#01 Workshop

In collaboration with Fondazione Baruchello
and Fondazione Mondo Digitale

‘Stirring hope
and civic

In March 2017, a group of participants from around the Middle East will gather and work together for the first time.

The MAXXI Museum in Rome will provide an extra-territorial space, enabling them to dialogue and perform collaborative creative processes over the course of one week. The participants will form five transdisciplinary groups, each focusing on generating alternative near-future scenarios and design proposals to address challenges relevant to the Middle East, such as borders, religious diversity, migration, water and food sources, information transfer and cultural exchanges. The workshop’s objective is to restore the conditions that allow civil imagination to thrive, by creating a framework in which one can imagine diverse and yet-to-come forms of governance, coexistence, ownership and alliances.

Negotiations and talks have failed to produce innovative solutions to protracted conflicts in the Middle East. Today, more than ever, people living in the region have lost hope and a belief in the viability and likelihood of resolving the prolonged and violent conflicts. Where every familiar name and idea failed, we propose redefining and exploring new ideas, creative ways and innovative approaches to the current deadlock in the Middle East.

Given the scope of objects, systems and structures that overpopulate, regulate and control our everyday life in the Middle East, it is undeniable that designers play a dominant role in shaping its spatial and governmental dynamics – from designing the button on an e-voting device to the office chair on which policymakers sit while pressing this button. Acknowledging our position as “Designers in the Middle,” we wish to issue a challenge to designers and policymakers alike:

Design always lends itself to policymakers’ briefs, but can we reverse this process? Can design call for a different policy and designers set the briefs?

Where is the Middle?

The “Middle” stands for the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean coast, demarcating the broad geopolitical scope of the project. The short list of participants in the MAXXI #01 workshop will include 30 socially engaged professionals and students from around the Middle East/Euro-Med.


The 5 Workshop challenges

The participants at the #01 workshop will form five groups, focusing on generating concepts and visual proposals that address challenges relevant to the “Middle.” The year 2020 is the context for the 5 design challenges:


Water and food rights and resources, new agriculture, new energy
View challenge blog


Open borders, immigration, dignity and identity, self-respect, self-identification
View challenge blog


Communication, cultural exchanges, e-learning
View challenge blog


Freedom of belief, living with religious diversity, new awareness, personal spiritualism, DIY belief
View challenge blog


Data harvesting, mining and sharing that promote social cohesion
View challenge blog

A two phase working process

The working process will have two phases.

A research and preparation phase will begin a few weeks before the workshop, on an online digital platform. Each working group will share an online blog to facilitate research, discussions, brainstorming and information exchange. This phase will result in the development of diversified near-future scripts that stem from the group’s interpretation of one of the 5X2020 design challenges.

The five-day workshop. Building upon the online research phase, the five groups will generate design proposals to address challenges relevant to the Middle East. To visualize their proposals, participants will use rapid prototyping tools to produce models demonstrating their ideas, and will give form and shape to abstract ideas. The goal is to stimulate a public debate outside of the design realm.

Engaging the public

The workshop activities will be open to the public. Visitors will be able to walk into the workshop space, explore the diverse activities taking place during the week and attend the evening series of special events, such as panel discussions and collaborative work with local students and NGOs.

Sustaining the ideas for real impact

An online platform will accompany the project, serving as a collaborative tool for the preliminary research phase and encouraging a wider audience to get involved in the process by submitting their own Design Comments in the format of a short video.

Following the five-day workshop, an online catalogue will be published and the models and output of the workshops will be showcased at MAXXI and online. Most significantly, we foresee innovative collaboration, professional exchange and joint projects among the different designers continuing beyond the challenge.