Utrecht Manifest

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UM5 - 26 juni 2015

UM slotmanifestatie 26 juni 2015

Dromen of niet dromen, dat is de kwestie

Na tien jaar kwam er op 26 juni officieel een einde aan het programma van Utrecht Manifest, op de plek waar het ooit begon, de Pastoe fabriek in Utrecht. In de oude loods die nu dienst doet als conferentiezaal luisterde op deze warme zomerdag een publiek van rond tweehonderd – van veteranen van het sociaal geëngageerd ontwerpen tot bevlogen jonge wereldverbeteraars – naar antwoorden en vervolgvragen op het centrale thema van Utrecht Manifest: hoe draagt de ontwerper bij aan een betere wereld? Met de geur van vers gebouwde kasten als een subtiel parfum op de achtergrond, zoomde een rij sprekers het weefsel van vragen, antwoorden en de discussie daartussen af, dat het afgelopen decennium was gesponnen uit de tentoonstellingen, debatten en publicaties van vijf biënnales voor Social Design.
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UM5 - 06 juni 2014

Het ontwerp van het sociale - Een gesprek over social design tussen Henk Oosterling en Nynke Tromp

Waar het in het jonge vakgebied van social design vaak aan ontbreekt, is een scherpe visie op wat nu de unieke bijdrage van de ontwerper zou moeten zijn. Dat stellen filosoof-activist Henk Oosterling en sociaal ontwerper-onderzoeker Nynke Tromp vast in vurig tweegesprek over de verhouding van ontwerp en maatschappij.
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UM5 - 06 juni 2014

Designing the Social - A Discussion on Social Design between Henk Oosterling and Nynke Tromp

There is one thing that the philosopher and activist Henk Oosterling and the social designer cum researcher Nynke Tromp agree on without any reservation: the recently developed field of social design still lacks is a clear perception of just what the designer’s unique contribution should be.
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UM5 - 05 juni 2014

Facing Papanek

The program of the kick-off event of the 5th edition of Utrecht Manifest in December 2013 may have been a bit too dense, Rosa te Velde writes in her impression of the afternoon. On the other hand, the event made a welcome exception to the rule that social design may exclusively be discussed among designers.
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UM5 - 05 juni 2014

Proposition for a ‘Skeletor Methodology’: The Curious Case of Holmes’ ‘Smart’ Murder Castle

Boris Čučković observes a rupture between the discourse of the creative industries and the critical framing of socio-economic issues in the humanities and social sciences. In this contribution Čučković speculates on the possibility of bringing into view the unchallenged problem-solving premises of contemporary design practice through spooky cases of crime design ingenuity. Surprisingly it is Skeletor, the ultimate villain in Mattel's Masters of the Universe franchise, who acts as Čučković' guide on his speculative expedition through design history.
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Social Design of Cities - INTI vs. UTT

Utrecht Manifest & Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment TU Delft

The program for the well-attended evening on the ‘social design of cities’ at Delft Technical University consisted of 2 presentations, by Michelle Provoost, director of the "Think and Do Tank," International New Town Institute (INTI), and Humberto Klumpner and Alfredo Brillembourg, of Urban Think Tank (U-TT), followed by an incisive commentary by Professor of Human Geography and Demography at the Regional Research Centre of Utrecht University, Pieter Hooimeijer. The presentations culminated in a discussion moderated by Wouter Vanstiphout, founder of Crimson Architectural Historians, who was tasked with summarizing – or in retrospect, maybe smoothening out – the staged discrepancies of the two ‘Tanks’. Although typecast in the evening's headline as a battle, the assumed differences between ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ were too subtle to amount to any serious, articulated antagonism between the INTI and U-TT.

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From left to right: Wouter Vanstiphout, Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner, Michelle Provoost, Pieter Hooimeijer

Already in his word of welcome, Wouter Vanstiphout sketched in broad strokes the more or less similar stakes of both practices, and their agreement that "design is always political." With this insightful remark he casually connected his guests with the ‘Design as Politics’ chair he holds as a professor at Delft Technical University. His introductory remarks ended with the rather modest plea for the evening to focus on the question of "how to aggregate experiences and accumulated knowledge to take them elsewhere, and recontextualize them?," considering the fact that both INTI and U-TT operate mainly locally and in highly specific contexts.
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Wouter Vanstiphout

Michelle Provoost started her presentation with the correction that INTI’s practice is not solely concerned with making inventories of post-war new towns in Europe and archiving and preserving them. Rather, INTI is a research and educational institution, focusing on the latest new towns, dispersed around the globe from South America to Africa to southern Asia. All of these new, emerging towns are in the middle of a process of fast transformation and urban development and face major planning issues. INTI is dedicated to contributing to the improvement of the urban and social quality of these transitional cities. In some cases they are still on the drawing board, and INTI tries to improve the design process by developing alternatives aimed at the common good – the good society –, and ‘socialize’ the designs. These contributions may be based on the learning curve the west has made in the modernist thinking and practice of urban planning in post-war European 'new towns.' Although these former symbols of the welfare state (e.g. the banlieues of Paris) have become the grim emblems of social disintegration and ethnic tensions, there is no justification for blaming the initial social ideals of these designs for their demise. Yet, in practice the contrary is the case: restructuring programs – read: demolishment – are now initiated across Europe, that ostracize these designs as emblems of evil, thus cynically denouncing the modernist ideals in which they have been grounded.
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Michelle Provoost

In their presentations it became clear that both INTI and U-TT want to offer a resilient, creative and most of all persistent response, not only to this type of cynicism but to the veritable shift that architecture and urban planning as a creative discipline underwent in the last decade. The financialization of urban development in the emergent countries around the globe comes not only at a high price for any social concern whatsoever, but also with a devalued position of architecture and urban planning where they could have made a difference. The once welcome visionary army of architects, urban planners, historians, critics, artists, social thinkers – 'do-good' pioneers who would create and shape a glorious, and more social future – has now been traded for the pragmatic engineers and fiscalists commissioned to safeguard the future in mere economical terms, in whatever corner of the world that seems open for business. Their interest is just a claim of (R)ROI : (royal) return of investment, which leaves no sensitivity for correctional lessons to be drawn from the past. It is against this backdrop that both INTI and U-TT strive to make a difference in these relatively new emergent corners of the world, by investing in addressing the systemic embeddedness of value issues in the process of urban planning. Parallel to this, they want to understand the transdisciplinary conditions for effectively addressing these challenges. As U-TT quoted the Italian architect Giancarlo De Carlo: "Architecture is too important to be left to the architectural profession." For U-TT this dictum means breaking down the barriers between builders and users, but also giving heed to the breed of architects De Carlo belonged to, the ones that wanted to change the mindsets of the discipline.
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Hubert Klumpner and Alfredo Brillembourg

Housing the poor versus sheltering the rich. Thus the stakes that once again underline how political design and architecture actually are. Modernism's notion of 'public works' has been narrowed down to the revenue perspective of global finance. In addressing the widening gap between the macro levels of governance and finance and the micro level of city dwellers, U-TT argued for a "meso level" that can serve as a bridge between the large scale of urban planning and the small scale of local neighborhoods. Along the lines Alfredo Brillembourg also sketched in his interview in 'Design for the Good Society,' he argued for a focus on local infrastructure as designed to allow its users to informally fill in the blanks. This not only as a pragmatic tactics – architects have considerably less authority today than engineers who lay down and supervise infrastructure –, but also as a social design strategy: connecting formal administrative and informal social spheres of urban development. To conclude: "Given the reality that as a designer you spend other’s money to intrude in public space, [your design] should be understood as a manifestation of a certain idea of how the world is or should be." Design, in sum, is political by nature.

For the film report, click below

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