Can Design Change Society?

Can Design Change Society?

projekt bauhaus

Tomás Saraceno, A translucent tropospheric cloud allowing for investigations into the potentials of sky-life, 2007. © Tomás Saraceno.

August 18, 2015
Can Design Change Society?

Symposium: September 18–19, 2015
Pop-up exhibition: September 3–20
Opening: September 2, 7pm

Haus der Kulturen der Welt 
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin

With Andreas Bernard, Franziska Bollerey, Gui Bonsiepe, Lilet Breddels, Heinz Bude, Bureau d’EtudesJohn Grin, Boris Groys, Dorothea Hauser, Reinhold Martin, Henk Oosterling, Philipp Oswalt, PlanBude Hamburg, Birger Priddat, Christian Salewski, Tomás Saraceno, Bernd Scherer, Lara SchrijverLuigi Snozzi, Wolfgang Ullrich, Margarete Vöhringer, Karin Wilhelm, Zones Urbaines Sensibles

Can design change society? How can we integrate emancipating ideas into a continuously progressing modernization? Has the aspiration of the Bauhaus and the classical avant-garde to improve society through design been validated? By what means can we approach design change and the future in a new way? What are targeted but open-ended work forms? What role does co-production play? How does one design one’s own existence? What is the role of the designer today? Would the absence of design offer liberation? The symposium and exhibition highlight key themes around the context of historical models and opens these up for discussion. At the center of this discussion lie the aims, roles and methods of the designers, each a social construct.

About the project bauhaus
The international initiative project bauhaus was founded in January 2015. Its members include designers, curators and researchers from Europe, the USA and Asia. The platform’s objective is to conduct a lively debate on the currency of the Bauhaus. In the five years leading up to the centenary in 2019, the aim is to take critical stock of the ideas of the Bauhaus. From 2015 to 2019, project bauhaus has offered a new question to debate every year. In 2015, the project begins with the question: Can design change society?

Program symposium

Friday, September 18

Welcome and introduction by Philipp Oswalt

Designing to what end?
a) The model of the artist-engineer as redeemer—Boris Groys, New York / Karlsruhe
b) Technological Transformation—Gui Bonsiepe, Buenos Aires / Florianópolis
c) Spatial Agency—Lara Schrijver, Antwerp
d) Design and system innovations: from critique and constraints to conditions for co-creation—John Grin, Amsterdam

Presentation by Lilet Breddels, Amsterdam

Designing attention
a) Critical theory—Karin Wilhelm, Berlin
b) We need to know where we are—Bureau d’Etudes, Saint-Menoux
c) The production of desires—PlanBude Hamburg
d) Framing / Ethical consumption—Birger Priddat, Witten / Herdecke

Presentation by Dorothea Hauser, Hamburg / Berlin

Evening talk: Practicing utopia – Tomás Saraceno in conversation with Philipp Oswalt

Saturday, September 19 

Designing the self
a) Concerning the Gestaltung of a “new man” in classical modernism (in art, education, industrial science and eugenics)—Margarete Vöhringer, Berlin
b) Dasein is design. Eco-relational and mental design—Henk Oosterling, Rotterdam
c) Consumption as design—Wolfgang Ullrich, Leipzig / Munich
d) Design as self-optimisation—Andreas Bernard, Luneburg

Presentation by Heinz Bude, Kassel

Designing situations
a) The critical agent—Luigi Snozzi, Locarno
b) Visions of a new society—Franziska Bollerey, Delft
c) Total design: On the use and misuse of utopia and scenarios in architecture and urban design—Christian Salewski, Zurich
d) Change Labs—ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles), Rotterdam

Presentation by Lara Schrijver, Antwerp

Closing debate 
Controversy: Autonomy, camouflage or emancipation?
Does design have a potential to emancipate society, or is it autonomously self-referential?
Keynote Reinhold Martin, New York

Presentation by Bernd Scherer and Philipp Oswalt, Berlin, with speakers from the previous panels.

All lectures are simultaneously translated into English and German.
Full conference programme and info on conference passes and prices here.

Conference places are limited. Advance booking recommended on:


A pop-up exhibition in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt presents projects that exemplify the topic from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Admission is free.


The January 2016 issue of the journal ARCH+ will be devoted to the subject and refer to the conclusions of the symposium.


Organizer: projekt bauhaus / ARCH+ Verein zur Förderung des Architektur- und Stadtdiskurses e.V. In cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) and University of Kassel–Fachgebiet Architekturtheorie und Entwerfen. Supported by Federal Agency for Civic Education/bpb.



International symposium and pop-up exhibition by project bauhaus

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