What if you could gather designers from all over the world and from every imaginable design discipline – from architecture to graphic design – and have them create a global action plan in which their craft is harnessed to change the world for the better? Well, that’s what the inaugural World Design Summit aims to do.
The ambitious event opens in Montreal, a UNESCO City of Design, on October 16. It’s been in the works for years and coincides with three major anniversaries, Montreal’s 375th, Canada’s 150th and Expo 67’s 50th. But it turns out the timing for a summit whose framework revolves around design for good couldn’t be better: In this era of global political (not to say Trumpian) uncertainties, we could all benefit from constructive collaboration and big thinking. Indeed, the main goal of the event is to find concrete ways of using design to mitigate climate change and economic inequality and promote diversity and social cohesion through a multidisciplinary approach to sustainable, inclusive and universal design.
The 10-day event is divided into three components: Congress, Expo and Summit. During the Congress (October 16-19), industry professionals and academics will present and discuss ideas, concepts, projects and current research through lectures, round-table discussions, keynote presentations and brainstorming sessions. There are more than 108 topics, delved into by more than 650 speakers – and that’s not counting the 35-plus keynotes – representing architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, graphic design, industrial design and interior design. (Selected speakers had to submit proposals that addressed challenges within the 108 summit topics and show how design could be used to address those issues.) The opening ceremony is held at the end of the day on October 16.
The Expo (October 17 to 20) will be showcasing innovations in sustainable design from international professionals and companies. And the invitation-only Summit (October 23 to 25) will see 50 organizations, including the OECD and UNESCO, assemble to draft and sign a 10-year action plan that draws on the talks and presentations from the Congress to better tackle environmental degradation and social injustice.
On opening day, Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl (above) kicks off the keynote presentations. Much of his work has focused on how to create people-centred cities that promote interaction through public spaces designed for pedestrians and cyclists to meet on a human scale. Later that afternoon, Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, the 2016 Pritzker Prize winner, draws on his work with his firm Elemental to outline ways of designing for social inclusion by creating durable and adaptable affordable housing.
Continuing on the theme of social inclusion, on Day 2, Moshe Safdie hits the Congress lectern. His Habitat 67 – constructed when he was still in university and located not far from the Palais des Congrès convention centre where the Summit is being held – sparked a lifelong drive to create inclusive social spaces, which is the topic of his talk. In the afternoon, Tomás Diez, the Venezuelan-born, Barcelona-based urbanist at the head of that city’s Fab Lab, explains how to leverage digital fabrication to build better cities.
The Congress continues on Days 3 and 4 with a line-up that reflects the event’s six main themes — Design for Participation, Design for Earth, Design for Transformation, Design for Sale?, Design for Beauty and Design for Extremes — with speakers as wide ranging as Phyllis Lambert from the Canadian Centre for Architecture, colour forecaster Dee Schlotter, graphic designer Ruedi Baur and landscape architect Claude Cormier. But hey, we’re only scratching the surface. Go check it out for yourself.