3.0 – ACCESS-event: “Design needs your voice” and Pecha Kuchas at Reception

The ACCESS event, organized by Aalto Global Impact and CPUT with other partners as well, took place in the cozy and historical homecoming center, close to the Fringe. Morning was quite hectic, due of the fact that we could only access the space an hour before our 60 participants rolled in – the homecoming center functions as the District 6 museum and is clearly a space full of memories. Hard ones.

Our witty professor of emerging design practices, Alistair Fuad-Luke opened the event and worked the whole day, facilitating and coaching the groups. ACCESS event is all about different people, with a drive to make a change, coming together and kick-starting a new project that aims for change. There were three different case presentations given in the beginning of the workshop – all based and working under the three main themes Cape Town laid down for their winning WDC pitch: social cohesion, infrastructural development and knowledge economy. To me the most interesting keynote came from Sweet Home Farm project, which is a community building project executed in one of the shantytowns close to the edge of Philippi, Cape Flats. It’s an illegal settlement formed with a nice tight square with eight cross sections running through. I’ll talk more about this in a later blog, since Shannon – the project leader took us there for a workshop as well – so stay tuned for that.

The workshop started by people putting down (on post-its) their key issue around these WDC pitch themes. I wrote down “Democracy of design” and joined a group of people like-minded. Our group was one of the biggest formed there and with a really good mix of backgrounds: Community planner, contractor, designers and so on. The group tended to stay on somewhat negative tune in the beginning but I guess that’s just often the way to operate when you’re looking at such complex and deep issues  – as social cohesion in Cape Town is. At the time I must admit I had no better perspective to approach the issue than “hey let’s all get together and everything is possible” – and I still believe it to be so but now I understand better what really is the starting point here. The fact of the matter is even though apartheid – the nasty a-word – was abolished 1994, it is still rooted here deep in the societal and even infrastructural core. So hitting all the million walls around the issue, we tried to get over them, to see what is beyond those walls of social change. I told the group about our project – done in Helsinki with a group of CS and CS minded students – called Whose Issues. The project was all about wanting us, as Sustainability planners, to be best utilized for actual needs. We did a bunch of work on the Helsinki “fields” on the interventions called design probes. By the way, I don’t know if he was ever properly credited during our project but the name and the finalization of the probe concept came from Tatu Marttila, so thank him for that. Anyways, the idea of the probes was that we go among our Helsinki citizens and facilitate a face-to-face conversation about their issues. Whether it is about the environment being uninviting or the prices in local grocery store being to high for good quality healthy produce. But teasing out these issues, we at the same time added to our issue capital and got the actual real world themes to our workshop later on but also got the people, who were the initiators, to have an ownership in our workshop. So after the probe talks we invited the people to join our workshop. One of our group members, a gentleman from Kone Industries, told us his experience from another workshop where they we’re similarly trying to map the issues among a group of stakeholders to a living area in Brooklyn. This workshop was done by first asking what is broken and then what would it look like when fixed? This is something that I’ve heard to be called Utopian dreaming. So basically our group started to explore the possibilities of combining these two methods and how to execute it in Cape Town. We talked about the process and who could take the lead of it. One idea was to replicate what we did in Helsinki and give the idea to design students for them to replicate it further. Another idea was to go through some NGO already working on the field. So our suggestion was a blend of these two, that the project would probe the citizens with their issues, bring them to a table of stakeholders – so the citizens and people around the issue. For example if the issue is about housing we could bring in urban planners, maintenance and city planning people together. With these probes the designers could better facilitate the process at the table and help these different stakeholders find their common ground, so design as a process, becomes a tool for problem solving.

After the group presentations we had cocktails, downstairs our working space and were visited by both mayor Cape Town, Patricia de Lille and mayor of of Helsinki, Jussi Pajunen.

Later in the evening the Embassy of Finland in Pretoria organized a Reception at 6 Spinn Street. The event was opened by our Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Finland, Mr. Alexander Stubb, who talked about Finnish design and what it meant to Finland and Helsinki as a WDC host. Both of the mayors were present as well and gave their short keynotes. After everyone had their drinks filled up, our host from the embassy, Aki Enkenberg welcomed us to the stage for Pecha Kuchas. First to go was WDC Helsinki Pekka Timonen who talked about World Design Capital in Helsinki and its several impactful projects. I’m not sure if I have to copyright to do so but I will attach here his last picture, which he told to be the most important. It’s a beautiful illustration of the whole idea of hosting WDC. It is a title granted for a city for one year but the effects will live of course much longer. WDC is a perfect platform to create projects that will immediately receive a larger audience which then again will bring in people to support it so it has more momentum and impact to create a bigger ripple around. After Pekka, it was my time to get up, the moment I’ve been panicking about for the past month – hehe. I talked about WDC Helsinki Pavilion. I was an intern at Demos Helsinki in the beginning of this year and was part of the team who curated the whole Pavilion program and after my Demos shift I was a producer at the Pavilion so I tried to talk about both perspectives; why was it there and for whom and then again, who came and did they get it. I’ll link my PK with notes here, so you can have a look. I’m horrified by public speaking, especially in front of such an audience so I had to support my first ever Pecha Kucha byt reading it pretty much straight from the notes and adlibbing some. But I think it went fairly okay in the end. After me Hannu Kähönen presented some of their Crea Design projects, of which one among was the building complex in Helsinki called Teurastamo (Bucher’s house). Aalto Professor Teemu Leinonen presented their work, of which to me the most impressive one is the design lab kind of co-creation project to design a new hospital ward and Yehuda from Creative Capetown told us about their Fringe project. I will link info on all of these as much as I can find, to the bottom of the page.


Aalto Global Impact
Helsinki Meets Cape Town
ACCESS: Design Needs Your Voice
Whose Issues*
WDC Helsinki
My own Pecha Kucha: WDC HEL Pavilion – a Yes Space
Design for Health Care
The Fringe