Prototyping the City Design Studio has been structured since its very beginning to face a real challenge: design and produce a full scale installation within two weeks using a collaborative method which involved 33 students, 3 project leaders, 1 local coordinator, 1 expert, 2 assistants and 1 local wooden constructor. 42 people in total worked, together for the very first time, with a rhythm of 14 working hours a day. Eventually, they achieved the given task and, after two weeks, the working site in the Officine Grandi Riparazioni in Torino was completely reconfigured. The results of the 7,056 working hours spent in this workshop can be listed as follows: an incredible series of drawings and digital models, 6 final panels, 6 presentations, a large amount of small scale analog models, 3 rapid prototyped models, a quite impressive amount of full scale test pieces and a wood installation which became part of the Torino 011 exhibition path inside the Officine Grandi Riparazioni. But there is more.
The brief was to construct a full scale wooden installation that would act as a prototype of urban architecture, using an eco-systematic approach, advanced parametric design tools and a quite traditional construction technique. The students were divided in six different groups which investigated simultaneously different aspects of the brief. The groups explored the following themes: connections/detailing, ecology/environment, program, parametric design, urban research, structure/prototyping. The first big issue was of course to find the right equilibrium between open research within each group and the necessity to close up towards a common direction in no time. During the first days of work, the students produced an incredible amount of data. In the following days, the efforts of everybody were displaced towards the possibility of mediation of the data produced by the 6 groups in order to find a common direction. Of course, this has been an incredibly difficult moment. It was all about negotiation.
Design processes have been pushed towards non linear systems: different issues were explored simultaneously by different design teams. But, at the end, the process had to be consistent passing thru a phase of continuous negotiation. The art and practice of negotiation is currently called “diplomacy”. And diplomacy here became a very important issue. An interesting thing of diplomacy is the social game of relationships that take part thru the use of hard or soft strategies in order to find mutually acceptable solutions to a common design challenge. In this sort of process, the human element is extremely important, because it’s all about taking common decisions. Collaborative design can be very stressful, but also extremely rich. The distribution of authority and power in the design teams derives from a process of self-organization in which every individual find its own place. This process is sometimes problematic, but the social issues that emerge can bring the project far beyond the traditional limits of design.
Digital/physical; design/fabrication, form/function; natural/artificial, designer/user, designer/designer, fabrication/time. These are only a few of the possible conflicts that have been explored in the Prototyping the City Design Studio. More than the concrete materials that have been produced, the real legacy of this workshop is the sense of managing diplomacies of space that all the participants gained during these two weeks.