11:00 AM

Workshop Relational Design

Design at the interface of society and nature

Relationales Design
Relationales Design

Lutz Hengst, Sophia Prinz

Date and place:

1 July 2021 – 18.00-20.00
Evening lecture by Tulga Beyerle
HIAS/online – registration until 30 June to: event@hias-hamburg.de

2 July 2021 – 11.00 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. Workshop
online – registration until 30 June to: event@hias-hamburg.de


The discourse on the “social” aspects of design is currently experiencing a boom. Numerous publications and conferences talk about “Social Design”, “Critical Design”, “Politics of Design”, “Design Activism”, “Transformation Design” and many more. However, the sheer volume of design-theoretical neologisms and appeals already points to a latent self-overload: Critical design has set itself the goal of nothing less than to design a new, fairer world.

This future-oriented design will is reminiscent of the modernist design utopias of the early 20th century. However, today’s designers are confronted with another social problem: it can no longer be a matter of fabricating a “new man” with the help of technical innovations. On the contrary, the central question of current design should be how to minimize or even reverse the social, cultural, and environmental damage caused by such technocratic feasibility fantasies.
To be able to answer this question, it is necessary to determine more precisely how socio-cultural processes and design are intertwined.

While many design theories assume that society can be fundamentally shaped and thus tend to neglect the intrinsic dynamics of the social, conversely, the social sciences have so far hardly developed any approaches to theoretically and analytically understand the social effectiveness of design and (aesthetic) form.

Accordingly, the planned workshop aims to advance the interdisciplinary exchange on theory building in social sciences and design science. It is not only about “design” in the narrower sense (i.e. about the professional field of production), but also about everyday, non-intentional and implicit design processes in a wide variety of socio-material contexts. These socio-material design contexts can only be understood relationally . This means the social aspects of design can never be analysed on the basis of individual artefacts or media, but only as spatio-temporal constellations and networks of heterogeneous elements (i.e. materials, artefacts, technologies, bodies, practices, spaces, infrastructures, etc.).

Such a relational understanding of design, which has already been formulated to some extent by Lucius Burckhardt, will be further formulated here from different theoretical perspectives (practice theory, postphenomenology, posthumanism, systems theory, art and environmental history). The focus of the discussion is on the activity of “natural” materials and resources: what role do they play in the various design processes and how do socio-material forms change as a result of the creative approach to nature?

Guiding questions:
  • Which social, cultural and societal theoretical instruments and heuristics are available for the analysis of constellations of design? What role does the aspect of form play in this?
  • Which human and non-human “actants”, networks and practices are part of design processes?
  • What is the “activity” of the (natural) materials in the design process?
  • How have industrial and urban landscapes changed over the course of modernity?
  • What role do colonial raw materials play in modern design?
  • To what extent is the ecological crisis also a question of design?
Workshop participants:

Andreas Dix (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg)
Jesko Fezer (HfBK Hamburg)
Hanna Göbel (Universität Hamburg)
Sandra Groll (FH Potsdam)
Anke Gruendel (HU Berlin)
Lutz Hengst (Universität Hamburg)
Ilaria Hoppe (KU Linz)
Dominik Hünniger (Universität Hamburg)
Claudia Mareis (HU Berlin)
Sophia Prinz (HIAS/ ZHdK Zürich)

Program of the workshop on 02.07.

Programm des Workshops am 02.07.


Welcome Lutz Hengst/ Sophia Prinz


Exemplary Landscapes – Designed
Spaces Moderation: Lutz Hengst/ Dominik Hünniger

Lutz Hengst: Inhospitability of the suburbs? Notes on the spatial unequal distribution of design forms and design approaches

Andreas Dix: B42 – or some remarks on landscape in transformation processes

Ilaria Hoppe: Street Art in Urban Spaces: A Comparison between Metropolitan Community Building and Peripheral Reception




Design of complex systems
Moderation: Sophia Prinz

Claudia Mareis/ Anke Gruendel: Governing Through Design

Sandra Groll: Integrative Design and Relational Practice


Coffee break


Design and Socio-Material Practice
Moderation: Sophia Prinz

Jesko Fezer: Partisan design. Anti-neutral design in the social scuffle

Hanna Göbel: Posthuman forms and mis/fittings. On the relationality of bodies and artifacts

(Sophia Prinz: Forms of Entanglement. Design in the Global Modern Age)


End of the event