The project Canteen Curriculum launched at the Salone del Mobile in Milan 2018 with a communal event about design education.
A Shared Table
In its relatively brief history, the design school has always been not only a centre of learning but more crucially a site of production — one whose output is not the design product but rather the design student themselves. In the Netherlands, the number of students and programmes for design increase every year, yet the passing of time also poses a direct challenge to the traditional design industry and its clearly defined job roles. What, then, does design education mean today, particularly in the Netherlands, where design has evolved as a key creative industry and a tool of social change?
Today’s design student is something of a paradox. By virtue of their association with design schools, academies, and universities, they are “already” designers in the public gaze, used by their institutions for publicity, by magazines for content, by trend forecasters for inspiration, and more. At the same time, they can (and are often expected to) teach themselves skills, identify and pursue subjects of interest, and cultivate unique methodologies, with guidance from mentors who are more colleagues than masters. And yet their relative abundance of time and freedom of focus allows them to foreground research as fundamental to the design process without being completely absorbed by market forces.
The Netherlands has created a rich geography of design learning, with more than 10 institutions of higher education in design within 3 hours of one another by public transportation, in a population of 17 million people. The spectrum of educational agendas it offers is one of the most diverse, from the far reaches of technological experimentation to great depths of conceptual meaning, from the abstractions of critical theory to the sensual materialities of craft-based practice. How can Het Nieuwe Instituut interact with the diverse institutions in this transforming landscape to address the future role of the designer? And how can this conversation, 100 years after the publication of the Bauhaus manifesto, be revitalised?
Canteen Curriculum in Milan 2018
The project Canteen Curriculum launched during the Salone del Mobile in Milan in April 2018 with a communal event at the former panettone factory ALCOVA near the Stazione Centrale di Milano. Het Nieuwe Instituut invited representatives (employees, administrators, students, and alumni) of a variety of schools in the Netherlands to come together around a shared canteen table, using the activity of pasta-making as a canvas for ideas, conversations, questions, and provocations for a future brief. This discussion was facilitated through a variety of tools, materials, machines, skills, recipes, and ideas that represent different ways that students are shaped and prepared for the “real world" through the channel of the educational institution, the curriculum, the final exam, and other means. This will lead to the question of who is the new design student — what constitutes their freedom or agency in exploring new curricula, discourses, methodologies, technologies, and priorities? The conversations and possible conclusions developed during the course of the launch event were documented by Het Nieuwe Instituut and used to spark new collaborations, briefs, or projects in the lead-up to the 2019 programme Neuhaus in Rotterdam.
For the Canteen Curriculum, Italian designer Martina Muzi created the AProun, a garment made from a typical Italian double sided tablecloth. Based on a simple grid, each AProun has a unique pattern and references El Lissitzky’s artistic concept, which crossed between different media and from two to three dimensions. Each participant of the Canteen Curriculum has to learn how to wear their AProun, either by following the example of others or inventing their own methods. The Canteen Curriculum was conceived by Tamar Shafrir with Martina Muzi, who also designed the AProun garments and the six-metre fir table used for collective pasta-making.
In 2019 Het Nieuwe Instituut launches Neuhaus as its response to the centennial anniversary of the Bauhaus. Alongside institutions displaying the works of original Bauhaus designers or of contemporary designers that embody its enduring influence, Het Nieuwe Instituut will opt for a different strategy. Neuhaus will reflect critically on the specific conditions and urgencies of today’s society and how they may generate a new kind of designer or design discipline entirely.
Het Nieuwe Instituut will set up new collaborations and strengthen its existing relationships with the TU Delft, The Berlage, TU Eindhoven, Piet Zwart Institute, Design Academy Eindhoven, and many other courses as a launching point. In relation to a contemporary “culture of convergence”, it will set up a discourse in which the designer and the design process are central, evolving, and interwoven with other cultural and social spheres. Existing activities such as research fellowships, international activities, the international visitors' programme, and Thursday Night Live! will be developed as informal sites of knowledge production and also contribute to Neuhaus.