Transience as a design challenge: Italian radical narratives about the role of design processes in/for the incorporeal transformations of cities (1969-1974)
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Formia, E. M., Gianfrate, V., & Vai, E. (2023). Transience as a design challenge: Italian radical narratives about the role of design processes in/for the incorporeal transformations of cities (1969-1974). Res Mobilis, 12(16), 119–136.


The capacity of design culture to interpret changes and mediate different fields of research and action by integrating material, immaterial values and experiences, is becoming increasingly relevant, considering the deep transformations generated by the contemporary crisis, wars and migrations. The concept of transience therefore appears to be the only condition and dimension we can design, influence, shape, test, experiment and consume, but also use to narrate the not-linear relationship between design ‒ as a culture of doing, producing, mediating, building relations, anticipating – and the transformations in cities and societies.

This paper therefore intends to propose a transverse and inclusive interpretation of transience mediated by design, examining narratives of design-centred approaches in Italy, considering performative and temporary expressions as designed artefacts, with an influence on the development of urban spaces, and where spontaneous initiatives have been expression of latent processes of creativity and culture. The period under examination primarily covers the decades of 1960s and 1970s, a period in which the search for overlapping between disciplinary boundaries, the aggression of the overall vision of the project ‒ which proposes a circularity between scales ‒ and the climate of protest with movements and activism, brought with them the need for change. Moreover, the relationship between design, crisis and sustainability was a transversal theme that led design cultures to weave collaboration with different forms of knowledge and to explore transverse processes and methods.

The design discourse around sustainability continues to be fueled by new instances of triple transition pervading the European landscape, in a process of continuous refinement of methods and practices that introduces new tools, with an eye to digital and new technologies, cross-fertilised by a variety of disciplines, because the forces conditioning change in contemporary and future societies are many and sometimes unexpected.
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