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“Design + eat = Spaces”, a Milan Masterclass

By Davide Fassi

During the 2017/2018 academic year of the School of Design of the Politecnico di Milano, the Milan team has been involved in a final Design studio with a specific main topic: Food&Design, using food as a means to connect the different cultures within the (migrant + local) communities living in the area, and as a way to activate co-designed activities for spatial solutions. The Studio has investigated, imagined, experimented and prototyped innovative spatial solutions for market stalls, street food structures and temporary stalls in connection with the Public Market in Viale Monza, located in the Northern part of Milan.

The design process has been based on contextual factors, not only in the research phase but also during development and prototyping. The human, social and cultural environment has been deconstructed and understood in order to develop context-based design solutions (interactions between users and environment), with input from the local stallholders and inhabitants who have provided data, creativity and suggestions.

Co-design and co-creation processes have been fundamental components of the Studio, which has sought to design spatial solutions considering the users and their interactions in the Market space with a holistic and systemic approach. Thus, the Studio is characterised by a continuous relationship with the stakeholders and the citizens, achieved via on-field co-design processes, the integration of the service perspective and a hands-on approach to prototyping.

By designing an innovative scenario for the Public Market in Viale Monza, the Studio uses the urban spaces as experimental hubs for social interactions by making the spaces the central focus of a neighbourhood community built around food. Food has in fact been at the centre of a set of scalable and systemic activities and related spaces, bringing together multiple stakeholders.

The focus of the Studio resonates with the most advanced fields of research and experimentation that the European Commission is fostering through research and innovation programmes. In particular: 1) how “public spaces” both shape, and are shaped by, cultural values including food services, and how this can bring about integration of people, including at the political and economic levels; and 2) how co-creation of public goods (services, spaces, strategies) can actually become a way to engage citizens and stakeholders of all kinds in shaping the European identity.

This Final Design Studio has been, therefore, the chance to integrate interior design, urban space design and service design: from the “needs research” to the design opportunities, from preliminary proposals to technical executive ones, from understanding the personas to involving them in the prototyping activities, from concept to the final parameters: 7 new visions for the future of the market.