An evening talk presented by Prof. Dr. Friedrich von Borries at Prana Lounge on the 18th October 2016.

We all have an image of what design is: the shaping of the objects that surround us. What is political about that? Nothing at first. Design becomes political when we see more in it than the shaping of our environment’s surfaces. Friedrich von Borries, architect and professor of design theory at the HFBK Hamburg, Germany, offers two approaches to this:

The first approach is empirical: Design is political because designers intervene in the world with their actions. They are constantly changing the world in which we live. If we observe all that is “designed” today, we will see that design not only affects things, but also relationships. In addition to actual objects, design is also a matter of production conditions and economic networks as well as humankind. Hence, good examples of how design becomes political are politicians themselves, whose alleged authenticity is often the result of targeted design processes.

The second approach is a philosophical one, because empirical observation does not disclose the intentions of designers’ interventions in the world. To create a normative setting, Friedrich von Borries carries forward reflections by philosophers Martin Heidegger and Vilém Flusser. In doing so, he contrasts the act of creation – the chief activity of all designers – with that of compliance. Seen this way, design is political because it is an emancipatory praxis. It intervenes in the world in order to improve conditions of life.

Each lecture by Friedrich von Borries will receive a response by a local expert followed by a discussion with the audience. Each evening discussion is part of a “world tour” during which the question of how design becomes political will be discussed in different local contexts from diverse political perspectives. The project will close with a publication of Friedrich von Borries’s lecture, the reactions to it by his various discussion partners as well as portraits of the tour destinations.

Friedrich von Borries