It is a while since I penned some words for window874. There are a multitude of reasons, but one of the larger ones comes in a 480page co-edited limited edition book called Agents of Alternatives: Re-designing Our Realities, a compendium of essays, interviews and case studies from over 50 international contributors. The co-editors, Anja-Lisa Hirscher, Katharina Moebus and myself, soft launched the book recently in Helsinki with an event at KaupunkiVerstas, the prototype urban workshop-come-FabLab created by Helsinki City Library. Over 60 people turned up to hear us give a talk about the evolution of the making and editing and how the contributors’ voices helped shape the book, its evolving lexicon and meta-information/navigation system. Cindy Kothala, who contributed an intriguing essay about the ‘maker movement’, also gave a talk, prompting a dialogue with the audience about issues of authorship, distriuted making and more.
The book is the first project of a newly established non-profit organisation, Agents of Alternatives, based in Berlin whose founders include the co-editors, AFL (English), ALH (German), KM (German/Finnish), with Gaspar Mostafa (Argentian), Nicholas Torretta (Brazilian), Malin Bäckman (Finnish) and Peter Breuer (German). All the founders have expertise in the field of design and believe that the positive affects of design on economic, social and environmental transition can be amplified through more interdisciplinary practices and activities.
The new book provides a wonderful snapshot of design in an interdisciplinary environment, with contributions from diverse disciplinary fields – including architecture, art, design, landscape architecture, urban planning, education and research – and from practitioners, activists, designers, artists and academics. Structurally the book is organised through the lenses of ‘alternative worlds’: thinking, learning, sharing, making, intervening, working and living, but there’s a navigation system that allows the reader to see where these interact and hybridise. A 16 page ‘evoling lexicon’, originating from the writings of the contributors, signals that design and other creative practices are in transition themselves while simultaneously challenging and re-conceptualising our contingent realities through new language. Across the 10 essays, 14 interviews, 13 case studies and 2 ‘interjections’ we see evidence of a neo-pluralism, a willingness to bring diverse approaches to solve local, regional and global challenges, all underlain with a generous spirit of sharing and openness. These practices and tools are brought together in a section called ‘How stuff works’.
The co-editors hope that this book helps others embrace design and its hybrid practices as a means to find their own agency to change what happens next. We’d also like to profusely thank our contributors, the crowdfuning sponsors who help fund some of the book production costs, Gaspar Mostafa for his page-layout skills and Isabelle Machado Aires for her British-English proof reading.
AFL, Porto, 08.06.2015