Design + Politics of Material
As a designer, how often do we engage with political affairs?
This project is part of the Studio class “Politics of Design” led by Prof. Florian Conradi & Prof. Michelle Christensen from UdK Berlin.
Jonathan Edward – UX Designer
Angie Salama – Graphic Designer
Uneeb Ahmad – Architect
Design x Politic
The project explores how design interacts with politics, each group (interdisciplinary & interculturally mixed) are given a specific theme to investigate and develop further. The topic ranges from data, sound, material, colour, shape, form etc. Our group got the topic of "politics of material". The first task was to research on the conflicts that happen around this topic.
We decided to do a social experiment to gather more data in socio-ethnography way. We decided to bridge gaps between our classmates and break the cultural barriers by learning form each other through cooking. So we picked five colleagues from different countries and got permission to go and prepare food for them. The challenge was to cook with the limited materials & cooking utensils provided by each household. Angie cooked with her Egyptian cooking skills yet the ingredients varied from East Asian, Latin American, Russian, and South Asian, and the challenge bridged gaps as by the end we befriended all the volunteers in our experiment. The awkwardness of entering someone’s house and using their things was broken after just a few moments and the laughter at the end on how much salt or how raw the potatoes are, made us appreciate our differences. This experience made us understand a new angle on having to deal with limited materials, and how they form a space of possibilities.
It is intriguing how material dimensions affects people’s life, and so, we started our research on how politics is affected by material, or in our case, the lack of it. We researched previous projects related to how the material can bridge gaps in culture, ethnicity and race. After the social experiment, we decided to work on the topic "Limited Material", reflecting this topic in the context of refugee camps. We investigated the current conditions, and how limited material influences the living conditions of refugees in several camps. There have been various projects to improve the quality of life in the camps such as IKEA tents, however, most of them only cover basic necessities. Hence, we tried to re-imagine how a refugee camp should work. We searched aspects such as FabLabs and Makerspace culture, transforming the concept into refugee camp circumstances, raising the question of how to assemble a space to "create" in refugee camps?
We did several interview with the local sources, one of the biggest problem faced by the operatives is how the people hard to accept the help of outsiders because they don’t want to be exploited.
Refugee camps are most often viewed as a place of limitations and incapability, where people are disabled and it is impossible to do things.
But what if we could change the narrative?
What if camps could be a place of possibilities and potential, where people are equipped and capable to do things on their own?
Our idea is to propose the concept of a ‘maker camp’, where the concept of refugee camps fuses with makerspaces, enabling them to create solutions and solve their own problems. The idea is to bring the essential components of makerspace to a refugee camp and build a community of makers in and between camps.
The Tool Kit
The Toolkit is a series of well-curated toolkits to kickstart a makerspace in a refugee camp. The kits are grouped based on skillsets, including the essentials, creating kits that are affordable for the camps. They can decide what kind of skill sets they want to bring in. All the toolkits are modular, hence they can easily upgrade your maker camp toolsets along the way by combining different kits.
The Space act as a physical landmark for the maker camp, creating a haven for all the makers in the camp. It is easily identifiable from afar and stands out from the rigid cubic formation of the camps, The Space also provides shelter from climate. It is designed to withstand snow or intense heat based on the context. Available local material are used to design the space.
The Hub is an online platform designed to support the camp with open resources files, how-to guides, & instruction videos. All the resources library are open-source and build together by people from all over the world to support the cause. The Hub also connects the camp with each other, creating a community and network of maker camps all over the world.
We believe that this project is an incomplete process, we barely scratched the surface, however, to fully expand the scope of the project we need the expertise of people from different fields such as engineering & social development. Hence, we leave this project as an open source project where anyone interested may able to join and pitch in their idea to improve this concept. Thank you for reading through this case study. If you have any feedback, I’d like to hear from you.