Design for the Living World / Marjetica Potrč


Journey (wom)men and participatory Design: Design for the Living World is Marjetica Potrč’ class for participatory practice from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg. Inspired by the traditions of journeymen and traveling craftsmen who acquire their skills through traveling from city to city, the students work in projects in different cities and countries. The methodology of the class is based on multidisciplinary research and focuses on participatory design; meaning the student work with local inhabitants and learn through collaborative doing. They investigate the surrounding environment (ecological changes, the political as well as the social dimensions) and they develop projects that try to find sustainable solutions to local challenges.


The Soweto Project / Design for the Living World

Often working in conflict areas, Marjetica Potrč lays a special focus on participatory design and sustainability. Individual empowerment, problem-solving-tools and long-term strategies are key in her approach. Water- and energy-infrastructure as well as agricultural gardens are often part of her projects. So also in an example from 2009: The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbor; on an unused piece of land in the Amsterdam neighborhood of Nieuw West, they planted a community garden and opened a communal kitchen.

For Potrč, human resources are as important as natural ones. It is less about creating physical objects, as it is about so called „relational objects“ – meaning something that helps to create and strengthen connections between neighbors and contribute in building sustainable urban life. With such „relational objects” and through „performative action”, Potrč and her students in cooperation with communities work on becoming more resilient and sustainable. An example for „performative action” was the project Tromsø- a City as a Garden, which was organized by the Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art in 2013. The participants focused on a small piece of land, close to the harbour, destined to become building grounds for a new shopping mall. This triangular piece of land was still public property and the performance make this visible also pointing at the importance of getting involved in public issues. The message was: “This is your land. This is your city. You are the city”. The Project Tromsø- a City as a Garden, was also the first occation of close collaboration between Marjetica Potrč, her class, Åsa Sonjasdotter and the Prinzessinnengarten.

Living with Soil and Water

The Design for the Living World class at HFBK Hamburg will examine issues relating to water, land and soil, essential elements that the residents of the Prinzessinnengarten neighbourhood live with every day but rarely ask questions about. Beyond the current real estate market, which focuses on land value, the students will look at the value of the soil. Is more fertile soil needed? Beyond taking water as a given natural resource, they will research ways that the residents can use more water, since the groundwater is currently too high. They will ask whether living on house boats is an affordable option. Taking current conditions as the starting point, the students will engage residents in a conversation about possible future scenarios using the World Café format. They will look at what the water, land and soil conditions will be like 50 years from now. The findings will then be discussed with a local lawyer (legal expert) and writer (journalist) who are familiar with the current situation and can think outside the box about economics, politics, and culture. Finally, the new knowledge will be presented in the form of a Manual and shared with residents. A walking tour of local sites will allow residents to consider anew the challenges they face, predictions for the future and the present actions being taken toward a more resilient neighbourhood.

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