Our confirmed keynote speakers are: 

photographer: Knut Thyberg

Juhani Pallasma

EMBODIED AND EMPATHIC KNOWLEDGE –  intuiting experience and life in architecture

Contemporary architecture and design are frequently accused of exclusive aesthetics and emotional coldness. Indeed, design tends to seek formal perfection and aesthetic autonomy, and this aspiration is in conflict with the spontaneity of lived life and the nature of our existential and experiential life-world. Especially the formalist Minimalism of the past decades has often distanced buildings from the realities of lived life.

Designed spaces are not just empty spaces for human activities. They guide, tune, choreograph and stimulate actions, interests and moods, while in the negative case, they stifle and prohibit this interaction. Every space, place and situation is tuned in a specific way. We live in resonance with the world, and architecture articulates and mediates this resonance. Buildings are products of imagination, and there are two qualitative levels of imagination; one is capable of projecting formal and material structures, the second is capable of imagining the encounter with and experience of the imaginary physical entity. Imagination is not a quasi-visual projection, as we are capable of imagining through all our senses and our entire embodied existence. I suggest that vision is not the most important sense in design, as the most essential qualities are encountered through our sense of existence.

I also wish to argue that true architectural qualities are not merely aesthetic, as true qualities are existential, poetic, archetypal and archaic, embodied and emotive. A meaningful artistic experience always extends simultaneously our senses of the deep past, present and future. Architectural qualities are constituted in the act of encountering and experiencing the work. The highest level of imagination is the empathic imagination, which enables the designer to imagine the experience of the other, the future user of the space. A gifted and experienced designer develops a syncretic imagination, which enables her to experience the designed entity and its complex atmospheres and resonances as a multi-sensory and existential entity. We, architects, can learn significantly from the thematic, atmospheric and emotive richness of the works of writers, filmmakers, theatre directors, dancers and visual artists. Their works fire and attune our imaginations instead of attempting to be the end results. Also, true architectural images are choreographic invitations for action and feeling, and they are also promises and gifts.

Juhani Pallasmaa (b. 1936), architect SAFA, Hon. FAIA, Int FRIBA, has been active in urban planning, architecture, and exhibition/product/graphic design since the early 1960s. He has held many positions, including Professor and Dean, Helsinki University of Technology (1991–97); Director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture (1978–83); and Rector of the Institute of Design, Helsinki (1970–71). He has held several visiting professorships in the US (Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., University of Illinois, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Virginia and Yale University) and lectured widely in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia. Pallasmaa has published 50 books and more than 300 essays in 30 languages, including The Embodied Image (2011), The Thinking Hand (2009), Encounters: Architectural Essays (2005) and Encounters 2 (2012), The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema (2001 and 2007), and The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (1996 and 2005).

Ron Wakkary

Things We Could Design – a posthuman exploration

This talk is a posthumanist exploration of design. I investigate the potential to see design from the perspective of posthuman subjectivity. By posthuman, I mean thinking about the world as if humans share center stage with non-humans, and that we are all bound together materially, ethically, and existentially. I’m motivated by wanting alternative approaches to the vexing challenges of how we better co-inhabit our world with species and matter that are not human. And how we design technologies that we neither fully understand nor control.

I talk about “things” as a way to describe what we would design if we were a posthuman designer. I describe four assumptions that motivate this idea: things are 1) interconnected; 2) transformative; 3) relational; and 4) vital. This helps me to see what we have already designed in a new light that is not human-centred and to think of designing differently in the future. 

I start with the idea that humans are “prosthetic creatures” and so what we design shapes who we are in ways including how we run, pray, and walk through our cities. Things are also relational and dynamic, meaning they are in need of constant interpretation, whether the thing is a bowl or a public bench. Things also have a certain aliveness and direct themselves at the world in ways we don’t fully understand, yet we rely on them. Finally, things are made of matter that is vibrant and agentic such that they appear to have “a life of their own” and so relate to us more like companions than tools. Lastly, in this exploration, a designer is not only human but includes technologies and matter that all act together to design things.Throughout the talk, I discuss design examples ranging from common objects to my design research to speculative design. I also lean on thinkers that philosophically engage the idea of going beyond humanism. I end the talk with some directions on how I think, we as human designers that share the stage with non-human designers and matter, can co-shape the designing of things in ways that aspire to be equitable, political, and caring.

Ron Wakkary is full professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University in Canada where he is the founder of the Everyday Design Studio (eds.siat.sfu.ca). In addition, he is full professor in Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology in the Future Everyday cluster.  Wakkary is interested in design-oriented human-computer interaction (HCI), tangible computing and the philosophies of technologies through design. Wakkary’s research investigates the changing nature of interaction design and HCI in response to new understandings of human-technology relations. He aims to reflectively create new interaction design exemplars, concepts, and emergent practices of design that help to shape both design and its relations to technologies. Wakkary considers people as integrally connected with technologies, actively shaping who they are rather than being passive users or consumers of digital artifacts. He investigates how to design computational things that are radically simple, that encourages people to determine how these things fit into and construct their everyday lives. In many ways, he sees things and systems we design as resources for inquiry rather than finished products. Ron Wakkary holds a BFA in Visual Arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Canada, a MFA in visual Arts from the State University of New York, USA, and an PhD in Human-Computer Interaction from the University of Plymouth, UK. Ron is currently a member of the Tangible Embedded/Embodied Interaction (TEI) and Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) steering committees. He is also a member of various editorial boards including International Journal of Design (IJD). He was co-Editor-in-Chief of ACM interactions from 2010 to 2016.