Design Without Design
Politics of Display

Design Without Design

Design Without Design
Reflections from a transdisciplinary workshop for exhibition making and unmaking at the heart of the Dhaka Art Summit.


How is the practice of exhibiting—be that of art, design, science, history—fundamentally implicated in imminent threats of climate change? How can exhibition-making help us attain political momentum and agency around ecology? How can it support communities fighting on the front lines of climate change, who are leading the way in safeguarding our collective future? These reflections stem from Srijan-Abartan, a workshop for imagining, developing and testing more sustainable exhibition and display strategies, which took place at the heart of the Dhaka Art Summit between 2019–2020. The term Srijan-Abartan in Bangla means creation and revolution/rotation—creating something new, using existing structures with small changes.

We invited four of the Srijan-Abartan participants to reflect on the event: Diana Campbell Betancourt, the Artistic Director of the Samdani Art Foundation and the Chief Curator of the Dhaka Art Summit; Inteza Shariar, a freelance architect based in Dhaka; Prem Krishnamurthy, a designer, curator, and exhibition-maker based between Berlin and New York; and Dries Rodet, an architect at Truwant+Rodet, based in Basel. By no means were they the only ones involved in this project, other notable contributors were Dr. Huraera Jabeen, an architect and scholar of gender and climate change, working at the BRAC University in Bangladesh; Mohammad Sazzad, the Production Manager at the Dhaka Art Summit; Mobinul Haque, an engineer at the Dhaka Art Summit, and many others, including me, Nina Paim. This roundtable is in many ways a mini-reunion, as we get together to remember, and also to critically reflect not only on what we achieved together, but also on how the project has changed us. Our discussion shares our process, as well as our struggles and the challenges the team encountered along the way.

Organized by the Samdani Art Foundation since 2012, The Dhaka Art Summit is an important platform for the arts in South-East Asia. Ecology and sustainability have been core concerns for the Summit, which happens biannually, and always in the same building in the center of Dhaka, the Shilpakala Academy. Its 2020 edition, titled Seismic Movements, was centered around the broad question: what is a movement and how do we ignite it beyond the confines of an art exhibition?

Dhaka Art Summit 2020 at the Shilpakala Academy, © Randhir Singh.

Due to its geography and geopolitical context, Bangladesh has often been referred to as the “ground zero” for global warming. There, climate change is not an abstract concept as it sometimes appears to be in Switzerland where I live, but a tangible daily reality—one that is also extremely present in my homeland of Brazil. Dr. Huraera Jabeen assessed the environmental impact of the Dhaka Art Summit of 2018, utilizing the “equity share” approach. Based on the materials, venue design, communication, waste, and energy usage, she estimated that that edition generated 18,000 tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent, for example, to a 747 airplane flying for 24 days nonstop. With Huraera’s assessment, we defined a baseline to make decisions on how we could decrease emissions. But this was just the starting point for a process of co-design which happened in Basel.

In order to help us find common ground, architect Dries Rodet built a scale model of the Shilpakala Academy, which was stackable so that we could break it apart and analyze the various spaces in the building. The model allowed us to work directly with our hands, and we were therefore able to switch positions and perspectives: architects became curators, curators became designers, designers became engineers, engineers became artists, and so on. The model became the central focus of our meetings, for us to engage in the conversation across our disciplinary and cultural differences.

Stackable scale model of the Shilpakala Academy, built by architect Dries Rodet, Basel, 2019.

Over the course of five days, we brainstormed ideas, made sketches, and also analyzed the building through that model, looking for its “spatial possibilities,” as we called them, of how we could do more with less. Eventually, we came to an agreement on certain decisions, which were then tested directly into the model and refined, and later translated into a simple schematic design. At the end of the week, we compiled all sketches, ideas and reflections into one thick bundle of principles and directions. These guidelines were neither a roadmap nor a toolkit, but a set of orientations to allow for the Dhaka Art Summit team to finalize the process, and also to give them a set of arguments to engage in discussions with artists, curators and producers concerning, for example, the choice of materials, production techniques, etc. Usually, when we think about design practices and methods, we tend to think of fixed methodologies. This was not our goal.

Those schematic ideas were then developed and implemented by the team in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, sometimes other team members outside Bangladesh would jump in, providing fresh ideas or thoughts, opinions, or questions as the process unfolded, often through our WhatsApp group, which was our main medium of communication.

The 2020 Dhaka Art Summit edition spanned all four floors of the Shilpakala building, but it also exploded into its gardens, so it was really in a universe of its own. But a lot of what was done in terms of the exhibition design was really actually the absence of doing—in many ways, refusing to design and refusing to engage in a certain tradition of what exhibitions are; a tradition which is, of course, very much steeped in a Western capitalism modernist mindset.

I was able to attend its opening in February 2020. Shortly after, as we all know, the pandemic hit. This was the last time I travelled; the last time I hugged strangers; the last time I danced in a party with others. For me personally, instead of providing answers, the project opened up more questions. It demonstrated a field of possibilities of what design and exhibitions could be, and what they could do in the world. As my good friend, Prem Krishnamurthy, always says: “Every exhibition is a rehearsal for another exhibition. Every workshop is a rehearsal for the next workshop.” I am very curious to hear about how everyone here today looks at this project now with the vantage point of this very difficult year we’ve just put behind us—and what a year! And with that, let’s jump into the discussion...

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Nina: From your perspective, looking back, what was Srijan-Abartan’s most significant accomplishment?

Inteza: For me, the main achievement was not doing, not designing, not building. That very minimal scaffolding structure used to present Geographies of Imagination—SAVVY Contemporary and Jothashilpa’s collaborative research brought into visual form by Bangladeshi cinema banner painters—was probably the biggest thing that was designed for the exhibition. Other than that, we didn’t actually design.

Top left: Schematic codesign realized by the Srijan-Abartan workshop. Top-right: display sketch by the Inteza Shariar. Bottom left: The same display prototyped by the Dhaka Art Summit team. The system uses regular standard scaffolding found everywhere in Dhaka, added a bamboo structure, and a layer of jute fabric, onto which artworks were locally made. Bottom Right: the final view of Geographies of Imagination at the Dhaka Art Summit 2020, by SAVVY Contemporary Berlin in collaboration with Jothashilpa, Dhaka. 

Diana: But how difficult that was! In order to not have air-conditioning and leave the windows open, it took six months of intense negotiating. We even had to research the weather over the last five years to prove that those freak days of heat in February 2018 were actually anomalies, and assure everyone that it would most likely be okay. I had to personally take on that risk—if there was a heat wave and people were complaining, I would’ve had to answer for it. In the end, it all worked out, and we now have a blueprint that it can be done. But the amount of energy—human energy—to get things done was massive! And this is not something that can really be seen in the final exhibition.

The Shilpakala Academy is a government building. I’m not going to get into all the politics of these things, but we were pushing against an extremely rigid structure. A lot of it came down to communication. The research also helped explain our decisions to the artists, the patrons, the government—and at the end, we all had to somehow come together.

The Dhaka Art Summit 2020 was the last big event before COVID-19 stopped the world, and we had nearly 500,000 visitors in nine days. The last Friday of the event we had 111,000 visitors in one day—I’ve never seen crowds like this before! Actually, most likely we can never do something like this again. Our design opened up a circulation that would not have been possible otherwise. When you’re building false walls, you’re actually cutting off the circulation of people, and also the circulation of air in and out of the building—and with that, you’re blocking viewpoints in and out. Thinking deeply about the inside-outside relationship—in the sense of how an exhibition impacts the world outside—was a great lesson.

Schematic codesign developed by the Srijan-Abartan workshop in April 2019.

Inteza: We used the in-built quality of the space and the building itself, and with that we were able to significantly cut down the carbon footprint. We saved around 77% of the carbon that from the last time. A lot of it came from not using the air conditioning, but there were also far fewer works shipped, a lot less particle boards for building false walls, and a lot less printed materials, as we banned all PVC plastic signs. And the carpets.

Diana: Oh, thank goodness we got rid of those carpets! Every time we used a material, we thought about what would happen when it gets thrown away. There used to be so many things that were thrown away! I think one criticism would be: “why are you flying so many people to Bangladesh?” But, you know what? In retrospect, I’m really happy we did that, because we didn’t know the world would stop. We had people from all over the world come to Dhaka. There was a text once written about the Dhaka Art Summit that was called Learning from Dhaka, which was like a rip-off of Learning from Las Vegas, and as a friend of mine pointed out: actually, you know, the people in Dhaka aren’t there to teach you anything; they live there! They have their own way of living, and their own way of designing things. They don’t need to look like Venice or London or New York. They can do things in a different manner.

“What’s truly important, more and more, is that art sits at the same table with those who have power; with those who have disproportionate power in multiple ways. Art can speak to those in power.”

Prem: I think art is often criticized for being purely symbolic. The processes of these projects, especially when it comes to ecological phenomena, can be seen as something people do because it looks good. That’s greenwashing. To me, what’s truly important, more and more, is that art sits at the same table with those who have power; with those who have disproportionate power in multiple ways. Art can speak to those in power. The six-month fight over not having air-conditioning, or the idea of building less walls and rejecting the kind of white cube exhibition spaces that we’re used to—these aspects, ultimately, are ways of revealing new possibilities to those who control power, and perhaps prototyping different ways to act in the world. Even if part of it is symbolic, I think that rethinking art’s role in these processes can help to shift certain structural imbalances in the long term.

Dries: This design decision of “not designing” cannot be stated enough. But it came together with a change of perception on the whole. I still remember, when we first went to see the building, the Dhaka Art Summit team had already warned us about all the “problems” in the building—the fat columns that had to be wrapped up and hidden from sight, and the ugly floor. However, as a team, we quickly realized that the building offered many opportunities. It was exciting to sit together amongst designers, technicians, curators—all levels and roles at the same time—and discuss the conditions of the different spaces, what were the narratives of the exhibition, and how they fit within that whole building. In the end, I think the result was quite spectacular. Instead of having art pieces that were just “placed” in the building, the artworks started to merge with the building. Also, while it may seem like a small detail, the Dhaka Art Summit actually fixes a lot of things in Shilpakala Academy for these 10 exhibition days, such as toilets and windows. A lot of money is invested in the long term for this public building and infrastructure. This is not negligible, and becomes part of the sustainable character of the whole project.

Diana: I looked at the budget, and the cleaning bills skyrocketed between the 2020 and the 2018 summits. But it’s so nice to have a clean building! Before people were covering up these cobwebbed, disgusting windows, and any other things that they didn’t want to see in the building. Why not just fix it? The goal that we all set before we even embarked on this was to leave the building better than when we inhabited it.

“What is not apparent from the success of this project was a behind-the-scenes story”

Nina: In your perspective, what was the project’s biggest challenge? Diana already alluded that one of the biggest accomplishments was also paired with the very hard process of actually making things happen in the background.

Diana: All of us are extremely proud of that bamboo and scaffolding structure that became the support for the cinema banner paintings, and the platform for the puppet show, and the display for so many other artworks. After the show, the scaffolding was returned to the construction site. The painting is now an artwork that can travel to other exhibitions; in fact, it has already been requested. We are so proud of this!

Views from "The Collective Body" exhibition at the Dhaka Art Summit 2020 © Randhir Singh.

What is not apparent from the success of this project was a behind-the-scenes story: a group of senior artists from the Shomoy Group pulled out of the show because they felt that the display was disrespectful to them. Their work was placed next to the work of cinema banner painters, whom they did not consider to be artists. I’ve never re-curated a show in 36 hours with so many pieces of artwork, but we ended up moving these works upstairs to an existing gallery, and then, of course, the artists in that gallery got upset too. In the end, it all turned out great. But the point, as we saw here—and something that I will carry forward with me to my future exhibition projects—is the difficulty of managing various points of view.
I should stress that not all artists in the Shomoy Group agreed with the decision to pull out. This is a group that was active in the 1980s, and did really pioneering work back then. Some of them even actually use cinema banner painting techniques in their own work! But through this experience, we discovered that there is a kind of cultural hierarchy that needs to be addressed. Those cinema banner painters have names; they are artists too—why are we even calling them by an anonymous catch-all term of “cinema banner painters”? They are Ustad Mohammad Shoaib and his team.

For most of the process, we were in communication with the artists as we were developing this structure, prototyping these curved scaffolding walls. In fact, once we installed the jute fabric, we learned that the paint bled through, so we suddenly had to add another layer of jute. It was a dynamic process. I think the Shomoy Group didn’t understand what was going on, and that didn’t allow for a shift in their perception. They were not able to see what we were seeing, maybe because sustainability wasn’t part of the discussion in their generation.

Nina: Inteza, how did your friends and the people around you experience the 2020 Summit?

Inteza: The Dhaka Arts Summit has been happening for almost a decade now, but the Shilpakala Academy hosts all sorts of exhibitions throughout the year. What people are used to seeing there, in general, is kind of boring. When the Dhaka Art Summit first started, it brought a new flare of white boxes, exhibitions like the kinds you have in Europe. I think that “new kind” of exhibitions probably pulled in the crowd. But this time, those white cubes were not there because the exhibition was envisioned in a different kind of way. For some of my friends, this was quite surprising, because it wasn’t looking anything like the previous Summits.

“Working in Bangladesh was a very rewarding context, because we realized quite fast how art is very much anchored in society.”

Dries: When we were in Bangladesh in 2019, we saw a lot of exhibitions and artist studios, which were dealing with a very contextual approach to exhibition-making in a very interesting way. We saw the Chobi Mela exhibition, which took place in a building under construction, and it was fantastic, using every opportunity in that space to exhibit works. The holes for the windows became light boxes to display images, the side facade of the neighboring building was used to hang pictures on, and even the elevator shaft turned into an amazing tall exhibition space. Later on, the team came to Basel and we went altogether to the Schaulager Museum, where everything was very nicely preserved, in pristine boxes, in perfect condition. It actually led to a fascinating discussion: “What's happening there? Where is the audience? Where are the people? Why isn't there any connection with its surroundings?” Working in Bangladesh was a very rewarding context, because we realized quite fast how art is very much anchored in society.

Inteza: Just the sheer number of people visiting this exhibition; that in itself is a huge impact!

“The decision of not designing became an engine to transform the artworks, or produce artworks in new ways.”

Nina: I would also be interested in how this overall process has also changed artworks. I know there was a lot of negotiating with artists, and many things changed

Dries: I remember, for example, how Adrian Villar Rojas’s piece was first proposed as a work packed into a white cube, that had to be purposely built for it. But our guideline of avoiding building false walls helped that work to become more specific to the Shilpakala building and to Bangladesh. The piece moved outside to the entrance, surrounded by purposely built adobe walls, which is a local technique. The dialog between the exhibition team, the curators and the artists developed and changed the artworks, to an extent that they became unique for Dhaka. You could have seen an artwork before, but there, at the Shilpakala Academy, it was fully transformed. In a way, the decision of not designing became an engine to transform the artworks, or produce artworks in new ways. The fat column suddenly became a canvas for paintings by Tanya Goel, the ugly floor allowed earth inside the work of Taloi Havini, and people could dance. Not designing opened up a world of possibilities that were fully exploited, I think, to a great, surprising result.

Adobe walls built outside the entrance of the Shilpakala Academy for New Mutants by Adrián Villar Rojas at the Dhaka Art Summit 2020 © Randhir Singh.

Diana: Our exhibition design program started one year before the Summit, so it was part of the thematics. If you were going to be part of this team, you needed to be on board with this. If you were not on board with this, it wasn’t the right place to show your work. Do you guys remember that beautiful clove and bead curtain by Madiha Sikander? It’s this beautiful work, stitched together with cloves and beads, that makes this transparent curtain and you can smell the cloves kind of wafting through the space. This piece was meant to be in the South Plaza area, so that when you opened the doors to go into that open space, you would see it through this curtain. For us, as designers, it was a kind of visual tease. But thank goodness, the pieces weren’t finished in that plaza on time, because we could not install the work as it was so dusty! This artist was from Pakistan, and couldn’t get a visa at the last minute; then her flight was cancelled because of COVID-19. Long story short: because of a scheduling issue with the timing of install, we had to move the piece upstairs. But actually, it worked incredibly well there. Had the piece been on that ground floor, people would have run through it, and with 500,000 visitors it would have been broken, and completely lost. But the only way we were able to do this change was that the artist was very much involved in the kind of planning and design process. I’m also very grateful to the trust and labor of the artists to put up with that amount of time and change, because it can be a bit nerve-wracking. We’re not going to install your work in a white cube, and you might not be there to see it. Do you trust us to do that?

Inteza: Going back to the question about the biggest challenge, for me, it was that I couldn’t follow up with the unmaking of the exhibition, even though that’s exactly the part I am most interested in. We are still unmaking it; it’s not finished. The Summit happened in February of 2020, shortly after COVID-19 started. We couldn’t follow up the process of dismantling—I myself couldn’t follow up in that manner. But I really want to know what’s the later impact of the project and the process of it.

Dries: I think one of the biggest shortcomings of our own approach was that it was still rather limited to a technical approach towards sustainability. We were still focusing on what’s the waste: how we can reduce materials, energy, and the carbon footprint. But I think we need to expand that thinking to: how does this approach work as a continuous system?

“To me, this is the question of sustainability in the long term [...]. How do we set up the structures where something like this isn’t just an isolated project that people do for a year as a design workshop, but is actually embedded into exhibition-making in a broader sense, into the larger artistic ecosystem?”

Prem: The Dhaka Art Summit was the last big exhibition I travelled to see pre-pandemic. Already at that time, I had a lot of questions about the value of biennials, triennials, all of these large-scale art events. Of course, I’m also deeply implicated in this issue as the artistic director of FRONT International 2022. But still I’m wondering: what does engaging in a project and process like this mean? What was achieved in terms of carbon reduction was remarkable, but there is still a massive environmental impact. To me, this is the question of sustainability in the long term, as Inteza mentioned. How does this work continue forward? How do we set up the structures where something like this isn’t just an isolated project that people do for a year as a design workshop, but is actually embedded into exhibition-making in a broader sense, into the larger artistic ecosystem? To do that requires very different ways of thinking about sustainability. It means figuring out how the collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches of Srijan-Abartan can be integrated not as discrete projects, but as positions or departments or processes that continue indefinitely. How can a project like this be sustainable and well compensated for everybody to allow for people to thrive and live their lives? That’s the bigger systemic question that I am thinking about here—and going forward.

Nina: A more personal question: What were for you, personally, the learning takeaways from this process? How did it change your understanding of sustainability?

Dries: Nowadays, within architecture, the question of if we should still construct new buildings often arises. Could we instead change the perception of people? Maybe we don’t build more, but we change how we see and understand spaces, and how we use existing sites and buildings. How can we get away from a “tabula rasa” approach? What do we have already in our hands, and what is the value of that? I think those are themes that we’ve been working on quite a lot, and Dhaka has been serving us as a good example of how other ways of building and designing can be very surprising and successful.

Dhaka Art Summit © Randhir Singh.

Prem: Before this project, I often thought about sustainability with a sense of dread or despair. What can one actually do in the face of climate collapse? On one level, I learned a lot of practical things from the project, but most of all, it made me realise that when we think about ecological problems, we have to think about them holistically. They’re connected to all kinds of other problems that come out of colonialism and capitalism, and that are connected with social justice and equity on multiple levels.

Yet it all starts in some ways with people: how people relate to each other. Even the anecdote that Diana shared before, the challenge of some artists of another generation not understanding why you wouldn’t use climate controls—it comes back to the problem of how people communicate with each other and learn to listen from others.

I don’t want to make it sound like some simple panacea for everything, but I’ve learned over the years how important it is to have as many people as you can who will be part of a given decision-making process at the metaphoric table at the start of the process—and to actually be open and transparent and vulnerable about the different needs and wants and fears that are at play. When designers operate under the mythology of autonomy or independence—and this goes for artists as well—they might see constraints as a negative. But I believe that if you can hear the different interests, intentions, and constraints at the beginning, they can transform into generative factors for the design process.

Inteza: Again, for me, the main takeaways are possibilities that it opened up. When I was designing for this exhibition, I wasn’t actually designing, except for that curved scaffolding “display system” for Geographies of Imagination; it was more of a philosophical change of mind. If people talked about “sustainable exhibition processes or methodologies” years from now, that would be the takeaway.

Diana: I’m going to take a different approach, but it links to Prem’s comment about people, or people and perspective. You know we have limits, right? I think I really pushed the team to their absolute limit. My own, indeed. Like the group of art historians who were there doing workshops before the Summit—they could not believe that we would open on time. I think that some of our ideas were really overly ambitious, not in terms of design but rather, the volume of programs that were happening at the same time, and the volume of exhibitions. We had over 500 artists in the Summit last year! So I think that we need to think about scale. The pandemic has made me think about gentleness, and how that’s important when we think about sustainability. Why were we killing ourselves with jet lag and all these things? What do you get out of that? When I’m designing something as a curator, I’m now trying to factor giving people a good work life balance. It’s not necessary to have to be up all night for a week. Of course, when you’re experimenting, mistakes happen and they sometimes require that. But I think you should try to, I don’t know, tone it down a bit.

Nina: Absolutely. This was something I thought as I observed the installation in Dhaka. I remember all these failed attempts with the adobe wall, and all of the last-minute stress. And that made me think about how much engaging with that technique—with that ancestral adobe wall knowledge—requires embracing a completely different understanding of time. For me personally, this was one of the main takeaways. How, engaging with some ideas around sustainability, and taking them seriously, requires a complete shift of mentality that is connected to how we perceive, experience, and plan in time.

“Although we tend to think of exhibitions as being temporary, I believe they’re not. Every exhibition comes from something that was done before. And it leaves many traces in the world—environmentally, personally, as well as socially. It leaves positive things as well as traumas. It leaves waste.”

Prem: I’ve also been thinking about the time of exhibitions and how to slow down the approach to making “spectacular” exhibitions. There still exists an idea that an exhibition exists for three days or a week or, in the case of a biennial or triennial, a month or two—and that what’s most significant are the things happening right then, and the stress that goes into producing these visible effects, as Diana pointed out. However, although we tend to think of exhibitions as being temporary, I believe they’re not. Every exhibition comes from something that was done before. And it leaves many traces in the world—environmentally, personally, as well as socially. It leaves positive things as well as traumas. It leaves waste. How might we slow this process down? Which things need to be made, and when do they need to be made? We’ve been talking today about “not designing,” and the corollary might also be to accept the value of not making certain exhibitions. The sheer acceleration of contemporary life and of consumption under capitalism is what, in large part, has brought us to this break.



Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator committed to fostering a transnational art world. Her plural and long-range vision addresses the concerns of underrepresented regions and artists alongside the more established in manifold forums. As the Founding Artistic Director of the Samdani Art Foundation and Chief Curator of DAS since 2013, Campbell Betancourt has developed DAS into the foremost research and exhibition platform for art from South Asia. For Srihatta, an Art Centre and Sculpture park that will be the foundation’s permanent home, she is curating its inaugural exhibition from the Samdani Art Foundation’s collection that she has been entrusted with forming. Concurrent to her work in Bangladesh, from 2016 to 2018 Campbell Betancourt was the Founding Artistic Director of Bellas Artes Projects, a non-profit international residency and exhibition program with sites in Manila and Bataan. As an independent curator, she has realized many significant solo projects and group exhibitions at leading institutions and galleries. Campbell Betancourt was appointed to curate Frieze Projects in London for its 2018 iteration and will curate the 2019 edition. She chairs the board of the Mumbai Art Room, one of India’s leading non-profit spaces. She continues to write essays for various publications and lecture and teach widely. Through her exhibitions, artist commissions, education outreach, and scholarly cross-pollination in conjunction with academic research centres, Campbell Betancourt is laying the groundwork for valuable cross-cultural dialog, nurturing solidarity across the Global South, and the necessary rewriting of art history for our collective future. Educated at Princeton, Campbell Betancourt has been living and working across Asia since 2010. She currently lives in Brussels and Dhaka.

Prem Krishnamurthy (b. 1977) is based in Berlin and New York. His work across media explores the transformative potential of art and design by experimenting with presentational strategies, performative modes, and ways of communing. He currently directs Wkshps, a multidisciplinary design consultancy; is artistic director of FRONT International 2022, the Cleveland triennial of contemporary art; and organizes Commune, an emergent workshop that practices artistic tools for social transformation. He received the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Communications Design in 2015 and KW Institute for Contemporary Art’s “A Year With…” residency fellowship in 2018.

Inteza Shariar is a Bangladeshi Architect/Artist based in Dhaka. He graduated from Brac University, B.Arch in 2012 and has worked as associate architect for Saif Haq, Kashef Choudhary and Salauddin Ahmed . He co-founded Ora Design Studio in 2013, a research based sustainable design practice with focus on local craftsmanship and experiments with alternative material. He was acknowledged by the Aga Khan Awards for Architecture in 2019 for his contribution to Arcadia: Floating bamboo School (SHS) and was a design consultant for Dhaka Art Summit-2020.

Truwant + Rodet is a Basel based architecture office founded in 2013 by Charlotte Truwant and Dries Rodet. Their cultural background has been shaped by various experiences abroad such as studying in Switzerland and Belgium, working in Rotterdam, Denmark, Belgium, a residency in Japan… As a consequence, their objective is to stay as curious and receptive as possible and to open the field of investigation to architecture, landscape urbanism, exhibition, installation, furniture design, research and education. Truwant + Rodet develop projects without cynicism nor nostalgia, engaging with all available technologies and specialists while relying on territorial and landscape’s logics . The projects can be read as abstract ideas that crystallize and resonate with their environment. In 2017, they were awarded the Swiss Art Award for their project ‘A Pavilion’. And since 2018 they are developing the project ‘Fountain of Youth’ together with Fabian Marti for the Campus Santé in Lausanne.

Nina Paim is a Brazilian designer, researcher, curator, educator and activist. Her work revolves around notions of directing, supporting, and collaborating with others. She was born in Nova Friburgo 168 years after Swiss settler-colonialists displaced indigenous puris, coroados, and guarus. Love and fate brought her to Basel, where she now seeks to transmute her daily immigrant anger into care practices of making space. She curated the exhibition “Taking a Line for a Walk” at the 2014 Brno Design Biennial, and co-curated “Department of Non-Binaries” at the 2018 Fikra Design Biennial. Nina has served as the program coordinator for the 2018 Swiss Design Network conference “Beyond Change” and she also co-edited its resulting 2021 publication Design Struggles. Between 2018–2020, Nina also co-led the design research practice common-interest. A two-time recipient of the Swiss Design Award, she is currently a PhD candidate at the Laboratory of Design and Anthropology of Esdi/Uerj, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and director of Futuress.


This roundtable was part of Making and Unmaking Exhibitions: Sustainability in Times of Planetary Crisis , a series of lectures reflecting on a more sustainable cultural sector. The series was a coproduction by the Centre culturel suisse. Paris and Futuress.
The text was transcribed and edited for brevity.

Visit our Lectures section to watch the recording.