“Since we have so many problems we really need design to help us out,” Secretary of Urban Development of the city of São Paulo, Fernando de Mello Franco, said last May on stage at WDCD 2015 in Amsterdam. With 20 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area the problems the city has to deal with are of an immense scale. Housing, mobility, employment, safety, education, environment are among the many topics São Paulo has to address.
One of the issues that has top priority for De Mello Franco, who is trained as an architect, is the inclusion of six million inhabitants who live outside the formal activity and structures of the city. “In order to integrate these six million people in the formal city we have to change from inclusion through consumption towards inclusion through produc- tion,” he said. The help of designers is no luxury in this context, he added. Later on the day De Mello Franco clarified his ideas about the influence of design in these matters: “Design is not just about building objects, it can also be an instrument for politics and it can even change politics.”
This is exactly what drives WDCD to bring the conference to São Paulo. WDCD is a platform for the exchange of ideas, experiences and success stories in the field of impact design. WDCD aims to bring together designers of all disciplines, educators, critics and policy makers with the intention to explore possible mutual benefits in the use of design. To bring some focus in the discussion, the programme of WDCD São Paulo will be grouped around the following themes: WDCD for Urban Issues, WDCD for Cultural Consciousness, and WDCD with Nature.
WDCD for Urban Issues
São Paulo is exemplary for the mega cities around the world that increasingly attract people from the countryside to the cities. Already half the world’s population lives in cities – a figure that will increase even further over the next decades. With so many people living closely together – 20 million in São Paulo alone –, it is obvious urban society has to cope with a growing number of pressing issues. Issues in the field of housing, mobility, food supply, employment, care, safety, air pollution and energy supply. Not to mention the social challenge of keeping up a sense of solidarity and connection.
Both technical and social solutions are tried and tested in cities around the globe. In many cases with some kind of involvement of designers. Architects, by the nature of their profession, are thinking thoroughly about the idea of the city and how they can contribute to make the urban environment a liveable place. But solutions may come from graphic, product, and digital designers and artists as well, as WDCD has demonstrated many times and will demonstrate again in São Paulo again.
WDCD for Cultural Consciousness
How can designers boost local cultural awareness among people in order to counter the trend towards international uniformity and loss of togetherness? Designers value authentic cultural expression and succeed in highlighting that in their work. Often they manage to breathe new life into crafts and techniques in danger of disappearing. Global interconnectedness often acts as an engine that drives development in the scientific, social and economic domains. But there are also less positive aspects that result in exploitation, poverty and loss of cultural identity. Designers are often the ones who succeed in building bridges between the local and the global community.
Brazil is a colourful and culturally rich country where arts and crafts are treasured by designers who have previously taken the stage at WDCD in Amsterdam, including interior designer Marcelo Rosenbaum, product designer Paul Dib, critic and curator Adélia Borges, top chef Alex Atala and furniture designers Humerto and Fernando Campana. We also had artist Pedro Reyes and fashion designer Carla Fernandez from other parts of the South-American continent.
WDCD with Nature
Brazil is a huge country with a vast amount of real and still unspoiled nature. It is one of the best places on earth to draw inspiration from nature in all its glory, efficiency and beauty. Top chef Alex Atala told at WDCD 2015 in Amsterdam what this can mean, demonstrating how nature, indigenous culture and modern city life can benefit from a careful and complaisant exchange. People have always taken nature as the basis for their actions. But a new generation of designers is going even a step further exploring how new techniques from the natural sciences and biotechnology might be useful as design tools. They question the concept of nature, and think of innovative and sustainable solutions for all sorts of problems in society.
At WDCD 2013 Suzanne Lee presented her concept of bacteria grown garments, while Daisy Ginsberg in 2014 shared her visions on ‘living architecture’, buildings that could for instance bind carbon dioxide.