Connecting people and generating public spaces: city-making based on the social dimension, via light projects with the capacity to reweave the social fabric.

These projects stem from concern about the social cohesion crisis, and propose collaborative activities in order to rebuild social links (or to build them from zero, where migrants are concerned). The urban scale, and the space where these activities take place, is normally the neighbourhood. Therefore, these projects can also be seen as initiatives for neighbourhood rebuilding, taking their cues from strategies currently in use in successful existing physical and social infrastructures.

As a whole, the idea these projects propose is of city-making mainly based on the social dimension, via light projects with the capacity to reweave the social fabric.

Proposed projects

  1. Project Urban Refugees @Genk (Belgium – LUCA DESIS LAB) (welcoming refugees via neighbourhood activities)
  2. Words Upon a Place (Denmark –  Design School Kolding DK: DESIS Lab) (integration of refugees via interactive benches)
  3. SIA DESIS Community Design & Engagement (UK – Sheffield Hallam) (Roma and migrant integration via co-design processes)
  4. Enabling solutions as a stimulus to the formation of a creative community (Brazil – UNISINOS) (high-school students involved in co-design processes)
  5. Kirkbride Reserve_reduced_New Zealand – Auckland University of Technology – DESIS Lab Auckland (co-design for shared use of common land – negotiating between different positions)
  6. Inclusion by mobile, Elisava (use of mobile devices to improve inclusion of the elderly and fragile people in society)

Type of project

Projects with the capacity to build social links between different citizens (migrants and tourists included). Bridging social differences, they overcome preconceptions and break down communication barriers. Through being staged in public spaces, they help to bring the shared spaces to life. The “expert” contribution is mainly a form of design activism, based on communication and service design.

Open questions

  1.  How can design help in connecting people who are both different from and unknown to each other? In other words, how can it help to produce the cosmopolitan fabric of a fast-evolving society?
  2. How can extreme individualism be counteracted and the huge diversities found in contemporary urban spaces bridged? Where this “mindset of difference” is the norm, how can public spaces be generated?