Workshop: Transitional scenarios, meetings in liminal space

University of Antwerp, Faculty of Design Sciences
Re-ACT by design, Liminality International Design Workshop

Workshop performed together with Sofie Platou, Snøhetta Design, 11 – 15 February 2019 

Re-ACT by design is the theme of an annual series of international workshop weeks for master students product development, architecture, interior architecture, heritage studies, and urbanism and spatial planning of the Faculty of Design Sciences at the University of Antwerp.

The aim of the international workshop week is to explore the power and capacity of design to tackle those lines of fracture and socially engage by design. Beyond re-search by design, students and tutors re-act by design.

How can design education not only address students, but also address those lines of fracture, and induce debates, provoke questions, and set an agenda?

The International Design Workshop week is open to radical pedagogical experiences, which open the eyes, change sides and widen thinking. It stimulates crossing disciplinary boundaries. The week is jointly curated by a team of students and faculty. It provides a forum for international exchange; simultaneously, it is an informal platform for discussing design education and its agency. 

Description of our workshop: In a multi-faceted society, where different cultures often do not meet, yet inhabit the same places, liminal spaces hold possibilities of interactions. The in-between moments can have unpretentious opportunities where it feels safe to participate for different kinds of people. Effortless, volatile interactions may create understanding and curb prejudice to social or political differences, and possibly be small steps on the way that leads to changes in how we as people see each other. This workshop holds the narrative of the momentary interactions, the accidental meeting between people in public spaces. The workshop investigates scenarios and how design-interferences in public spaces may encourage people to interact with others they would not normally contact. We explore the potentials and the obstacles of the liminal conditions and invite external arbitrary partakers to join in low-threshold on-site interventions, facilitated through design. Throughout the workshop week we brainstorm, design, prototype, test the designs in the chosen spaces and correct the designs according to experiences in the test.

Questions asked

How can design make people see each other and possibly interact with others they didn´t know from before? 

What do individuals from dissimilar backgrounds have in common? Do they share a sense of humour, political or social engagement, interest in art, entertainment, sport, games and activities, taking the train, shopping, or other things?  

Who is in the different places in the city at different times of the day? 

What is there to be exploited? 

Who may have the time and are willing to engage in liminal space, the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ The time where all transformation takes place if we learn to wait and let it form us? 

What outcome may we get from the interaction? 

The Process

The students were divided into 6 groups. The design process took place both at the university and in the streets of Antwerp. We communicated through a common Facebook-group as the participants were spread all over and we had meetings and tutoring where the students were. An important part of the project was to test how the designs would work as an element of communication. Was the design really acting as a boundary object, connecting people in the city? The first prototypes were tested in the streets after only two days of working in order to have time to refine the final project.

The workshop consisted of six stages:

1. Brainstorming and ideas

2. Making and prototyping

3. Testing of design in the city

4. Correction of the design

5. Final design and interference in the city

6. Exhibition in the university including documentation of the city interference

Brainstorming in the classroom

City interferences by design; meetings in liminal space

“Crosstalk” asked people, waiting to cross the street, to discuss easy questions and together give the answer on the other side of the street. The questions had to be easy to relate to such as; what is best, summer or winter.

Sidewalk game where you go from one green point to the next based on questions at each point. You may end up meeting people along the way and discussing the issues.

“TuneRspeak”. The first and second prototype of a project where people on the street can meet and share their music digitally.

“Would you rather”. Questions asked in an elevator make people move to the orange or blue area.

“Conversation box”. In the city people also need to rest. Two chairs in an open square, placed slightly offset from each other so that the resting people see each other and hopefully meet.

“Power Talk”. Offering cellphone charging in the city allows people to stop and meet for a while.

Final exhibitions

The “Crosstalk” exhibition.

“Would you rather” exhibition.

“Conversation box” exhibition.

“Power talk” exhibition.

“Meet a stranger” exhibition.

The workshop class. Thank you all.