As societal and environmental issues increasingly impact our world, politics cannot keep up the pace in which they appear. While there is an urge for quick fixes we know that “solutionism” won’t help us in dealing with these kind of wicked problems from its root. But a serious debate about our dreams and desires might. The time and context seem to be on our hand to reintroduce an utopian way of thinking: speculating on a society as we wish it to be.
Urben | Urban design research practice | Ruben Ferwerda
In all projects of Urben, design research is integrally woven into the designing process. Researching through a cyclic process of design iterations not only generates new data but also brings new questions to the surface and generates possibilities for new methodologies.
One of the methods Urben practices is the use of conversation pieces to gain insights in the narrative of the topic that is researched. This way intuitive and tangible design is integrated into the making process. Such pieces may act as a concept throughout the design process when making a design. Also it helps to interact with and relate to stakeholders and public. These design researches could result in an urban or spatial design as well as a service, game or an art installation on site.
'Vessel', Conversation Piece & Installation in Public Space
This project started as an iterative experiment in the MA design research of two designers: Rinze Borm and Ruben Ferwerda. Two different topics joined together, provoked reaction and gained it’s own momentum. This eventual serendipity could not have been foreseen.
There are two ways of explaining the project from the designer’s perspective:
- Vessel: as carrier of narratives
As societal and environmental issues increasingly impact our world politics cannot keep up with the pace in which they appear. While there is an urge for quick fixes we know “solutionism” won’t help us in dealing with these kind of problems from it’s root. A serious debate about our dreams and desires might. The time seems right to reintroduce an utopian way of thinking: seeing society as we yearn it to be. Creating a story of what may come. I am researching the role of the urban designer as it could fulfill a role in getting this co-creation of a common narrative to start. One way of doing this is by designing installations in public space that provoke reaction. The installation ‘Vessel’ has become a carrier of such narratives. It interacts with spectators as their imagination is addressed with the use of minimum resources. Due to it’s iconic shape and fragile aesthetics people start wondering about it’s abilities, purpose and meaning. This physical touchpoint is where the dialogue starts.
- Vessel: as an intervention on the meeting point between materiality and design intuition
When building a ship, shipbuilders design and construct ships on the basis of strict parameters and engineered technical specifications to ensure buoyancy and stability. ‘Vessel’ was created on the basis of exploring how serendipity within making could shape and form aesthetics. Instead of focusing on the end result, my research explores making processes where the intuitive choices of the designer, the order of machining and the materials themselves, together determine the final form. This meeting point between design intuition and the potential that materials and machines can have in steering making processes, creates a unique ‘handwriting’ of a designer. ‘Vessel’ questions what role this quality can play in designing cultural probes and interventions, across various design disciplines.
During Research Day #2 Ruben had staged a setting to interact with the public. Around a few of his conversation pieces he invited the public to reflect on the topic of migration and the role of urban development in housing refugees and migrants.