Posted on 29/10/2017 by Ceyhun Ruhisu Altiok

OPEN DESIGN Team goes Montreal

A report on the experience at World Design Summit


OPEN DESIGN Team – a spin-off of the Master’s Program "Open Design" – has been invited to participate in the first ever World Design Summit taking place in Montréal, Québec, Canada, from October 14 to 20, 2017. Two of four submitted projects were selected for presentation at the congress. Thus a team, represented by Angelika Weissheim (Architect from Germany), Ceyhun Ruhisu Altiok (Architect from Turkey) and Juan Camilo Silva Riveros (Business Consultant from Colombia), departed from Berlin, both to represent the Master’s Program "Open Design" and to share OPEN DESIGN Team’s projects within the global design community. Here we share a report on our overall experience of the congress and the city of Montreal.


Leaving Berlin, arriving in Montreal

Our journey started separately with Angelika taking-off from Paris, Ceyhun departing from Istanbul and Juan boarding his plane in Brussels. On arrival in Canada, we experienced the city of Montreal unfolding as a vivid and colourful metropolis with a bilingual and multinational community. The island of Montreal in southwestern Quebec is located at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence river, Ottawa river and the Rivière des Prairies. The old city centre located in the east tells the story of its historic beginnings. This year the city celebrates Montreal’s 375th anniversary and Canada’s 150th anniversary, the reason for a variety of projected tableaux meandering through the streets with points of interest and augmented reality segments accessible through a mobile application.

Not far from Montreal’s historic city centre, the harbour area reveals the city’s industrial heritage through an impressive skyline of disused industrial facilities, narrating yesterday’s productive age and illustrating today’s post-industrial era. We discovered the area through a morning walk along the river bank that further revealed a first glimpse of the world-famous project Habitat 67. The housing complex was realised for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition taking place in Montreal and is one of the few still standing pavilions designed by the Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. A visit to the site, located on a headland on Saint Lawrence River, exposes an impressive configuration of offset-stacked volumes creating unexpected openings and generating new surfaces. Although the complex consists of identical, prefabricated concrete forms, a walk through the project discloses a multitude of perspectives through a vast articulation within its mass. By entering through one of the passages, an alternation between small-scale angles and extended volumes creates an immersive experience by experimenting with human scale. This relict of brutalist architecture illustrates the prototype of a model community of urban living. Due to high demand, the project failed its purpose of offering affordable housing worldwide and the realisation stopped after the first phase of a building complex meant to be much larger.

Another impressive site built for Expo 67 is Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, formerly used as the American pavilion. Unexpectedly, the Montreal Biosphere rises its hemispherical thin-shell structure high above the treetops on Saint Helen’s Island. Nowadays the structure is used as a museum devoted to the environment.

Surprisingly, many urban activities also happen on another level, namely in the underground of Montreal. Initially offering protection from harsh winter days, the underground metro lines grew into an extended system that since 1962 offers access to infrastructure throughout the year. A walk through the so called "Underground City" (officially named "RÉSO") uncovers activities along metro stations, shopping facilities, and connects through subterranean entrances to street level buildings, such as offices, universities and hotels.

Another significant landmark is the "Mount Royal", a large volcanic-related hill and also the name giver of the city. The park surrounding the roughly 200 m peek mountain integrates itself as a high-ground green oasis in the middle of a dense urban pattern of the immediate neighborhoods, offering local recreation for its inhabitants.

Getting lost in the side streets of downtown, we experienced the traditional dense and low-rise brickworks of Montreal’s housing constructions. Each unit directly connects with the street level through the bold staircases and open balconies. Thus, the inviting sentiment created by the accessible housing units increases one’s curiosity to continue the exploration of the urban interior.

Participating at World Design Summit

The World Design Summit is positioned as an unprecedented biennial multifaceted world design event bringing together a community of scholars, practitioners and concerned parties, such as government and business leaders, industry representatives, media and NGOs, from all spectrums of the design disciplines, including architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, urban planning and interstitial or hybrid practices. The common focus lies on the question of how design can shape a better future for all, integrating the slogan of "10 days to change the world".

More than a mere celebration of design, the summit demonstrates the tremendous power of design to create viable solutions, as attendees collaboratively endeavour to develop and share innovative and practical solutions to global social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges of the 21st century. These ideas are subsequently presented to private and public sector decision-makers and the public at large.


Initially, the World Design Summit is led by three founding partners, namely the International Council of Design (ico-D), the International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) and the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA).

The three-part event started with an international congress integrating sessions that foster crossovers and the exchange of knowledge both between and within disciplines, as well as to congregate a wide range of contents and perspectives. 108 topics declined from six framing themes were selected with the goal of fostering quality, excellence and critical thinking.

Simultaneously, an exhibition offered an opportunity to showcase and promote products and services and interact with the international design community attracting design professionals, public and private decision-makers, the media, and the public at large.

Following, the summit meeting took place by gathering leading international organisations that developed a joint declaration of intent and an implementation framework reflecting the aspirations of the international design community. This framework focused on the use of design as an economic driver and as a mechanism to exert positive political, social and environmental change across design disciplines.


As students of the Master’s Program "Open Design" finalizing our individual research projects and as collaborators of OPEN DESIGN Team initiating cooperative projects, we are eager to share our insights of our interdisciplinary and intercultural journey with the international design community. As the World Design Summit offers a rich integrity of six disciplines within one congress, intersecting on the power of design through synthesis to approach the complex problems that are facing the contemporary global world, it offers an ideal environment for our framework of requiring iterative interaction with the professional world and constantly increasing the diversity of communication.

With this in mind, we participated in the open call for proposals, and thus two of four submitted projects were selected for presentation at the congress.


The presented project "Growing Apart 2.0" is the continuation of a laboratory project – named "Growing Apart – Urban Visions" – realised during the third semester of the Master’s Program "Open Design" by Angelika Weissheim, Ceyhun Ruhisu Altiok and Pablo Fernandez Vallejo under supervision of Fabian Scholtz (Architecture) and Ricardo Cedeño Montaña (Cultural History & Theory). The initial project focused on the context of urban growth and the conflicts arising from the phenomena of growth. With this in mind, the problem was approached by examining different urban cases applying a 3-step-process that led to a critical thinking operation in regard to the phenomena of growth through the use of alternative scenarios. The project "Growing Apart 2.0 – Approaching the urban phenomena through an adaptive & iterative design strategy" aims to take the initial stage as a basis to advance and progress by increasing the resolution of the concepts for urban visions.


The second proposal presented at World Design Summit with the title "Exploring the limits of future scenarios prediction and forecasts with VR – Design turn through gamification in nonlinear deterministic systems, mechanism design, Competition, cooperation and co-opetition in dynamic setups" is a project that emerged from Juan's ongoing thesis research under the supervision of Anabella Speziale (Design & Communication) and Thomas Lilge (Game Design). It explores a virtual reality game experiment emphasising the competition and/or cooperation between two players that reflects on the nature of human choices of negotiation through the use of games and technology in an experiment with a VR game.


Collecting inspiring key moments

During our participation at World Design Summit’s congress, we collected key moments of inspiring talks, summarised in the following.

The congress was introduced with an opening keynote given by the architect and Pritzker laureate Alejandro Aravena. The talk aimed on the experiences of participative planning as practiced in his Chilean office ELEMENTAL that should be understood as a driving force in design processes. He emphasises the methodology of identifying the ’right’ question for planning problems in collaboration with the people involved. The practice of ELEMENTAL renders a unique form of user oriented architectural practice via their profound empiric study on participatory design. In the end, it was one of the most influential talks of the Congress and a great opening speech to orient the audience's perception towards the difficulties of planning, and from an architect’s point of view, it is one of the most ingenious pieces of study regarding the constant struggle with the user oriented communication.


Another inspiring keynote presentation was held by the Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl. His office is a global leader in people centered urban design, following the slogan of "Making Cities for People". Jan Gehl’s research into public spaces and public life began in Copenhagen, but quickly expanded to other cities throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. His ideas and approached designs for public spaces incorporate the cutting-edge of technology without losing sight of what best supports and enhances people’s experiences of everyday life in the public realm. Jan Gehl is the author of many inspiring books including "Life between Buildings", "New City Spaces", "New City life", "Cities for people" and "How to Study Public Life". These publications offer a method for the evaluation of city quality, for design which encourages active use of outdoor space and for discussion of the ways that our five senses affect our use of space. His small-scale approach takes into account the individual that is travelling through the environment on foot. During the talk he shared his vision on urban planning and his ideas on the ‘Copenhagenization’ of our cities by introducing the failures of urban planning of modernism and the necessity of re-appropriation of urban space for humans by complying with the concept of livable cities.


Haruko Tsutsui, a graphic designer from Japan, held an intriguing talk about her involvement as concept creator, storyteller and now creative director at Dentsu, a Japanese international advertising and public relations company. Haruko and the agency work to bring together the best elements of entrepreneurship, ideas and technology to form the group’s slogan "Good Innovation". One of the presented projects is "Life is electric", an advertisement production for Panasonic awarded with the Grand Prix for design at the Cannes Lions festival in 2016 that changed the way we look at electricity through interestingly enabling to ‘see’ electricity.


Sharing OPEN DESIGN Team’s projects

Our first project presentation of the project "Growing Apart 2.0 – Approaching the urban phenomena through an adaptive & iterative design strategy" was given the stage for a 1-hour-session under the category of "Design for Earth" of topic 14 on "Growth, Planning and Urban forms". The topic category revolves its main questions around sustainable development requiring to be at the forefront of, and to anticipate urban growth during the densification of our urban geographies and examining the urban forms in terms of the hosting potentials of neighborhoods, cities, metropolitan areas and regions.

Our initial project, sharing the questions and the concerns of corresponding topics within the congress, focused on growth in the context of the city, more specifically on the conflicts that might arise from the phenomena of growth. In this sense we identified the process of uneven urban growth with decreasing levels of interaction among different parts of the city. In the last decades, growth in metropolitan areas as demographic and physical has been exponential, which also implies structural changes; thus when the existing urban system is failing to adjust to the changing structures, we can identify the phenomena of, as we call it, "growing apart". The outcome of the initial project was a collection of scenarios that are experimental thought processes and induce a critical vision of growth in the urban context. As a continuation, "Growing Apart 2.0" carries this discourse to a further exploration. We aim towards a bi-directional development of on one hand a multiplication of the process  (quantitative development) of the initial study towards a variety of cities, thus creating an international network of the study, alongside an intensification of the process (qualitative development) through, as we call it, designing, prototyping and finally testing the developed scenarios in specific urban contexts.

The World Design Summit offered OPEN DESIGN Team a first-time opportunity to talk about the project in front of a renowned audience from the core of design fields. Our presentation started with an overview of the Master’s Program "Open Design" and An Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Humboldt University of Berlin, and gave an introduction to OPEN DESIGN Team’s interdisciplinary and intercultural collaborations. Then, we presented the initial project, its modus operandi and the main body of work, as well as the future projections of the project, mentioning the upcoming development period within the Centre for Arts and Urbanistics (ZK/U) in Berlin.

The curiosity, comments and questions of the audience towards our unusual, yet intellectual body of work exceeded our expectations. We had the chance to connect to a variety of professionals and elaborate on future collaborations, such as workshops, presentations and exchange, with a landscape architect from France, an urban planning professor from Germany, an urban performance artist from U.S.A. and more.

Video credits: Ceyhun Ruhisu Altiok

The second project presentation covered the topic of Juan’s ongoing research on "Exploring the limits of future scenarios prediction and forecasts with VR – Design turn through gamification in nonlinear deterministic systems, mechanism design, Competition, cooperation and co-opetition in dynamic setups". As part of the topic category of "Design for Sale?" the topic 73 on "Designers in decision making processes" emphasises the transformation of the designer’s role. The role of design within modern economic systems can take many shapes and generate often unexpected results – with outcomes that can be significantly better or worse than originally planned. While design can be used for commodity, it can also be used for the common good, with the latter implying a more political design voice, driven by values and ideals, rather than a solely monetary purpose. Today there is wide recognition that designers have the knowledge and skills to inform the decision-making process on the whole by identifying and framing issues, which is above and beyond their capacity for simple technical resolution.

Juan held a  15-minutes-session by emphasising his main interest on social dynamics, more specifically on the relationship between two entities, that could either be businesses, organisations, persons, animals, countries etc. These relationships demonstrate nonlinear dynamics and thus include many layers of complexity. The proposal offers a game design to experiment a two player virtual reality co-opetition, exploring in depth the game theory to comprehend the complexity of such integrated decision making processes, while focusing on the prisoner’s dilemma. Thus, the project offers a broader understanding of complex decision making strategies through gamification. The virtual reality experiment station for this project is provided by the The station is alloy of an application and a tailor-made cockpit. The cockpit accommodates two players sitting next to each other, and sharing a console in the middle to control the gameplay within VR. Within the game, two players fly together through a virtual reality world while collaborating and competing against time. In each level, depending on their choices on the previous one, players and the level has alterations that would stress the co-opetition between the players.

Video credits: Ceyhun Ruhisu Altiok

Concluding on the experience

All in all, our experience at World Design Summit in Montreal offered us as students of the Master’s Program "Open Design" and as collaborators of OPEN DESIGN Team the opportunity to share our passion and our vision with a greater network of urban planners, architects and designers, besides experiencing the most influential and innovative talks of the contemporary global design community. We take with us many impressions on ideas, inspirations, feedback, topics, questions, experiences, discussions, contacts, adventure and much more...


We truly appreciate the generous support of An Interdisciplinary Laboratory - Bild Wissen Gestaltung that guided us on the further developments without doubt and commenced many new opportunities for our projects.


And a great thank you to Claudia and Johanna from the PR Team for publishing our report in the weekly Cluster-Zeitung! Ready for download here!