Year | 2016
Location | Quercia*LAB, Rovereto, Italy
Client | Brave New Alps

Brave New Alps is a design collective part of Ecole_IG, a wider network which share an interest in developing new types of non-capitalist led knowledge and sharing economies. The client acquired a disused 200 m2 warehouse from the local authorities, located behind a hotel which has been repurposed to host 80 Asylum Seekers.

During our two weeks in Italy, we led a five day Erasmus Plus workshop to organize a framework within this warehouse that facilitates the creation of ‘Community Economies’. The nature of the project meant that we ourselves, along with 40 people who joined us were a living, active ‘Community Economy’.

Our role as workshop leaders was to provide a platform for participants to contribute skills and experiences through design, production and knowledge dissemination. The groups were organized between three immediate issues, based on experience or inexperience; to teach or to learn:

  1. How can the space be made winter-proof?
  2. How can the space and its elements be designed to accommodate for a wide range of activities?
  3. Through what digital and physical means can the centre and its aim be effectively communicated?

We developed designs by analysing existing design solutions through model making, design charrettes and even research from previous years’ live projects. In parallel, we explored other initiatives including Portland Works in Sheffield and East Street Arts in Leeds. The long-term aim is to create opportunities to take these designs outside of Quercia*LAB out to the public and dispel preconceptions surrounding migration.

The communication frameworks we set up showcased activities hosted at Quercia*LAB. We presented the workshop in real time by tweeting pictures of the construction process. We also held a small scale ‘Opening Event’ in Quercia which we livestreamed.

Our handover documentation allows our client to begin the process of showcasing Quercia*LAB to the town. The website that we designed also articulates the story of Quercia and this is an aspect of the Live Project that will continue to evolve. The instruction manual is a physical framework that can be reused by other social enterprises, reinforcing the legacy of the project.

This project is the first experiment into how the Quercia*LAB can facilitate activities that foster Community Economies and can create bridges between asylum seekers and other citizens of Rovereto. Whilst the cohort of asylum seekers will change, as will the stakeholders – we hope that our approach can influence future commons initiatives.

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