In times of multiple crises, how can design – as an activity, a process and a result – contribute to building more sustainable, safe, healthy, democratic and socially inclusive living environments? On 5 February 2021, in the first of two events devoted to this question ‘Urban Forum: Practice meets Academia’ went digital for the first time.
Six projects were presented in a 7x7 format (7 slides – 7 minutes), followed by a moderated 14-minute discussion, under the theme “Rethinking Design Processes.”
As the world continues to face COVID-19-induced public gathering restrictions, SLU Urban Futures and the Forum’s co-organizer, Urban Arena at Lund University, seized the opportunity to zoom out. They hosted an international on-line exchange between practitioners and thinkers sharing a vision of the responsibility of design to address contemporary societal, spatial challenges. A successful event, according to participants, who found “short presentations a good succinct way of putting projects out”; and liked “that we were coming from different places, where zoom allowed us to be all together”. They also appreciated the intimate setting that allowed for collegial discussions about their projects “keeping the number of people down was very helpful” some stated.
Projects in Germany, Austria, Sweden, the United States, Tanzania and Zambia elicited lively transdisciplinary discussion on what defines conscious and high-quality design and how can it be achieved. Participants brought many critical questions to the table, such as “How can we use architecture as a tool to build and strengthen communities?”, “How are we changing the way we build to deal with the question of material responsibility?”, and “Can an anti-strategic approach to planning help to increase diversity and manage still unknown futures?”.
A second related event “Responsibility across Scales”, collecting projects from the same original call, is planned for 12 March.