Open Design School Matera Workshop

The city of Matera – south of Italy – and design have gone hand in hand for a very long time. The relationship between the region and its craftsmen were already evident in the 1800s with the upholstered furniture industry.

As product design turned into project design, it was important not to lose contact with the past and ensure that the new generation of designers would work for society at large, applying technological innovation to the major contemporary social and cultural transformations taking place. It was for this reason that the Open Design School Matera came into place, as one of the main elements of Matera’s winning bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

The school will bring together a diverse myriad of people – writers, designers, craftsmen, hackers, students, professionals, and scholars – to breathe life into the first design school in Italy to be based on the principles of Open Culture. The Open Design School is being conceived as a living lab for interdisciplinary experimentation and is located in the heart of the Sasso Barisano, in the Sassi of Matera. Its main goal is to set up a workshop for design and production which can enhance the creative and design resources of the city, of the region, of Italy and Europe in order to locally self-produce as much of the design strategy, hardware and technological competencies as are needed to realize the full programme of the cultural events in 2019.

The first intensive workshop at the Open Design School was held in Matera from 1 September to 21 October 2016. It brought together 15 participants from a variety of professions, some locals, some from other parts of Italy and a few from other countries. They worked together with many partners and experts from all over Italy and abroad. The seven weeks of work focused on developing the concept of a new performance space to be built inside a 17th-century quarry, and come up with ideas on the architectural and management model of the future Open Design School.

The workshop program was structured around studio time, open lectures from invited experts and field research. Open presentations of the weeks’ work were organized to allow for the community to contribute, evaluate and critic the participants’ processes. Mini-workshops tackling subjects from identity to self-construction were developed alongside the community and students from universities and local schools. A formal exhibition of the results was set up at the end of the workshop, taking place inside the space destined for the future school.


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The Game of Dissensus

The Game of Dissensus was designed for and played by a group of teenagers living in a favela in Brazil that was under structural intervention of the State in a large spatial transformation project. The conception of the game was based on the Corbusian functional segregation of the city. Players have been invited to deconstruct such a proposed spatial logic and encouraged to imagine other ways of producing and using their environment.

The Game of Dissensus was an experiment held in May 2013 with a group of teenagers in a social risk situation at Aglomerado Santa Lúcia in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Aglomerado Santa Lúcia is a favela area, which at the time was under a spatial restructuring process promoted by the municipality with funds from the federal government.

The game has in its essence the modern propositions published in 1933 by Le Corbusier in The Athens Charter, which separates the city functions in residential, leisure, work and circulating areas. Despite all the criticism made over the century that followed its publication, this model still remains in the practical repertoire of technicians and city planners. Therefore, the argument of the game – although the players were not familiar with this theoretical background – was the deconstruction of the ordering separation of functions, blurring the boundaries between them and freely proposing uses for city spaces.

The experience was called The Game of Dissensus when – under the notin of dissensus  as presented by Jacques Rancière – we could compare the city imaginary that was revealed during the game session to the processes and results of the participatory program promoted by the state in the spatial restructuring of Aglomerado Santa Lúcia.

“What is the purpose of your visit? – A journey towards to the high seas”

“What is the purpose of your visit? – A  journey towards to the high seas” is a performative response within an ongoing research on the complex relations between the state, the individual and the territory. It addresses and questions the concept of citizenship today. 

In May 2015 I undertook a fourteen-hour journey on a fishermen boat in the Mediterranean sea, departing from the southernmost village of Italy reaching the high seas, defined by UNCLOS (United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea) as a portion of sea where no State can claim sovereignty. The purpose of this journey is the collection of fifty litres of international water, which I transported to the Netherlands (Eindhoven, Maastricht, Amsterdam) as first destinations.

This symbolic gesture suggests a spatial opportunity. A moving portion of high seas becomes a temporary exception zone, like an embassy without nationality. I intend the high seas as a zero degree space, where it might be possible to re-imagine the relations between state, individual and territory, and therefore citizenship status.

Co-inhabit the City

A series of four workshops, based on board games specially developed to act as a platform for the exchange of experiences about the city and to promote a critical reflection on urban issues such as mobility and the quality of the water resources in the city.

The workshops took place in community centers in the outskirts of the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with the participation of children and teenagers from the neighborhood and also from social programs around the community centers.

The dialogue in the workshops is mediated by two board games, the River game (Rio) and the mobility game (Mobilijogo). These games were developed by a team of architects and students, and aimed to promote a critical reflection on how we appropriate and relate to the urban space in our daily needs for housing, supply and displacement. The games simulate some urban situations in which players are invited to reflect on their habits and routines in the city and the implications of their choices on the collective space, natural resources and the infra-structural system of the city.

Besides reflecting on the city, the workshops seek to promote the conviviality, the respect for otherness and the sharing of experiences in the city. We believe that the environment built around the board game made possible a reflexive essay on everyday spatial practice, towards shifting the competition for individual interests in the urban space to another challenge, which has more to do with building mutual commitments to improve the quality of life in the city.

During the sections it was possible to record a wide range of understandings and views on the city. In the role of agency, these games can be understood as a tool for dialogue and exchange of experiences, favoring the expansion of spatial imaginary concerning other ways of producing, using, occupying and enjoying the city.

The Games RIO and MOBILIJOGO was developed by: Ana Paula Assis, Aline Franceschini, André Inoue, André Siqueira, Eduarda Assis, Frederico Almeida, Isabela Izidoro, Marllon Morais e Vitor Matos.

Workshop coordinator: Ana Paula Assis

Workshop tutors: Alexandre Campos, Aline Franceschini, André Inoue, André Siqueira, Eduarda Assis, Frederico Almeida, Isabela Izidoro, Marllon Morais e Vitor Matos.

The workshops Co-inhabit the City were carried out with funds from Fundação Municipal de Cultura de Belo Horizonte.

Zuider Festival

Zuider Festival is a free festival of art and music based in Enschede, NL. Since 2012, the festival is organised annually by artist collectives Studio Complex and Hangarrrrrr during one weekend around the end of summer. Based on a strong belief in DIY culture, the festival invites local and international creatives to collaborate on producing the festival in content and shape in reaction to a conceptual framework set by the organising collectives. Previous editions have included the themes of ‘Vlucht’ (dutch: escape), ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Collaboratorium’. This year’s edition took place under the title ‘Gone to Croatan’, a symbol for respecting given situations, acting consciously, adventure, being different and self-empowerment.

Zuider Festival is organised on a property which has been squatted by Studio Complex in 2012. A former car repair shop of approximately 3000 square meters and ca. 3 ha of land make up the ground of Studio Complex. The neighboring warehouse of Hangarrrrrr is used in agreement with the city council. By now, the two collectives have developed close  ties and collaborate on common projects. In 2015, Studio Complex and Hangarrrrrr have received a substantial grant from the Mondriaan Fund.

Studio Complex has evolved from an illegalised squat to being widely accepted by the city council who owns the property on Cromhoffsbleekweg in Enschede. The city and neighborhood councils support Zuider Festival financially.

Originating from a tradition of squatting, self-empowerment and Do-It-Yourself mentality, Zuider Festival is produced collaboratively by local and visiting makers and creatives. Each edition of Zuider Festival unfolds an inclusive space where makers and visitors are encouraged to act freely. A general lack of financial pressure through clever sourcing of free materials and public grants allows for imagination and experimentation to become central to processes of creation.

The content of the festival is shaped by its participants. This year’s festival has seen a carnival with self-built roller coaster, a staged freak show, a tattoo booth, laughing yoga, screen printing workshops, an open podium poetry slam, as well as a multitude of performances by DIY musicians and noise artists, amongst a variety of other activities.


Video by: Mya Hang (

Photo credits: Studio Complex & Hangarrrrrr


Keet started to take shape in June 2013.

It is now located in Gent (Belgium), at Tuin van Heden, a social and cultural non-profit organisation in the neighbourhood of Ledeberg.

The past locations of the keet are: KASK, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Sprundelsebaan 60, a squatted historical monument farm in Breda (The NL), a small plot of forest in Etten-Leur (The NL), Simon and Sanne’s farm in Galder (The NL), the Verbeke Foundation, a private art museum in Kemzeke (Belgium) and DOK, the temporary occupation and revival of a post-industrial terrain, which accommodates social, cultural, art, ecology, sport and well-being initiatives in Gent (Belgium).

When moving, the keet is pulled by a tractor at 20-30 km/hour.



Keet wishes to be accepted and spread as a guide and alternative to the standard model of living/housing.


The environmental, financial, practical and autonomy talk

As a reaction to the standards, myths (the harder you work, the more stuff you can buy, and the bigger house you can afford to fit it all in) and comforts (central heating, hot showers, science-fiction kitchens etc.) prevalent in the capitalist society, we try to rethink, redesign, rebuild and replace all taken for granted basic need structures (sleep, eat, shower etc.) in a single unity, the keet.

In winter for example, instead of simply setting the central heating at a high temperature, we need to look for (scrap) wood to burn.

Other examples would be collecting rain water for showering, clothing and dishwashing, the use of waste materials itself, the preference of mechanical over automatic appliances and of hand-driven tools over power tools, the use of solar panels, converting all electric equipment to 12V for an off-grid situation, but also keeping an inter-disciplinary circle of friends.

When living in a tiny space, you are very aware of how much stuff you gather (the objects inside the house are mostly objects we make use of regularly), what and how much you consume, what waste you produce. [3]

The mobility aspect makes sure that regardless of not yet owing land/ property we are still able to seek for places where to park (‘Home is where you park it’).

The choice to use waste materials, is not only environmentally friendly, but also financially. The building costs of the keet are marginal (around 500 euros).

We believe tiny, mobile living is an appropriate formula for living practically, autonomously, being environmentally responsible and financially independent in the present-day.

[3] Because garbage is the main source of sustaining ourselves, it is an exceptional situation, in which there are less guilt feelings involved regarding the produced waste, as it was already waste to start with.

(scrap food though is either used as compost or to feed the chickens)


How the rest of the world perceives it

Keet is often associated with caravans, either with the traditional gypsy caravan, the 60’s hippie van or with the retired people holiday caravan. Though it was inspired by none, they do share the dimensions (fit for the road), the mobility aspect, the function- (temporary) home and arguably, the looks.

But again, keet has taken this shape not because ethnicity, counter-culture or recreational reasons, but because of environmental, economical, autonomy and practical concerns, in accordance with the current social and political context .

As mentioned in the brief introduction, the keet has changed several locations.

In the first months of building, it was placed on a squat farm, then on a small plot of forest, then on a farm of two friends in Galder, together with other similar ‘housing’ projects. [4]

Because of legal difficulties, we then chose to live at the Verbeke Foundation, a private art museum spread on 12 ha.

If living and building on a squatted terrain would be looked down upon by the conservative public of Breda, in contrast, in the backyard of an art museum, the keet would symbolize freedom , nature, simplicity and other similar ideals. Visitors would assume we are artists, and the keet is art, would take pictures of our laundry, flower pots, power tools etc. and ask at the reception about the possibility to rent it during weekends.

In its latest context, at DOK, we are happy to observe the keet is perceived close to its original intentions. ‘Yay recycle’ Gent is very welcoming and supportive.

Maybe the most animosity and suspicious reactions towards the keet come from the laziness prejudice (e.g. “You get things for free”, “You don’t contribute to society”, “How do you make money?!”). This condescending attitude stems in the misconception that functioning outside wage-labour structures is impossible and morally questionable.

It is easy to argue that gathering and reusing garbage contributes more to society and environment than collecting and throwing away do. [5]

Another ideology surrounding the keet is the ´simple living´: a pure and honest return to the times when people were living in harmony with nature. Again, the intention is not to lack comforts, but to rethink them. The WIFI (lady at the internet provider company made us look for for a telephone connection inside our house; we couldn’t find it) and the hair-dryer are giving the most trouble.

[4] Choosing to live in a keet (tiny, mobile house) is rather common in the squatting scene, especially since squatting is less and less tolerated, and buildings get evicted very soon after being squatted. Instead of investing time to set all the facilities in a newly squatted place, (kitchen, shower, sleeping places etc) which would probably get evicted within two weeks or one month, the idea is to concentrate all the basic facilities in a space which is easy transportable to the next (squatted) place.

[5] It is relevant to also mention skipping (dumpster diving) for food.

Skipping is a similar activity to shopping: you go to the supermarket to get food.

Shopping involves long thinking upon what food (or toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo…) to pick and then picking it from the abundant and neatly organized shelves, while your ears are being raped by cheesy music.

But supermarkets don’t only sell food (2/3), they also throw away food (1/3).

Skipping involves cycling around, trying to spot supermarket containers which are easy to reach. These days most of the supermarkets either keep their containers inside, build fortresses around them or pour chemical substances like bleach on the products inside, making it impossible to reach/eat/use. But if you are lucky and find a plentiful container (bread, cheese, meat, milk products etc.), then the repetitive activity of getting food from the supermarket, is undoubtedly more adventurous and rewarding (both personally and environmentally) if skipping rather than shopping.


Inside description

Keet contains: a double-bed, a bed for the dog, clothes drawers, a source of heat (wood burning stove), a desk and shelves for administration, book shelves, a piano keyboard, a cabinet for shoes, a couch/ bed for guests with various compartments for storage (wood, blankets, jars etc.), a knitting corner, a sewing machine, a bee-keeping corner, a kitchen (including an oven which works on gas and a fridge), a shower, a sink, a small washing machine, storage space.

The main challenge is to fit in ergonomically all our personal belongings. We therefore built many closed or hidden drawers and compartments, and also objects with double or triple function.


Outside description

On the outside there is a small porch and a balcony.

As an extension to the keet, there are also a bakbrommer (a cargo scooter) which is used to collect building materials, a shed for tools, storage for materials, a plateau for plants (flowers, spices, vegetables), two bee hives and a wooden fence surrounding the chicken and goat area.

All these outdoor structures are easy to take apart, put on a flat trailer, transport and rebuild in other locations.

While the interior remains the same, the outside view and possibilities are changing with the location.



We believe creativity grows out of limited resources (the use of local/ recycled materials) rather than abundance. In the building process, we first consider the given need (for example the need of a shower or a chair), then the available materials, and only last, the solution. The ‘material prior to idea’ approach makes for us more sense sustainably than the common ‘idea-choice of material’ sequence driven by consumerism. [1]

The inverted design process makes the keet impossible to reproduce. There cannot be a second or a third keet, as would be the case if the materials were to be bought in the building shop.

The construction materials we buy second-hand if they are impossible to find for free (e.g. solar panels, sandwich panels, steel from the scrap yard), but mainly we have used garbage, the new vernacular [2], which we separated in two categories:

A. materials we know that are in the containers and we can count on them being there:

pallet wood from containers on industrial grounds

doors and windows from building containers outside houses which are being renovated/ demolished

scrap wood (beams, planks, plates) from industrial or building sites waste

glass wool insulation etc.

B. materials we randomly find on the street/containers (our oven, fridge, stove, mattress etc.)

Of course, when using unwanted materials, there is the added element of surprise (the unknown) which we enjoy. Most of the everyday experiences are expected: going to school/work, taking the train/tram, the walk to the supermarket…Even when going on holidays you already know what you are going to see/consume/experience: the Eiffel Tower, croissants, tanned Italians etc. The inside of a container though is one of the few things that can provoke curiosity and excitement (‘What will I find there?’).

[1] The only negative aspect of this approach is the difficulty/impossibility to store all the materials found and decide upon what is useful to keep for later on. City containers are without doubt generous and reliable on a constant basis, but we find it important not to simply seek and collect, but also to be able to make good selections and have good organizing systems.

[2] Vernacular architecture uses building materials that are both local, plentiful and for free (or very cheap) in an area; for example stone houses in rocky areas, wooden houses in Scandinavia, igloos in Antarctica etc. In (big) cities though, the only free and locally available material is garbage, therefore garbage can be declared the new vernacular.


Technical details:

Dimensions: 6m length by 2,5m wide and 3,97m high (the maximum height permitted on the road is 4m high)
All triangles in the frame construction are “Thales Triangles” (or 30-60-90 Triangles); apart from them being visually pleasing, they also allow for easy calculation, as the ratio between the hypotenuse and 60-90 leg measures exactly 2:1.

The basic steel frame, that comes from an old flat agricultural chart, was reinforced with some L-profiles.

Little plates were welded in U-profiles, so they could be connected with bolts; they were cut so they could support the walls and the gambrel roof, and can be possibly reused to form the frame for another structure.

Sandwich panels were bolted to the frame; again it is perfectly possible to reuse the panels in a different configuration, if wished so.

Flooring consists of a layer of plating, then a wooden frame insulated with glass wool insulation; the top layer consists of second planks.

Windows and doors were placed in scrap wood posts, in wooden frames extending from the steel base-frame.

For the roofing material we have used bitumen.

Chrisp Street on Air

Chrisp Street Market, Poplar

November 2013 – April 2014

Chrisp Street on Air was a research project based on a series of actions we undertook in Chrisp Street Market to emphasise the market’s relevance as a public and civic space at the heart of community life.

First, in order to capture the many voices of Chrisp Street, we set up a radio station in an empty unit at the market. The broadcasts were an attempt to understand the mechanics of the market and the surrounding area and pose questions about its future. The podcasts are available for listening on the Chrisp Street On Air website and also on iTunes.

The radio series was used as research to inform a programme of events and activities that took place in the market square. The events drew from the particular history of the area and were developed in collaboration with key local cultural partners such as The Lansbury Amateur Boxing Club, Poplar Film, Bow Arts, Spotlight and others.

New market stalls were built to host the programme of events, which included boxing, music and cinema. The new stalls emphasised the social character of the place and provided infrastructure for outdoor eating (even in cold winter days).

With Guglielmo Rossi we developed an identity for the project, based on the handwriting of one of the market stall holders. It was used to advertise the events with stencils on the market walls and columns, event leaflets, and a Chrisp Street Menu of the food available in the area.

At a time of change for the area, Chrisp Street on Air provided an opportunity to celebrate and record the distinctive character of Chrisp Street Market.

Photo credits: Dosfotos / Philipp Ebeling

Chrisp Street On Air was supported by Tower Hamlets Council and the Mayor of London’s Portas Pilot Programme, which is nurturing town teams and helping increase the vibrancy and growth of high streets across London.

Project Team: The Decorators in collaboration with Tom Keeley, Guglielmo Rossi, Mikel Burgui and Ashley McCormick. Website design by Guglielmo Rossi. Programming by Joe Davis. Mixing by James Latimer.

Decolonizing Agriculture

The countryside, providing food for the city, has been the counterpart for the urban development, this inversely proportional balance between environments and resources carved out both urban and rural spaces. Designing for rural areas today means renegotiating these borders. While worldwide rural areas are becoming more and more dependent on technology and tools which belong to the urban development, urban environments are searching for sustainable ways to develop and evolve.


Intervention to build a bottom-up understanding of genetics, engaging farmers through the language of folk crafts


Today most of us live far from food production and agricultural landscape. On one hand, this could be a positive sign: it means that our society is advanced enough to feed everybody with the work of few. On the other hand, this gap is the fertile soil for the proliferation of an image of rural territories which influences directly the contemporary context but has more to do with commercial suggestions, rather than with present or past realities.

In this context, seeds are one of the most critical technology: plant varieties are bred, selected, designed to behave and to produce under certain precise conditions. They can be considered the minimum designed unit which influences and reproduces the condition which is designed for. It is as if the “design” of the aseptic condition of the laboratory has been extended as an ideal environment to the whole agricultural landscape.

In order to introduce a different understanding of seeds, we searched for those practices which shape the landscape and constitute the identity of people living there.

Different kind of folk crafts survived, losing their meaning and becoming a folklore fetish. Nevertheless, folk crafts represent the medium of dialogue to unveil a designed pattern of production and to connect local inhabitants with a common activity.

We worked with embroidery, which is the main craft survived in the case-study area. An embroidered tablecloth illustrating the topic of seeds ownership was the first outcome of this re-appropriation of tools. Produced by farmers, it is the result of a dialogue that connects all the actors and interests of this production chain. The tablecloth serves as a tool to engage on current issues, to have an interaction with those people otherwise excluded from technological innovation. These actors who still have the knowledge of a different culture, increasingly marginal, in which we can trace the roots of our culture but also the possibility of a different one.

Crafts’ languages need to be upset in order to play again a social role, they represent the attitude of a lost world which is now struggling to access new layers of technology: mechanical, chemical and genomic ones. We involved communities through their capabilities to create their own language by using a manufacture, a driver to appropriate and to interpret their reality. The speculative thought of genetic innovations confront with the people, multiplying perspectives and offering other solutions.

The spatial mirror, reflections and reflexes in collective place-making

The spatial mirror, reflections and reflexes in collective place-making.

An elective course for master students at the Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven, campus Sint-Lucas Brussel.


An action based design and research studio

to debate / experiment / exchange / co-produce / participate /

criticise / construct / occupy / question / manifest / act / etcetera…

toward open urbanism in Brussels.

During one semester, a mix of international students comes together to explore what participatory design can be, both for the city as for themselves as architects to-be. The Josaphat site in Brussels and its self-organized community-based initiatives form the ground around which several challenges evolve.


1/.            What inspires you?

2/.            Tell me your story.

3/.            How do you relate?

4/.            Map !

5/.            What is at stake?

6/.            Now and then.

7/.            Manifest.


What would you, as architect and as human being, propose as an ad hoc intervention for this hidden land? How could this affect its planned future as new densely build neighborhood?

These questions trigger a variety of creative and critical design interventions. The ‘Universal Alphabet’ (Teodora & Nikoletta) take on a consultation approach. Through playing with words and languages they reach out to various stakeholders. An intuitive, yet strongly informed development process is the outcome of this approach. Others let themselves get overwhelmed by the hidden qualities of this place and intervene in a soft and embedded manner (Marisa & Oahn). The boys (Matthias & Nicolas), use their position as external actor and disrupt the status quo through playful and provocative gestures.

As two internationals, part of this multi-cultural collage, we were impressed. Through our work we researched whether the participatory approach towards the design and build practice of our cities could be applied as the missing link between the superdiverse environment of Brussels and its future urban development.

– the Universal Alphabet

Students: Nicholas Jacobs, Teodora Stefanova, Nikoletta Daniil, Oanh Nguyen,

Marisa Borabo, Marika Piekarczyk, Matthias Verhoene, Jessica Alarcón

Teachers: Hanne Van Reusel in coordination with Dag Boutsen & Prof. Johan Verbeke


Part of the doctoral research of Hanne Van Reusel (KU Leuven) and Incubators of Public Spaces, a JPI Urban Europe research project. Funded through Innoviris


Hello Stranger is a game played with teams of participants willing to explore and include multiple voices within design processes through new dialogic relations and critical “question-making”.

At its core, it employs defamiliarisation and estrangement devices within a game format to increase agency of participants within design processes by allowing anonymity to momentarily dissolve power relations; and, create multiple voices and a platform for new dialogues to ferment by utilising chance to reporting the overfamiliar and often complex lived experiences.

Hello Stranger is being developed since December 2015 as part of a research residency at the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood, where it is currently being tested and embedded within the museum’s future plan and re-design process.

How it works:

Structure: Victoria & Albert, Museum of Childhood

Number of players: 35

Duration: 6 months

  1. The game master/researcher, themselves an outsider to the structure* identifies a series of key themes through prolonged exposure, observations, and numerous conversations with different members (in this case, museum visitors, operations, services, catering, management, collections).Each theme is reduced into a single word and accompanied by a corresponding image taken by the game master/researcher, and forms the content for a series of cards within a deck.
  1. The cards were randomly distributed to members of staff who are then asked to live with the given theme for two weeks and produce a question in the card folders provided.
  2. Maintaining anonymity, the card folders containing the cards and the produced questions are deposited into a physical drop box.
  3. The cross-departmental and often critical questions are then compiled, printed, published and shared with the team.


Structure here refers to an enveloping research context, such as institution, neighbourhood, community, team, environment etc.