The EmpathiCITY project included a selection of desigNYC’s “Recharging Communities” fall exhibition case studies. Last March 2013 Saint-Etienne Cité du design, under the auspices of the City of Saint-Etienne and Saint-Etienne Métropole, announces the opening of “EmpathiCITY, Making our City Together,” co-curated by Laetitia Wolff and Josyane Franc, in the context of the 8th International Design Biennial.
Realized in order to activate the UNESCO creative cities of design network, which Saint-Etienne joined in 2010, EmpathiCITY explores the general biennale theme, “empathy or the experience of the other”, to reveal the transformative power of design as a tool for social cohesion in the urban context. EmpathiCITY is an invitation to the 11 cities of design, members of the network–including Buenos Aires, Berlin, Montreal, Nagoya, Kobe, Shenzhen, Seoul, Shanghai, Saint-Etienne, Graz and Beijing–to create a special project or to present results of actions developed in a collaborative framework. In partnership with non-profit organizations, community associations, municipal agencies, designers conceive interventions to improve the quality of urban life while fostering social bonds. “This process of community design is not often integrated in the public policies of the cities of the UNESCO network, which, for some, have barely started to appreciate the potential of their creative economy,” explains Josyane Franc, co-curator of the project and director of international affairs at the Cité du design, in charge of the UNESCO dossier.
To address empathy in the city means to recognize the circumstances wherein these empathic design approaches can flourish: natural disasters, civil disparities, social crisis, but also to explore our relation to nature in our urban environment. It was critical to the commissioners to put forward the project as a federative process for the 11 cities of the network, the project as a collaborative and iterative method, which democratizes design by the involvement of associations, residents, and particularly of certain populations generally not concerned by design. EmpathiCITY is inspired by the European programme “Human Cities”, which the Cité du design is part of, and by the “expoTENtial” model, a series of urban interventions initiated in 2011 in New York by Laetitia Wolff, who is co-curator of EmpathiCITY and director of desigNYC, a platform for social innovation by design. “Including desigNYC’s recent initiative, “Recharging Communities” was meant to provide an additional point of inspiration for the UNESCO cities, who are just starting to devise modes of engagement with their own design communities,” Wolff explains.
The projects presented in the exhibition attempt to demonstrate the potential of the designer as an empathic mediator between citizens, communities and municipal governments. “We encouraged the designers to focus on a participative design model, lever of social cohesion, and not to fall in the pure creative gesture,” explains Laetitia Wolff. “This engaged and collaborative approach is also a way to make the communities gain responsibility for themselves, in making a city together, more humanly connected,” she adds.
With Adrien Rovero’s scenography inspired by the public bench, the exhibition setup in the building H of the Manufacture, captured the cities’s diverse identities, through lively and disparate portraits, in addition to featuring project case studies and a selection of products which allude to the notion of empathy while celebrating the various designers and industries of the 11 cities of the UNESCO network.
On Thursday, March 14, 2020 the EmpathiCITY symposium, open to the public, allowed the sharing of experiences among city members of the network, while opening the dialog to other relevant international practionners of community-based design, in order to stimulate the debate of Making our City Together. The colloquium took place at the Museum of Modern Art of Saint-Etienne.
For any further information about the 11 cities projects, visit empathiCITY on our Facebook page: Saint-Etienne créative design.
Visuals: downloadable online: http://www.citedudesign.com/fr/presse/
EmpathiCITY special edition of the Agenda Stéphanois city guide: free, available in newspaper kiosks, on the Manufacture site and throughout the city, in PDF version on Facebook, and online.