjaner
Anna Puigjaner studied architecture at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, where she received her PhD in 2014. In 2011 and 2013, Puigjaner was a visiting lecturer at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. She was Associate Professor of Professional Practice there until her appointment at ETH Zurich. Previously, she taught at the Royal College of Art in London and the Barcelona School of Architecture. She is co-founder of MAIO, an architectural practice in Barcelona that has been active since 2012. There she also works on new models of collective housing. She has also been an editor at the magazine Quaderns d'Arquitectura i Urbanisme. In May 2022, she was appointed full professor of Architecture and Care at the Department of Architecture. 
In her doctoral thesis, she analyzed individualized forms of domesticity and proposes models for collective housing. Puigjaner engages in both historical research and global fieldwork, exploring new ways of living together in a comprehensive and inclusive manner. 


Prem Krishnamurthy 
Prem Krishnamurthy is a designer, author, and educator. His multifaceted work explores the role of art as an agent of transformation at an individual, collective, and structural level. This manifests itself in books, exhibitions, images, performances, publications, systems, talks, texts, and workshops. 
He received the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Communications Design in 2015 and KW Institute for Contemporary Art’s “A Year With...” residency fellowship in 2018. His professional papers were acquired by Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies in 2019. In 2022, Domain published his book-length epistolary essay, On Letters. 
He currently directs Wkshps, a multidisciplinary design consultancy, and organizes Department of Transformation, an itinerant workshop that practices collaborative tools for social change. In addition to leading design projects with artists, cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations across the world, he has curated several large-scale exhibitions. These include Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, the 2022 edition of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art; Our Silver City, 2094 at Nottingham Contemporary; and Ministry of Graphic Design in Sharjah, UAE. Previously, Prem founded the design studio Project Projects and the exhibition space P! in New York. 


Amelie Klein 
Amelie Klein is an independent design curator, writer and critic. Currently, together with Vera Sacchetti, she is working on an exhibition about the overlaps of design and democracy scheduled to open in May 2024. Before that, she curated an exhibition at the Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany, co-curated the first iteration of the Design Campus School at the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Dresden / Pillnitz and, until July 2019, worked as a permanent curator at the Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Klein was nominated twice for the German art magazine’s Curator Prize, an award granted for the best exhibition in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. She taught design theory as a guest professor at the AdBK Nuremberg from 2022 to 2023. Klein completed an MFA in Design Criticism at New York’s School of Visual Arts as well as an MBA at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. For more than ten years, Klein worked as an editor and journalist publishing internationally. 


Vera Sacchetti 
Vera Sacchetti (Lisbon, 1983) is a Basel-based design critic and curator. She specializes in contemporary design and architecture and serves in a variety of curatorial, research and editorial roles. Recently, she co-founded Fazer, a new design magazine in Portugal; co-initiated the Design & Democracy platform (2020–), which maps the intersections and overlaps between design and democratic systems and practices; and served as program coordinator of the multidisciplinary research initiative Driving the Human: Seven Prototypes for Eco-social Renewal (2020-2023), which supports transdisciplinary research on sustainable futures. Sacchetti teaches at HEAD Geneva and Design Academy Eindhoven, and in 2020 joined the Federal Design Commission of Switzerland. 

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