40 tangible ways designers can advocate for peace

An app that helps refugees find the nearest food store. A hand-woven rug made of 9 millimeter bullet shells. A conceptual tourist guide to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. At first glance, these projects may not seem to have much in common, but they are all part of a new exhibition exploring the role design can play in nurturing peace.

Art the Arms Fair† Organisers: Art the Arms Fair Collective. Contributor: Campaign Against Arms Trade. [Photo: Tristan Oliver/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]The exhibition, titled Designing Peace, features 40 projects from 25 countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the United States. Projects on display range from video games to architectural models; together they reveal the hugely versatile approach designers can take to raise awareness, promote justice, resolve conflict and pave the way for more peaceful interactions around the world.

Cards (Bullet Rug Series). Artist: DETEXT. [Photo: Rodrigo Pereda/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]The exhibit will run through September 2023 and is currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum of Design in New York City. Five years in the making, it begins at a critical time in human history, with nearly 30 ongoing conflicts around the world, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, political instability in Lebanon, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and wars in Yemen and afghanistan.

Extinction symbol. Designer: ESP. [Photo: © Martin Reis/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]“So much research is being done on war and conflict, and so much of our resources are centered around militarized security,” said Cynthia E. Smith, the museum’s curator of socially responsible design and organizer of the exhibit. “What if we turn it around completely and start applying design and all the things that design can bring to this idea of ​​peace?”

Teeter-Totter Wall. Designers: Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Rael San Fratello. Employees: Collectivo Chopeke. [Photo: Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]Designing Peace is spread over five rooms, with an artistic interpretation of the US-Mexican border wall running through the center of the space. On one side, the wall is crossed by one of the pink seesaws installed in July 2019 through the slats of the real border. (Designed by Rael San Fratello, the Teeter-Totter Wall symbolizes how movements and actions on one side of the border directly affect the other; the 2019 installation lasted just half an hour before being taken down.)

New World Summit – Rojava. Designers: Democratic Self-Government of Rojava, Studio Jonas Staal. Concept: Sheruan Hassan, Amina Osse, Democratic Union Party and Jonas Staal, Studio Jonas Staal. [Photo: Ruben Hamelink/© Jonas Staal/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]The rest of the exhibit swings from gruesome (a large room charting the 2006 murder of Halit Yozgat at his family-run internet cafe in Germany) to hopeful (a patterned room reflecting the Conflict Kitchen, a temporary takeaway in Pittsburgh that served food from countries that were in conflict with the US).

Workshop safe transit bags. Designers: Lesbos Solidarity. Employees: Humane Crafts. [Photo: Cynthia E. Smith/© Smithsonian/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]But one theme emerges throughout the exhibition: projects that show what the future could be. Such examples include a map of over 200 Black Lives murals painted in the US; a portable library set that unfolds in 20 minutes and has been used by refugees in Burundi, Iraq and, more recently, Ukraine; and Safe Passage bags made by refugees from abandoned life jackets used by people fleeing Turkey through the Aegean Sea.

Ideas box. Designer: Philippe Starck. Contributors: Bibliothèques San Frontières, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). [Photo: © BSF & Philippe Starck/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]“It’s about taking actions and building something that models what you want it to be in the future,” Smith says. To her, design is a ‘powerful tool’ that can help us envision what doesn’t exist – and implement it to communities in need. †[Design] has all the qualities of collaboration, the ability to work directly with people, to understand what they need,” she says.

Paper Monuments† Designers: Colloqate Design. [Photo: Chris Daemmrich/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]This idea is perhaps best illustrated in a corner of the exhibition devoted to the architecture of UN peacekeeping missions. This section contains an ongoing R&D initiative that started in 2007 and is still active.

Led by Malkit Shoshan and her think tank FAST (Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory), the project sees UN camps not as temporary, isolated fortresses, but as catalysts for local development, with access to water and medical treatment that can survive missions that take an average of 31 months. These would be built from local materials, using local techniques, so that the base could be easily integrated after the UN’s departure.

Peace Pavilion. Design team: collaborative architecture. Contributors: Arup, Landscape India, Suranjana Satewalker, Kapil Suralekar Associates, Shibu Raman. [Image: © Collaborative Architecture/courtesy Cooper Hewitt]Like many others on display, the UN project models a future based on mutual understanding and cooperation, which is a step forward on the arduous road to peace. It also represents a shift in the way we allocate resources and handle conflict.

“What if we took this huge amount of money that we spend on militarization and just take a small percentage of it and apply it to social and environmental [causes]† Smith muses. “Instead of leading with division” [we could lead] with commonality.”


This post 40 tangible ways designers can advocate for peace was original published at “https://www.fastcompany.com/90765781/40-tangible-ways-designers-can-advocate-for-peace?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.