Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Qatar Foundation hosted the last day of its biennial design conference Tasmeem Doha 2011 on Thursday, 24 March.
Tasmeem Doha 2011 – ‘Synapse: Designer as Link’ was open to the public and took place at VCUQatar from 21 to 24 March, 2011.
On day three, the afternoon presentations continued with Maria Hibri and Hoda Baroudi from Bojka Design, Lebanon, who spoke about their design studio and the work it was doing to preserve the work of countless women, “emancipating its content, as gender is central to design, and translating all the experiences of women through handicrafts and mass produced design.” They also spoke about the social responsibility of design through sustainable aspects of their work which was recycled, empowering children and creating social awareness through ‘no small talks’ workshops for children and the JJ cushions proceeds of the sale of which went to animal rights’ charities, and highlighted environmental issues like the extinction of bees.
The presentation was followed by Roman Turczyn, director of iQ who spoke about the Concept Design Phase of the Proof of Concept project to research and prototype migrant worker housing solutions. The idea for the migrant workers housing project came about at a previous Tasmeem conference when VCUQatar students worked with designers to think of solutions to problems people living in Qatar were experiencing. Turczyn took the audience through the different phases of the prototype while explaining the role partners and collaborators – from architects, to students and alumni – played in its development.
Next came the Q&A panel with Alice Twemlow, conference moderator, who took the presenters and audience through the presentations of the day and the issues they addressed.
The German Ambassador to Qatar Anne Ruth Herkes was welcomed by VCUQatar Dean Allyson Vanstone to say a few words. Herkes spoke about Germany’s contribution to design particularly in the 20th century which epitomized the purist concept of design and she concluded with asking the audience to consider places like the golden section in the future, a place of magic, where design does more than problem solving. Michael Mauer, chief designer at Porsche, the next speaker, spoke about sustainable design as the foundation of the company’s success. He quoted Robert Lutz who said “design is so important, it is best not left to designers” to explain that company owners and decision makers understood how important design was that it could not be left to one group alone to decide its course.
Mauer used the 911 as the example for successful good design which was sustainable as well, as he took the audience through the design process – proportions, styling and details – while explaining the importance of each step.
The final day of Tasmeem saw the three Synapse workshops being presented. ‘Stratified Societies’ was presented by Line Ulrika Christiansen and dealt with the design challenge of Qatar undergoing modernization while preserving its traditions. They examined Qatar’s territorial identity through economic, environmental and social aspects and decided to use culture to link artistic practices. The participants took into account exchange of cultures, and through mapping, storytelling, debate and brainstorming came up with solutions. They varied from inventing a new language for the people, to a mutating city representing new cultures.
Designer Anab Jain elucidated on the second Synapse project ‘Health & Well-being’ in her presentation. This workshop addressed the struggle of staying healthy in a society undergoing enormous change. The design challenge was to envision a model where designers act as agents of wellness within the context of rapid development. Participants examined various health facilities and how they worked in Qatar while examining factors like fighting nature, playing with magic and tackling contradictions. The solutions they came up for the issues ranging from the cosmetic like surgeries to the futuristic like stem cell research included devices to help you forget, super-hero tools kits, hear what you eat, and self diagnosis kiosks for pandemics in busy hospitals.
As workshop leader, renowned Qatari architect Ibrahim Jaidah presented the outcomes of ‘Managing life in a construction zone’, with the participants. The workshop aimed to tackle the needs of Qatar’s residents as they find themselves living in the midst of explosive growth and development. It took into account how the identity of Qatar had changed in the last 10 to 15 years where population had doubled with a mix of people from all walks of life, from all over the world, where one couldn’t “imagine Qatar without this mix. So solutions can’t be temporary and have to be sustainable” Participants came up with ‘Shukran’ campaign to thank laborers for their contribution and make people aware of what they do, a campaign for cultural interactions in places like the Cultural village where all social classes, VIP or workers could interact, community message boards where people from neighborhoods voiced their feelings so neighbors got to know each other. Other solutions included building ‘Our Tent’ and playgrounds through volunteer support using sustainable materials which would become places of involvement for communities.
The morning session wrapped up in a Q&A panel with conference moderator Alice Twemlow bringing together the territorial, body and cultural identity of the projects presented and getting participants and the panel to reflect on the process of how it came together.
Tasmeem 2011 “Synapse: Designer as Link”, with 14 speakers and 14 workshops, is interdisciplinary and collaborative, aiming to forge dynamic links between students, creative problem solvers, local community members, community stakeholders and VCUQatar. Tasmeem 2011 is situated as a working conference, featuring student driven teams investigating the role of design as a problem solving activity that tackles community issues, our daily life-worlds and future concerns. Conference activities are designed to generate awareness, raise important questions and provide meaningful, realizable solutions. For more information about Tasmeem 2011, featured speakers, workshops and events, and to register please visit http://www.tasmeemdoha.com/