Connections is the first year of a five year, multi-phased, experimental design studio that integrates living and working, exploring new models of design practice. Each year, the studio will inhabit a different location with changing geographic and material conditions, and the work produced will respond to these changing contexts.
The practice will operate under a different name and a different set of parameters each year. The name adopted each year also describes the work created. The years and studio names in order are: Connections, Encounters, Impressions, Recursions, and Reflections.
The first year is called Connections, and is conceived as a radical beginning. We plan to move to Joshua Tree, California and build a studio practice from scratch, using available materials and craft to re-connect with the natural world and engage the local community in a series of workshops and interventions.
During the second year, Encounters, the studio becomes nomadic. Travel by foot, bicycle, bus, hitch-hiking, and RV, are peculiar ways to encounter places and people and create a fabric of relationships. Engaging with various communities on the move, the work produced will embrace chance, narrative, and mobility.
The studio broadens and deepens this nomadic methodology in the third year, Impressions, operating in 4 countries for a period of 3 months each. By engaging with communities outside of our own cultural contexts, the resulting work will necessarily incorporate local vernaculars, national differences, and outside collaborations.
In the fourth year, Recursions, the studio partner with a larger, established design firm, operating as an agency-within-an-agency. Investigating issues of scale, management, and what it means to be an “agent” within an existing organizational structure, the work produced will respond to the concrete needs of the larger company and offer unsolicited proposals and scenarios that challenge typical ways of working.
The final year, Reflections, will consist of archiving and disseminating the work produced during the first four years. A publication and website will be completed documenting the entire practice for the larger art, design, and cultural communities.
This project self-consciously adopts discrete models of design practice within a limited timeframe. By reconstituting the studio each year we aim to mitigate the imperative to grow and put pressure on the concrete circumstances that shape design as an activity in the world. For example, starting from scratch in Connections, the first projects will respond to immediate needs: we will design and build living quarters, a work space, chairs to sit on, etc. We hope to both encounter and invent new sets of problems, embracing difficulty and failure. These problems become the catalyst for producing unexpected relationships between form and content.
Looking to historical precedents such as William Morris and the Bauhaus, the studio is interested in pursuing design as an extension of everyday life. Just as the new, expanded role of the designer brings with it the precariousness of mobility, constant change, and temporary employment, it also offers an unprecedented sense of possibility. The project aims to mobilize, model, and explore these possibilities for contemporary design.
We intend our project to provide a model and platform through which others may recognize that there are many ways to create design beyond the conventions of traditional practice. We aim to give form to a practice that breaks down the traditional divisions between designers and clients, authors and audiences. By engaging both the design community “out there” and the immediate community “on the ground,” we hope that the project’s impact will be both local and far-reaching. We hope that this two-fold approach will generate valuable insights for design as a profession and as a way of engaging the public.