From March 18 to March 24, Taiwan was the venue of this year’s Global Design Initiative (GDI) workshop hosted by Shih Chien University. The previous annual sessions in Singapore, Cologne, and Tokyo had focused on the subject of “strangeness“, 2018 now marked the progression of that topic into the analysis of “Heterotopias“ – a concept in human geography coined in 1967 by French philosopher Michel Foucault to describe places and spaces that function in non-hegemonic conditions.

From KISD – Köln International School of Design, three students, Henrik Barth, Jule Marie Schacht, and Clara Schramm, participated in the workshop. Students from five renowned international design schools were placed in the old town of Taipei city Dadaocheng (or DDC), a spot that Foucault would call a “heterotopia“. The location and the assigned tasks for students were chosen in order to bring the “trinity” framework of the preceding workshops “place/identity/object“ to a more dynamic and enigmatic real-world setting for testing. What is, for example, the district of Dadaocheng’s characteristic feature that matches the description of a place that really does exist and that is formed in the very founding of society? What design concepts can be identified and observed and how is it possible to process them into a modern and sustainable design discourse? What connects the “archeology of the past“ with the “archeology of the now“? What dissociates the u-topia from the hetero-topia?

Thus, the idea behind the Global Design Initiative to utilize means and spaces to identify and deal with “strangeness/familiarity/difference“ could this time perfectly be applied to in the Taiwanese DDC district with students exchanging and sharing their different perceptions, experiences, and design approaches. “In this short period of time, it was very challenging to advance from a first brainstorming to a first concept idea and subsequently to the final presentation. Through the cooperation with other students from Asia and Europe, I gained very good insights into how differently people from various cultural backgrounds address and tackle design methodologies and processes,“ says KISD student Jule Marie Schacht. She adds: “It was also interesting to experience a completely new surrounding with a different language, symbols, manners, traditions. And as a designer, I felt very inspired by, for example, new perspectives on product design or on the discipline of design itself with various different people coming together in a (partly) quite unfamiliar setting.“

With these experiences made, with reflecting on strangeness and unfamiliarity, with getting to know new approaches and perspectives, Jule Schacht by chance matches the overall targets of the 2015-launched Global Design Initiative with KISD as a cooperation partner of Central Saint Martins College, University of the Arts, London, Musashino Art University, Tokyo, LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore, and Shih Chien University, Taiwan: “The whole GDI project presents the
 opportunity to explore the strong coherence between place, role /identity and object, also is devised for students to jointly explore notions of identity, the self, and representative forms of design.“

In the following GDI board meeting, all members agreed on continuing the innovative academic format beyond the next workshop in London (2019). KISD – Köln International School of Design will be the host for the GDI workshop in 2021 and “is looking forward to deepening our relations and enabling the students to make a unique experience in those workshops,“ as Prof. Philipp Heidkamp, responsible GDI member of KISD, stressed.

Global Design Initiative

Workshop: “Heterotopias – Exotic, yet Strangely Familiar“
Hosted by Shih Chien University Taiwan, March 18 – 24, 2018
From KISD supervised by: Prof. Philipp Heidkamp (Interaction and Interface Design)
KISD participants: Henrik Barth, Jule Marie Schacht, Clara Schramm