Today, the urban development of cities frequently results in the presence of a temporary inaccessible space. In this category are left behind urban ruins, transitional areas and neglected or contaminated lands. Although wastelands have a negative connotation, an increasing number of groups started to throw into question the use of these non-hegemonic spaces. Transforming these spaces is a complex design process because of the inter-workings of social, ecological and economical challenges.

In-Situ is a series of participative projects initiated by Giacomo Piovan about transforming these wastelands. The first site was activated in the Gelatine Factory, one of the last open spaces in the town of Hasselt (BE). A series of activities were organised in collaboration with local inhabitants and organisations: communal picnics, football matches, open air movies and bio-markets.

On the last day of this community project, a debate on-site gathered a number of participants in the field of arts, design, architecture, planning and urban activism in order to share their experiences and generate a more open debate about the future developments of the Gelatine site. By inviting also visitors and local citizens in the debate we found a more shared point of view on the future of the site allowing the group to uncover some of the commonalities between other similar examples.

In-Situ offers also a modular structure that can be adapted together with the participants in order to co-design new functions depending on the occasion. Fundamentally these parts are based on a similar geometric grid called OpenStructures which allows the participants to add or interchange some of the components in relation to an ever-evolving database.

Even if this project came to an end, the open structure adapted to different contexts and has travelled around Europe engaging local art communities on their respective sites. In the Dutch city of Enschede some artists adopted the structure using wood gathered from previous art festivals. Leftovers were stocked, cut and finally assembled on a kind of production line build for the occasion. The result was not only a useful sitting place for the visitors of the area, but also an entity able to recall old memories.

In-Situ has been initiated by Giacomo Piovan (Socialmatter) and developed within the frame of DiverCity, an exhibition of CIAP Art Centre in the frame of DE UNIE Hasselt-Genk Festival in the public space.

More info:



Some.where aims to develop communication means between people in the street and provide meeting places where people are enriched of the exchange of personal experiences. The project Some.where uses tools of Social and urban Design to explore in the field of human relations, underlining the value of the urban environment and the contribution of people who are socially excluded.

(Direct Link:!somewhere/c1rqi)


This project provides a social and urban analysis by means of ephemeral interventions in public spaces. Each intervention deals with global community topics, stories of people of specific environments, and the inner-self. The physical and graphical support of the intervention is implemented through a single, foldable, and portable device that fits to each environment. Depending on the way that the devise is installed, different visual messages are deployed. Once the intervention is completed, the device is folded and the interaction between people fades.

The Some.where project started in 2015, in the city of Barcelona, focusing on people living on the street. Since its inception, one of the main concerns of this social design project was referred to the way that our attention, our behaviour and environmental appreciation are modified by the mix of design tools and people’s experiences including those socially excluded). The implemented methodology is an interactive and ethnographic social analysis, which uses the technique of the “Participant observation”, interviews, surveys and planned interventions. Research topics are created in an ongoing process of action-research, allowing the experimentation with the people, in such a way that people’s reactions may feed a new intervention.

 Finally, the Some.where project intends to imply that the action of an ephemeral intervention in the street may be the preface to a longer lasting action, this time, in the inner privacy of people who observe or participate. This project may introduce people to an exercise of personal and emotional development, and (ultimately) to a transformation of the reality and to social changes.


De Andere Markt / Living Lab (Genk, BE)

Unemployment is often being addressed by decision makers and unions via e.g. implementing policies, programs and projects that aim to create jobs, (co-) working spaces and platforms or create better conditions for jobs. However, citizens are too little involved in the debate on these work-related aspects. The region of Limburg (BE) faces -especially since the closure of the Ford factory in Genk- a great need for enhancing the public debate on (local) work, workspaces, conditions and tools (to create, find, share or experience work) as well as their organisation in the city/regional space.

Therefore, De Andere Markt (The Other Market) has set up a Living Lab in Genk (BE, Limburg) for the coming two years. Living Labs are ecosystems where the research is not carried out in closed design studios, but via a systematic participatory approach, integrating research and innovation processes.  This particular lab is an explorative platform for researchers/teachers, students, policy makers and local community to collaboratively think and work together on the future of “work”, both oriented at the own neighbourhood as on the broader world. Via interventions, games, prototyping and coaching activities De Andere Markt supports designing or doing future work. We investigate two main questions How can we use design to engage (often marginalized groups of) citizens in (1) the public debate around work, work spaces, tools and their surrounding conditions? (2) How can we co-design proposals for future work, work spaces and tools?

By exploring these questions, we want to increase people’s capabilities of contributing to the public debate on work spaces, platforms and tools and their organisation in the city/regional space. Moreover, we want to enhance the (democratic) public debate in the region of Limburg on work with a wider range of actors (employed and unemployed, different cultures, gender groups, young and old, etc.). Via this public debate we want to come to new design proposals for work, work spaces and platforms. Finally, we want to connect these proposals to existing initiatives, institutions and organisations. To enhance the chance for citizens to be heard in the public debate around work, we will create supportive actions and tools. We collect stories about the skills of inhabitans and (small) organisations in Genk via our shopfront in the city of Genk and a mobile market, a cargo bike with which we ride through Genk. The shopfront and mobile market are conceived as a kind of reversed employment agency: we collect and display stories about local skills and conceptions of work, instead of jobs.

We conduct interviews under the form of individual creative sessions where we reflect together with shop owners and entrepreneurs on how their businesses are functioning and what are the economic and social networks they form. We organise Minilabs, wherein we generate new ideas about the future of work through co-design processes at fixed moments in time. Inspired by stories collected in the streets and in the local businesses, these labs are set up as brainstorms between citizens, researchers, professionals and policy makers.

Next to the Minilabs, we organise Gamelabs wherein serious games are used as vehicles for participatory prototyping and/or simulations. Abstract, intangible notions such as work or economics are made more concrete by collaboratively prototyping ideas and games. These games will then act as visual tools that support a process of coproduction and participatory design of new types of work, workspaces and tools. We organize Designlabs wherein ideas can be materialised into platforms, tools, objects, services or spaces. The most ‘visible’ and physical outcomes of these labs can be proposals/prototypes for the future of work, work spaces and work tools. We organise coachingtrajectories to enhance the opportunities of systems, products, services, tools or organisations that are generated during the labs to genuinely contribute to the debate about the future of work. All the interventions, labs and outcomes are publicly shared via our website, forming De Andere Markt media channel. We pay great attention to developing tools that support citizens, policy makers, designers etc. in contributing to mediated public debates on work (focused on participatory production of media).


Location: Hoefstadstaat 27, Winterslag, Genk

Team: Liesbeth Huybrechts, Teodora Constantinescu, Oswald Devisch
(UHasselt), Pablo Calderón Salazar, Katrien Dreessen, Ben Hagenaars



*Funding: PLAY!UC, JPI Urban Europe & TRADERS, Marie Curie, City of Genk



How to re-shape the connection between a big harbour (company) and it’s villagers in a visual and active way? RDM (Rotterdam Droogdok Maatschappij) is a drydock company located in a remote area in the harbour of Rotterdam. The isolated location made the firm built its own village Heijplaat (back in 1914) in order to provide housing for its employees. My project ”Samenspel” is set in, and focuses on, this very specific area.

Since the RDM was experiencing a crisis during the 90’s, many people from the Heijplaat lost their jobs. The village is in a phase of transition since this very moment. It doesn’t seem to be functioning as it was once meant to be. Many recreational activities and former functional spots of the area shut down, houses got progressively empty. The harbor area is connected to the city through a ferry service. However, it remains difficult to reach, and it is experienced by outsiders being too far away from the city centre. The RDM site now is hosting projects under the aegis of the Campus and the Submarine Wharf, which offer facilities for applied research, innovation, and experimentation. These enterprises attract visitors and users coming from outside the village of Heijplaat. These current recreational activities in the RDM area are not addressed to the residents any more; which cause a malfunction in the social structure and the connection among the inhabitants and their surrounding.
I focused on the question: ”How to re-shape the connection between the RDM and the village? Can I design (the implementation of) a new function for the RDM re-attracting locals, visualy and actively?” The port of Rotterdam and the village started a three-year restructuring process from 2014, year of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of their establishment. The project ‘Samenspel‘ develops within these years. The small village of Heijplaat is inhabited by a community which revolves around clubs and associations. I joined a residents’ initiative which aimed at establishing a Jeu de Boules (Petanque) club.
I planned to set up and design the club’s identity. My activity and collaboration with the club, designed to function on the area for two years, resulted in June 15th 2014, in the first Heijplaat Jeu de Boules Tournament at pier 2602 at ‘the entrance side’ of the RDM. The Pier was recently re-opened after renovation, but lacked a specific function, it was underused. Because of this fact, and because the beautiful and robust image triggered me so much, I decided to claim that piece of public space in order to re-use it, as strong and exciting event location for a moment.
Surrounded by the sound of the Maas and the windy harbour we played the first Heijplaat Jeu de Boules Tournament with a mix of local residents from Heijplaat and visitors from other parts of Rotterdam. The ‘image’ of the day was on one hand formed by the scenery of the area itself and the participating teams. I curated and visually shaped these elements with the participation of many company’s within the RDM.
”This project started as part of my Minor program (Public and Private) and ‘ended up’ being part of her Graphic Design graduation project, at the Willem de Kooning Academy.
Samenspel was made possible by/many thanks to: City of Rotterdam Art and Culture, Van Es Zand & Gravel BV, Kruiswijk BV, Franklin Offshore, 100 jaar Heijplaat, Dokkaffee and all the participants.
The tournament day was filmed by: Niels van der Vaart, 31,1 Film. Edited by Janneke Absil

Leve de Krimp! // Let’s shrink!

Leve de Krimp! is a public facing alternate reality game that focuses on depopulation, a demographic phenomenon that mostly takes place in peripheral regions. The game creates a sense of urgency, encourages ownership and mobilizes and empowers citizens to positively change the future of their region.

Many professionals and policy-makers acknowledge that in order to anticipate to future demographic changes, it is crucial to have the local inhabitants play their own part in the process. The locals are no longer puppets on the strings of the policy-makers; they are the new heroes. As they are the ones who’ll find themselves living in the areas that are facing shrinkage, they are the ones that’ll experience the consequences of this, like the absence of facilities and jobs, abandoned houses, vacant buildings, decay. More and more it becomes clear that they are the most important stakeholders in these areas. If we truly want to work on pleasant living-conditions within this changing future we shouldn’t fight the shrinkage, but we’ll have to accept the presence and effects of these demographic changes. Only then we can find a way to deploy these demographic challenges for a high(er) quality of life, despite of a quantitative decline of people, money and facilities in an area.

In the game-methodology of Let’s shrink! Studio Papaver focused on the issue of depopulation and shrinking regions. Since depopulation and it’s effects are very abstract for many citizens in shrinking regions, Studio Papaver developed an innovative method to raise awareness, to create citizen-ownership of the problem and to empower and mobilize inhabitants in order to change the shrinking future of their region.

Game methodology
The methodology of Let’s shrink! is based on an Alternate Reality Game. Why a game? A game makes it possible to engage with big issues that are not (yet) present in daily life. A game makes you experience situations in the first person and that makes it very suitable to contribute to raising awareness. Furthermore, a game stimulates people to work together, to be creative and to extend their limits. The fact that they’re ‘just playing’ makes it possible to get loose from rigid reality or patterns.

The Alternate Reality Game is a special gametype. It differs from simulation games. Although the typology may sound very high tech, that’s certainly not the case. This type of game puts an extra layer on reality. It’s not only played in a virtual setting, but also interacts in the ‘physical’ world, being part of daily life. Another characteristic of this type of game is that it’s played over a longer period of time, it’s active for a few months. In the case of Let’s Shrink! players can already experience the future effects of depopulation in their daily lives. So the ‘shrinked’ future is being brought to the present: Play it before you live it!

Very simplified, the game works like this. The game presents a common future in which the dramatic effects of depopulation have become reality there. Players imagine themselves dealing with this situation. They receive assignments that have to do with a certain situation within that common future, but players execute them in their daily lives. So they consider themselves dealing with that common future, but acting on it within their daily lives. The players show their actions on an online platform. On this online platform other players and people can follow the game. And it’s also the place where links can be made between results and ideas of players.

Let’s shrink!
In the Achterhoek – a Dutch region that’s expecting to shrink within several years – a small scale pilot of the game was tested. In this edition of the game, the common future takes place in the year 2039 – as according to prognosis, 2039 is the year in which the ageing of the population will reach its peak. The story of the Achterhoek in the year 2039 isn’t so pleasant. Supermarkets withdraw themselves from the region, as the number of customers is declining. Public transport no longer operates in the Achterhoek as the density of the region has become too low to be profitable. The value of houses has dropped tremendously, so people can’t sell their houses without big debts. Four characters living in the year 2039 tell about how their lives look like, what they experience and what issues they have difficulty with. For example, there is Lia ten Brinke – 74 years old, retired primary school teacher and living in Lichtenvoorde. After her husband passed away she’s living alone on the farm. Her daughters didn’t want to take over the farm. Sinds two years she’s also the only one living in the street, as the other three farms are vacant. She is greatfull that she’s still quite mobile and that she can visit friends, but she doesn’t get many visitors. She would love to live in one of those communities where healthcare, recreation, housing and sports are combined, but it is too expensive and the waitinglist is very long. So only the happy few can live there.

After presenting the common future, the game reveals that Let’s Shrink! is a movement. This movement realizes that the opportunity to keep an area which is nice to live in despite of depopulation, has not been seized. Only the inhabitants of the Achterhoek themselves can make sure the Achterhoek stays a great place to live in, despite of depopulation.

The movement invites people to become a member (player) and perform actions in the present to influence and change that future in a positive way. The movement Let’s shrink! states that the knowledge and creativity of the Achterhoeker is crucial to achieve this goal.

Players receive an assignment in different thematic rounds. For example, one of the assignments in the Achterhoek was about Mobility. Live during three days as if you don’t have your own car, you can’t use public transport and you may not use any services within a range of 10 km. But still you want to be able to do what you’re doing now (go to work/sports/friends/shopping). How do you organize your daily life within these conditions?
The players post their ideas and solutions on the website of Let’s shrink!. In this way, the website visualizes the collective intelligence of the region. Parallel to working on the assignments and creating ideas, the players get messages from the movement Let’s shrink! and receive reactions from the characters living in the future. For example, one of the players who was working on the theme Mobility receive a message from Lia ten Brinke who was wondering what his solution would mean for her live.

After several months – when several thematic rounds with assignments have been played – it’s time to finish the game through a manifestation. The manifestation is linked to a popular local event. During the manifestation the best ideas are being presented and through a film the characters in 2039 show how their lives have positively changed by all the ideas of the Achterhoekers.

Extra thoughts
During the pilot it was noticed that this way of dealing with the phenomenon of depopulation and the effects of it, stimulates awareness, makes people think about it and even makes them act upon it. The ideas that arise might not be spectacular, but the important thing is that the ideas are from the people/the Achterhoekers themselves, concerning the area they live in. And that makes the difference. If you really want people to create a solution or ideas then it’s crucial that they do this out of their own intrinsic motives.

The game proposal was developed by Studio Papaver in collaboration with the graphic designers of We-Are-Amp. Furthermore a sounding-board was established, containing of Kars Alfrink, Martijn de Waal, Peter Scholte, Roy van Egmond and Jan-Bart Wilschut.




COMUNfARE – creating spaces for popular design and making (economies) in common

COMUNfARE (lit. commons-making, or communal making) is a long-term practice-led research project, in which we concentrate on the environmental, social, economic and political context of the Vallagarina district in the Italian Alps and its connections to other places in the world.

Project updates (in Italian) via the locally preferred social network.

With the project, which represents a new phase in our socially and politically engaged design practice, we want to contribute to progressive eco-social change on different levels and scales in the area we come from.

Over time, we set out to activate a variety of translocal situations of intergenerational, open, collective learning. Through these, we want to explore, develop and foster self-organised structures and relations pursuing a twofold aim — to become more aware of the diverse dynamics that traverse and shape the district, its economy, people and environment, while creating, broadening and diversifying spaces in which to be less exposed to and tied into the disciplining, precarising and scarcity-producing mechanisms of ‘the market’.

Like this, with COMUNfARE we want to support the constitution, cultivation and expansion of the commons as a material and social dimension that empowers people to nurture other values and ways of relating than the narrow ones reproduced by capital.

While the defined localised framework of the Vallagarina district is the setting in which our research is physically based, and which therefore represents its point of departure and main arena of reflection, speculation and intervention, we wish to constantly weave into the project the global framework which this area is part of, and whose processes inevitably mould the district and are in turn moulded by it.

Some of the research questions we currently ask are:

— What structures and initiatives can facilitate the cultivation of practices of co-operation, care, dialogue, mutuality, and self-organisation in our lives, while weakening the influence of personal profit, competition, accumulation and individualisation?

— How can knowledges, experiences and expertise held by people inhabiting the district be activated and involved into the project? How can people learn from each other in a liberatory, empowering way?

— Taking the anthropocene as the wider framework in which we operate, how can the non-human other be actively encompassed into processes of progressive social change?

— How can a socially and politically engaged design practice be made resilient when operating in a peripheral non-metropolitan context?

KOWORK Constrói-te!

(“Constrói-te” means literally “build yourself”)

Kowork E5G is a social project created and promoted by GIP, the department for employment inclusion of NGO Moinho da Juventude, funded by Programa Escolhas, a national funding program promoting social and employment inclusion, to support young people living in Alto Cova da Moura neighbourhood (Amadora, Greater Lisbon, Portugal) to expand individual employment opportunities and/or build their own business ideas.

GIP partnered with a group of institutions and organizations to propose a wide and diverse curriculum of activities for the participants ranging from learning how to build résumés, preparing for interviews and working on the topics of citizenship and entrepreneurship, to practice wall painting techniques, build 3D printers, print objects and work in the newly furnished workshop with rapid-prototyping and laser-cut machines. The Faculty of Architecture, University of Lisbon, is part of the consortium, through the group studies GESTUAL, entrusted to foster the use of the workshop as well as harness carpentry, building and design interest and skills in participants.

In light of this, four designers and PhD researchers proposed to develop a co-design process with young participants in the view of materializing things that contribute to the community while aiming to enact future possibilities of using the workshop that can generate revenue and/or create opportunities for long-term occupation or employment, at least for some of them. In a series of twice a week sessions, our role is intended to foster the ‘designerly’ mind in the youngsters by exploring in a ludic approach how designers work, how youngsters see the neighbourhood, how they approach challenges, opportunities and change and what they think could be meaningful and viable contributions.

The co-design experiment is ongoing and predicted to end-up by middle of November 2015. Soon we expect new things coming out of the workshop, so stay tuned:

Koworkers: Azul (António), Carlos, Cátia, José, Maria João, Miro, Patrick (and designers, PhD researchers) António Pinto, Delano Rodrigues, Natália Plentz, Inês Veiga.
Kowork E5G coordinators: Joana Dias, Paulo Semedo, Ana Rita Domingos.
Kowork E5G partners’consortium: Nozomi-Criminal Investigation Solutions Lda; Tork Stunt – Marketing Estratégico, Lda;  GESTUAL – Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade de Lisboa; Oficinas do Convento; Mistakermaker.
Kowork E5G workshop technician: Sr. Luis
Image credits: © António Pinto

Nu_Volante – a collaborative local street brand

NU_VOLANTE is the attempt to found the (probably) first local, open and collaborative street brand in Italy.

In Italy and other southern European countries exists for already years the phenomena of immigrated street vendors (often from Senegal) that try to make a living by selling mainly cheap Chinese products, like sunglasses, lighters, umbrellas or bracelets on the streets.

The brand Nu_Volante (“the new flying ones”) tries to connect immigrated street vendors to local (eco–social) manufacturer (social cooperatives) and designers to create small, simple and beautiful products and sell them in the local streets to citizen and tourists through a network of street vendors.

Within our pilot project that is about to be launched in the city of Bolzano, North Italy, a local manufacturer has a central role in the collaboration: It is a secondhand/upcycling furniture and textile work-shop and a small co-working space for engaged designers and artisans. On one side they will produce a part of the products that are sold on commission by a network of street vendors. On the other side they provide a physical space where designers, street vendors and their own production team can meet to discuss and exchange ideas.

The project’s aim is to raise the social and economical situation of the immigrated vendors and give more visibility to small local manufacturer that often have only a very limited budget for advertisement and marketing. In addition the project has a great potential to raise a new kind of culture connected to street commerce. (Italy ones had a flourishing culture of artisan and street markets that get more and more “invaded” by poorly produced products.)

Another goal is to inform (local) people about the legal situation of these street vendors that are often targeted by prejudices saying they would be part of a Mafia-like structure – which in most cases is simple not the case.
Instead most vendors possess a license for street vending and even pay social security contributions. They travel to the bigger Italian cities to buy their products from Chinese markets and try to resell them in touristic towns and villages.

In a longer perspective the project aims to create new social relations between the vendors and local citizen and could become a bridge for new developments (e.g. the possibility for education in the field of handy-crafts or a shift to participate in local markets instead of selling only on the streets).

The project resulted as a hands-on research project from a more theoretical study about the transformation of our western value system which I paraphrased as with the title “Open Value”.

More information on the website: or on facebook:

Readers, Write!

On Thursday, April 16th the Office for Public Play organised the first “Readers, Write!” workshop session with the master students of Child Culture Design (HDK School of Design and Crafts) within Tobias Engberg’s text seminar series.

Readers, Write! is a method and toolkit, designed to facilitate arts and design researchers working with academic texts for artistic research. Further on, it aims to stimulate reflection by means of writing.
After the briefing, the class was divided into smaller groups. Inspired by the Wiener Kaffeehaus culture the groups each searched for their most comfortable place to work, read and discuss. The Viennese coffee houses offered its social members the opportunity to read and discussed the latest news facts over a cup of coffee. Some student groups worked in the library, the cafeteria or went outside the school building; another group worked in the classroom. The probe, referring to a newspaper and its “letter to the editor” guided the student groups into various of methods that helped them processing the academic text — from reading/understanding to forming their own opinion about the text. At a later stage, the group re-united to share and discuss the different opinions on the text. The final group discussion was closed by a short evaluation.