London 2012: Space of Dissent / Space of Control was the title of a workshop I conducted at the Royal College of Art last week (February 2-9). Participants included students of the RCA/V&A Design History and RCA Product Design programs, who worked in mixed teams. Students worked in teams to explore London Olympics as terrain of contestation, in which actors of control and actors of dissent compete for their impact to the city during and after the Olympic Games. The workshop asked questions of the following nature: Who are the institutional or individual actors who participate in the creation of these two realms, and what are their values? How does design (objects, systems, services, spaces) express their wills and articulates their acts? What can design do for advancing certain positions that facilitate, balance or polarize the differences between these two realms? What kinds of new objects, systems, services and environments can we envision in response to the various stakeholders’ needs and desires? What are the values that these new designs promote?
Despite its limited duration, the workshop had impressive results. The projects truly integrated analytical research with design practice, and the team’s design ideas truly derived from a thorough research of the social actors involved in the London Olympics. The students showed a deep comprehension of the impact of the Olympics to the broader area of East London, and proposed the agency of design as a means of counterbalancing or resisting its overwhelming effects.
Along the same lines, in Spring 2013 I will teach a Design Studies Seminar for the new MA in Design Studies program that will interrogate the dynamics between Spaces of Control/Spaces of Dissent. Its method, similar to the above workshop, will integrate research with design propositions, focusing on various case studies in New York City and beyond.